Man of Steel Review

My Man of Steel Review for those that care:

I really wanted to like this movie, and before you say it could never have lived up to my expectations, that isn’t true. I loved the Star Wars prequels, even though they weren’t great movies. I can overlook lots of flaws for fun. But I need fun. Man of Steel wasn’t much fun.

After a night to sleep on it, the movie has a lot going for it. I actually think the acting and casting was superb. The ideas behind the story were intriguing;

– We saw a fully fleshed out alien culture in Krypton. If the whole movie would have been as intriguing as the opening scene I would be going back to see it again today.

– How would our post 911 world react to an indestructible alien? Not well.

– Clark Kent as a child being scared and unsure of why these strange things were happening to him, like being able to see his fellow classmates skeletons through their face. Crazy!

That is good stuff and felt real, but Zach Snyder got schizophrenic and never stuck to a small handful of ideas and let them play out. It is like he took every idea he ever had for Superman and expected them all to work at once.

Flashback sequences can work in movies, but they need to be used sparingly. The biggest issue is that this movie constantly removed you from the story and jumped you into a related story from the past. It never let the audience emotionally connect with what was currently happening, and made the movie timeline jump all over the place.

Telekinetic conversation (mind melding), rarely works in movies. We just don’t need surreal dream like sequences where people fall into skulls and scream. Nah.

We did get to see Superman’s powers like never before. He flys at supersonic speeds everywhere and the battle sequences show the real power we always pictured he had. The first time he lets loose on Zod for hurting his Mom… awesome! And while the CGI is excellent, it gets so repetitive. How many times can you throw someone through an entire building in one movie? Well Zach Snyder proved it can be done about 300 times in 2-1/2 hours. Enough already.

And I know I wasn’t the only one that was tired of watching Supes slowly rise after ever pummeling while the bad guys just jumped right up. Enough dramatic slow rises…

I love big spectacle movies too. Avengers was total carnage, but it never felt like you couldn’t watch any more. After the slow build up we watched 45 minutes straight of city leveling battle. I was real ready for it to be over when Zod met his end. The destruction done to Metropolis would have caused millions of deaths and I couldn’t help but think of that implication in the cartoon like violence.

And the score… The slow melancholy piano music didn’t work for me. It was feigning emotion when it wasn’t an emotional scene. Hans Zimmerman gets a D-. John Williams original Superman theme was uplifting and no where to be found.

The movie flat out needed better editing. The movie needed far more focus. The movie would have greatly benefitted from being 35 minutes shorter. If someone recut this same movie in a straight chronological fashion, without the flashbacks, I bet I would love it.

And I do love Superman. Always have. Sadly the plodding 2006 Superman Returns was a better movie. Sad, I know.

Overall, I still hope it makes gobs of money because I really want to see another Superman movie. The last 30 seconds of the movie are just great and I’d love to give them another chance, because if this one isn’t a financial success I’m afraid they will abandon trying to bring my favorite superhero to the screen ever again.


A Paradigm Shift in Theme Parks?

It goes without saying the Mouse is the 800 pound gorilla in any discussion on theme entertainment or amusement parks. Their dominance of the market is impressive. I can’t think of another company that dominates in an entertainment field quite like Disney does for the top travel dollars of tourists bound for Orlando or Anaheim.

The biggest threat to Disney is obviously Universal, now owned by Comcast. They are flush with cash and emboldened by the huge success of one boy wizard taking up residence at one of their parks.

In the past Universal was a nice one day detour for the throngs of people streaming through Main Gate toward the Disney kingdom. Even through big multi million dollar moves Universal Orlando has never been able to wrestle the focus or the first dollar away from Disney.

No longer. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s huge draw has swung the public interest clearly toward the Universal Orlando Resort. Universal is doubling down too with big expansions planned for the future. They smell blood for the first time, and it isn’t some aberration.

Since 1999, when Universal’s Islands of Adventure opened they have been leading the industry in innovative attractions. Disney hasn’t even attempted to wrestle the creative crown back either. They have instead rested on their loyal fan base to keep returning based on nostalgia and clever marketing campaigns.

There is a real long term danger for Disney in Orlando. All young children love Disney, but that has to be more than a childhood connection for someone to become a fan. At some point later in life someone has to make that connection and fall in love with the place. For me it was my teenage years. Universal existed, but no IOA. This was the early nineties and Disney was amazing to me. Truly magical, not just a corporate greeting. We went every year, sometimes twice and were always amazed by the new attractions, resorts, and areas opening at a faster pace than our frequent visits.

Herein lies the real danger. If kids today grow up thinking Disney is stale and Universal is magical then not too far down the road those “kids” bring their kids to the resort that gave them the real magical experience. Just like we return to Disney with our kids today. The paradigm can shift in a big way and a cultural shift like that is nearly impossible to recover from in the short term.

I live and work amongst young professionals with families. I can’t tell you how many are planning Universal trips, not just because of the boy wizard, but because “the rides are so awesome.”

Attendance goes flat. Then starts slipping. Then never recovers. The once giant is left to wonder why their new attractions dont change the cycle.

Perhaps they recognize this or perhaps they are so caught up in the corporate machine they are blind to the real danger.

This would be a common narrative of once industry dominant American corporations. I hope it doesn’t happen to my favorite company.