Now I don't want to make this a whining, negative moan-fest about why the Man of Steel didn’t wear red pants or something. So instead of concentrating on the stuff I didn’t like in the reboot, I’ll focus on areas of the original 1978 Superman that did it BETTER.
And it did a lot better, let me tell you.
First let me say I didn’t hate Man of Steel. It was okay. Alright. It didn’t inspire almost any emotion from me save for an unnatural attraction to Zod’s sexy second in command Faora.
Yet herein is the problem. It didn’t move me. I wasn’t filled with awe, or a desire, that wish to fly with Superman. It didn’t make me feel bad for an outcast on an alien world unsure of his history or his future. It didn’t dazzle me with spectacle. It didn’t do anything that the original Superman did.
Rewind 35 years and we’re really making people believe a man can fly. Yeah it looks a bit slow and silly now, but that smiling wink to the camera at the end, the literal save-the-cat moment earlier, it all sums up what Superman is and should be – someone who is fundamentally good and is at peace with himself being that shining beacon of hope (and
the American way).
It is laden with hope, bright colours, humour and what super heroes are famed for – saving people.
An element sorely missing from Man of Steel was the duality of Clark Kent and Superman. The film effectively rendered them the same character. Yes we got the whole inner-turmoil element of Superkent not knowing what he should do but feeling like he should do something etc etc. But it wasn’t framed in a real and traumatic-enough way. Instead it just seemed like a high concept teen drama. And they’ve done that with
Reeves added an element of pathos to his portrayal of Kent – the nerd with the heart of gold, gunning for Lois Lane, while playing second fiddle to Superman’s smouldering prowess. Like has been said before countless times Superman is the real person – Clark Kent is the mask. None of this is in Man of Steel. Most of the characters are highly incidental – two dimensional place-holders to indicate threat or a change or location.
The obvious style and tone comparison obviously the Nolan Batman movies. Not surprising considering he co-wrote and produced Steel. Now Batman worked because his pain is very real, very dark and quite relatable. The Man of Steel’s isn’t. He’s an alien with power to help people yet he doesn’t (at least not for a while), and even when he does it seems to cause him more pain than joy – a clear difference from the Superman and Batman that we know.
Another divergent element is the trigger of his ascension from man to man of steel – the death of his Father. This is the same as Superman. However in Superman it is something Kent cannot control and thus denotes the entire subtext of the film – with all his power he couldn’t stop his Father from dying. He cannot control destiny.
Man of Steel plays it in another way. Here Kent could have prevented it, but doesn’t, thus setting up the whole guilt trip that follows him into adulthood. Both are tragic moments, both relatable. But one is a sacrifice, the other is a life lesson and by time we see Kevin Costner die (spoilers) we already know that Superman is going to become Superman.
Finally, what Man of Steel forgot were my two favourite elements of Superman. First, the theme. Hans Zimmer is a great composer, yes, but he makes mood music,
atmosphere music. He doesn’t write good themes.
Want to argue with me? Fine then… hum the theme. Go on, I bet you can’t because I bet you can’t remember it.
Now try the definitive John Williams one. It is iconic. While Man of Steel was not the
right movie to have such a bombastic and hopeful theme, it did lack a good score (in my opinion).
Secondly you barely sore the Steely Man fly. Yeah he did a bit, but it was either wide or long shots, or super close ups. It was so heavily CGI’d as well, and it did not fill me (or seemingly any other cast member) with the “OMG a man can fly” feeling. Superman did.
Okay so I liked some things. The epic super-battles were awesome and befit the scale of the character’s power. On the ground, Super-baddies vs. Marines sort of reminded me of games like MG: Revengeance etc. In the air it was a crazier Matrix Revolutions.
The casting was great – I enjoyed a few cameos from the BSG crew, though Fishbourne was underused. Cavill was good, as was Michael Shannon’s Zod.
Everyone’s costume save Superman’s was great (his looked so bleached of colour it looked navy crimson and ochre, not blue red and yellow).
I guess Man of Steel is just following the trend set not by other Superhero movies, but by superhero comics in general – it’s gone from the Golden era of bright primary colours to bleak Frank Miller grittiness. Which is probably why I don’t pay much attention to modern comics.
The movies don’t have to be that way, though. They don’t have to be like Man of Steel. They can be bombastic, colourful, humorous and successful.
Just wanted to shout out about my first foray into short film making. I'll probably do a much longer blog post charting the entire process at some point, but I just wanted to get it out there for the time being.
It's flawed, it was a total pain in the ass to get made, and it taught me very valuable lessons about the whole process. But I'm also proud. I've been involved in loads of misfires start-ups that go no where and I'm just glad to get it to this point.
Taking drugs on the big screen is not new. Often glamorised, parodied, or lamented, movie heroes and heroines using narcotics can also provide the inexperienced viewer insight into what a trip might actually be like. It also grants directors a unique situation where more non-conventional effects and techniques can be used. Funky lighting, distorted sound, CGI, puppets â€“ all have been employed to explain the unexplainable. Beneath are just five of my favourite freak-out scenes from a host of doped-up films throughout the years.
An ever popular favourite of cinema exploration is the subject of the taboo. From the peep shows of the late 1800â€™s, to the stark (at the time) violence of Hughesâ€™ Scarface, over to the crass gorno of Human Centipede, cinema explores the gamut of the unspeakable and the inexperienceable.
Drugs are no exception to this.
Much maligned in media, drugs can be both incredibly dangerous and incredibly fun. And much like skydiving I suspect a lot more people would like to try them but are otherwise too concerned with the risks. While we could argue that most people take drugs everyday (beer and coffee anyone?), there is still a line between what is legal and what isnâ€™t. What is known and what is unknown.
Cinema has used drugs to both scaremonger and fascinate audiences forever. Chinese Opium Den (1894) could be perhaps traced as the first example of a film used to explore what it is to be involved with drugs. Nowadays we have the likes of Pineapple Express where smoking weed is the primary backbone of the (flimsy) plot. Letâ€™s not even mention Cheech & Chong.
It doesnâ€™t always have to be consensual drug-use either. How many heroes have we seen smashed off their faces after being dosed by some exotic pill, poison or psychic power?
Looking here you can see there are a lot of â€śdrug filmsâ€ť. Each will of course provide you with a different insight into the whole process and the whole experience of drug-taking, for better or worse. None of course will replicate the real thing, naturally. But beneath are five of my favourite, and dare-I-say perhaps most accurate attempts in druggy cinema history.
I love this little sequence. First itâ€™s just so incidental, like theyâ€™re having a simple smoke or a coffee. Secondly it starts off with a seemingly easy special effect. It appears theyâ€™ve just sped up the film. But wait...what the fuck...how are their mouths matching the dialogue?! Such a simple effect really captures the intensified speed while under the influence. And youâ€™re still left baffled how the hell they did it.
Easy Rider annoyed me as a young cineaste. Much similar to 2001: A Space FUCKING
FREAKOUT or Performance, it melded a pretty standard plot with a lot of crazy metaphysical shit. As I was (and still am) in my Arnie-is-the-greatest-cinema-icon-of-all-time phase, I didn't dig the film as a whole. On the other hand though the crazy New Orleans drug scene I could appreciate.
While it wasnâ€™t as badass as riding around on motorcycles or anything, it did provide young me a glimpse into what taking drugs was all about, and why it can be really, really stupid to do it in a graveyard. According to legend the film stock was accidently over-exposed and this along with some quick editing created a wholly bad ride. Also Hopper and co. were apparently totally tripping off their tits in this sequence (and for most of the actual film). No shit.
Ah, Crank, my beloved. Simply the best post-millennium action film to date. Disagree, and not only will I scoff in your foolish face, but Iâ€™ll get old Chev Chelios to show you the error of your ways. Crank â€“ come on itâ€™s got drug slang for a title! Of course it features drugs. Dear Mr. Chelios is poisoned with a drug that will kill him unless he can keep his heart-rate sky-high. So he basically shoots himself with a meaty cocktail of adrenaline, coke, speed â€“ anything he can get his hands on.
He even gives his old George Best (...chest people, keep up) a quick blast with a defib kit. The camera work is frenetic, as is snappy pacing. The colours, the sound, everything is jacked in an effort to raise your own adrenaline. I especially love the hand-held work as he enters the bar at the beginning. But the ultimate trip old Chev takes is on the oldest opiate in the book â€“ the love drug. And whatâ€™s more crazy than having sex in front of a load of Asians?
Paddy Considine infiltrates a gang house and spikes the tea with a mean special brew of hallucinogens. Sitting down to relax, weirdness begins to happen. First itâ€™s a communal visit to the bathroom â€“ for safetyâ€™s sake, as Paddy could be anywhere. Switching from paranoia to obsessive compulsivity, they then rigorously clean the kitchen with the pan-handed grace of a gaggle of simpletons. The Speed-wrought energy kicks in then so itâ€™s off to the living room for a spot of weightlifting to some classic mindless trance. Muddled speech, bad vibes, and a loose face follow as the trip turns bad. Only after total loss of motor control does Paddy the Avenger finally appear.
What else could be number one? A film less about the actual destination but the journey itself, Fear & Loathing Las Vegas charts the furious binge habits of one Hunter S. Thompson at the height of his shamanistic gonzo powers. Featuring a bald Johnny Depp and a fat Benicio Del Toro, we are thrust deep into a world of ether abuse, acid excursions and human body-parts. What is actually a story about a botched attempt at finding the American Dream is really wall-to-wall freakiness.
Animated bats, crazy mating lizards, melting carpets, White Rabbit, and touchy-feely Gary Busey cops all inhabit the landscape of the insane. It would be impossible to pick a favourite drug clip from this film. Skipping into the movie at any point and youâ€™ll probably find either character high on something. Letâ€™s settle for the scene during the D.Aâ€™s conference on marijuana addicts. Hilarious.
Batman Begins â€“ Not for the freaky Scarecrow stuff, but when Bruce getâ€™s blazed on the blue flower juju - Neesonâ€™s flashy eyes, the throbbing room, BATS. Weâ€™ve all been there.
Big Lebowski â€“ Bit conflicted that I didnâ€™t put this in the top 5.
Casino Royale â€“ Love the camera work and acting when Bond leaves the card table to throw up his poisoned drink.
Trainspotting â€“ If this article was about best overdoses, Trainspotting would be number one.
Breakfast Club â€“ Weed makes you want to dance?!
New Jack City â€“ Crack, kids, makes Chris Rock cry. So donâ€™t do it, mâ€™kay?
In honour of Andrew Kauzâ€™s new community recap blog, After the Credits, ACBP brings to you the very best of after credit scenes or, as they are otherwise known, Stingers.
Itâ€™s become a common theme whereby many modern video games contain hidden referential surprises, or "Easter eggs". They can take multitudes of form, may feature characters, scenarios or events from previous games or other brands within the same studio umbrella, or be totally unrelated to the topic at hand. Many take their cue from cinema.
A recent example can be found in New Vegas. Early in the game you come across a refrigerator strewn amongst the post-apocalyptic debris. Inside you discover the skeletal remnants of a man bearing a distinctive fedora, a whip and a revolver. Even as someone who wished the last, unmentionable Indiana Jones film had died a similar death, I appreciated the reference.
Film (more and more often the cultural and artistic springboard to video games) of cours
In honour of Andrew Kauz’s new community recap blog, After the Credits, ACBP brings to you the very best of after credit scenes or, as they are otherwise known, Stingers.
It’s become a common theme whereby many modern video games contain hidden referential surprises, or "Easter eggs". They can take multitudes of form, may feature characters, scenarios or events from previous games or other brands within the same studio umbrella, or be totally unrelated to the topic at hand. Many take their cue from cinema.
A recent example can be found in Fallout: New Vegas. Early in the game you come across a refrigerator strewn amongst the post-apocalyptic debris. Inside you discover the skeletal remnants of a man bearing a distinctive fedora, a whip and a revolver. Even as someone who wished the last, unmentionable Indiana Jones film had died a similar death, I appreciated the reference.
Film (more and more often the cultural and artistic springboard to video games) of course also contain similar such prizes. “Stingers” are one of the more increasingly common examples of this.
Appearing after the credits, they aren’t used so much as the film’s coda, but more often to set up a possible sequel (or in Marvel’s case to promote a different franchise) or to provide one last laugh or reward for a staunch audience.
Movie legend Roger Ebert describes them as “Monk’s Rewards”, aptly highlighting the monklike devotion required from an audience in order to sit through the credits to see the final scene. Regardless of their intention or use, their history can be dated back to the late 60’s Bond films. A card amongst the credits would read “James Bond will return in...” as a means of advertising future missions.
Since then they have evolved to become complex, whimsical and powerful storytelling tools which are used more and more frequently by modern filmmakers.
What follows are my five favourite stingers of recent(ish) memory.
Cloverfield (2008, Matt Reeves)
It is difficult to make a good scary movie. As many examples prove it is easy to build tension, create a new and exotic monster or killer, even easy to baffle audiences with its motivations, origins and powers. But it is a vastly different story when it comes to satisfying a viewer when it comes to answering those questions - the how’s and the why’s.
Take the Last Exorcism (2010). Piggybacking off the amateur hand-held-style success of Paranormal Activity (2009), it weaves an interesting narrative about a seemingly possessed girl. However as we build to the conclusion, every question, every “what the hell” moment is put into clear context. The monster is given a human face, so to speak. Similar to the translations of horror fiction to movie-screen, the creature can never attain, even by using CGI, latex or Oscar-worthy acting, the same level of intense, fear-inducing power as our own imagination. Paranormal Activity did this right. We never saw what was terrorizing the protagonists. It is only hinted at, only assumed. Our depraved minds fill in the blanks.
Conversely without any explanation whatsoever, we are left numb and blank. The recent sci-fi throwaway Skyline falls prey to this lack of disclosure. Like I said, it is a very fine line to succeed in this form of storytelling.
Cloverfield, however, stands as an example of the perfect balance between total ignorance and full intimate knowledge. We see the alien destroying New York in vague and frenetic flashes. We get a sense of it. But it is never explained, in fact we don’t even know if it is an alien, at least not until the first “stinger”.
Many people don’t notice that in the last shot, the last scene at the fairground filmed prior to the attack, there is a wide shot of the beach, with the ocean behind it. In the top right hand side of the screen you very briefly see what could only be an asteroid or other minor extra-terrestrial fragment impact on the water. Then it is gone. It explains so much so simply, showing not telling. Perfect.
So it’s technically not a stinger; but it comes after the main film and perfectly bookends the narrative. The second, true stinger comes after the credits, and albeit disappointing in scale and presentation (it’s probably the cheapest stinger since Bond), does what stingers do best: sets up a sequel. Take a look/listen.
Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy
It was a huge risk for Disney to try and adapt one of their popular theme-park rides into a film. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl began its life in the 1990s, and even after successful director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer signed onto the project it was still nearly shut down by the then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner. His issue was the immense budget (reportedly $140 million).
Considering Disney was sustaining itself on diminished theme-park attendances and sporadic mega-hits from Pixar (such as Monsters Inc.), one can appreciate Eisner’s concern; There hadn’t been a modern telling of the pirate genre since 1995’s Cutthroat Island which had destroyed not only the genre, but the Carolco film company too, after bringing in only $10 million dollars of a $100 million budget.
Even Verbinski had to fight tooth and nail for Depp to play hilarious pirate Jack Sparrow, a role now so fundamentally popularized by the actor.
While people with an eye for quality suspected it might be a sleeper hit, no one involved anticipated just how successful it might be, or the need for two follow-up movies.
Hence why the first stinger follows the typical “horror” trope.
These “Final-stab” stingers are perhaps the most common of the after credit scenes in supernatural or horror movies. Its use in the Curse of the Black Pearl doesn’t help us segue neatly into the next film, but instead concludes the movie. It literally is a nice Easter Egg for astute viewers.
The sequel (filmed in conjunction with the third film), Dead Man’s Chest, employs a more comedic stinger. Again this is a common usage of the tool. It doesn’t build towards the next film nor does it even really conclude the main story of the second movie. It is simply a funny aside.
But the third and final film in the trilogy (so far anyway), At Worlds End, features one of the most effective stingers in recent memory. Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner character has become the new captain of the Flying Dutchman. Effectively the Grim Reaper of the sea, he can only set foot on dry land once every ten years. He is granted only one night alone with his new bride, Keira Knightely, before setting sail for eternity.
It’s certainly what Marty McFly would call, “heavy”. Ten years apart is a long time despite their protestations of love and fidelity. Yet after the credits roll the final scene, “Ten Years Later” shows the Dutchman erupting from the sea as the sun sets, Knightely and their new son stood waiting to greet him.
Pretty melodramatic I guess, but effectively shot and scored. This sort of stuff is what cinema was made for and fantastically concludes that story.
Iron Man (2008, Jon Favreau)
Marvel Entertainment has done something no one else can make a claim to. Somehow, someway they have convinced multiple, rival studios to transform their comic-book franchises into successful blockbuster movies and then have them advertise each other in the credits. Genius.
It began with Paramount getting into bed with Universal, when Robert Downey Jr., in his Tony Stark guise, featured in the stinger for the Incredible Hulk (2008, Louis Leterrier). The appearance, despite being understated, stoked the fanboy-fires of the future Avengers movie. Couple this with 20th Century Fox producing the X-Men trilogy, as well as Captain America (referenced in Iron Man 2!), and we effectively have Marvel whoring itself to whoever pays the most. It’s like Coca Cola putting Metallica in a commercial and having them drink Pepsi.
While Iron Man 2 (2010, Jon Favreau) had an extended stinger heralding the coming of Thor (2011, Kenneth Branagh), Marvels next mega franchise, it was in the original Iron Man however that best utilized the after-credit scene.
Certainly not the first in modern Marvel Entertainment’s venture into stingers (that mighty honour goes to Daredevil in 2003), it resonates the most and features the most suprising of cameos. Despite being preceded by Downey’s appearance in the Incredible Hulk a mere month before, Samuel L. Jackson’s shock unveiling as Nick Fury (agent of SHIELD) and his utterance “I’m here to talk about the Avenger Initiative” set the forums alight.
So the Marvel machine moves onwards. Its use of slight references to other franchises both current and in the pipeline, along with creative employment of stingers and other promo tricks is thickening the Marvel universe canon, and stoking the fires of fans everywhere. However this time you don’t have to be a comic book nerd to appreciate it.
Crank (2006, Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)
Let’s get something straight. Jason Statham doesn’t make very good films very often. But when he does, they tend to be dynamite. Crank, from handling the box, might look like “Generic Action-Fest no. 6”. But actually watch it and you’ll discover an action classic.
Directed by two experienced camera operators, Neveldine/Taylor effectively distil the violent chaos of first and third-person action games into a high-octane film. As equally ludicrous as most video games, Crank represents, I think, a more nuanced and faithful homage to gaming content; Statham’s Chev Chelios is the typical action hero, the typical action avatar.
Self-deprecating and totally none-serious, the film nods its’ head to VG culture on numerous occasions. Chelios’ cover is that of a video games artist. The camera zips from perspective to perspective, one moment mirroring Gears of War, the next Punch Out.
And if you’re still left shaking your head to all these sly nods, there’s no denying the stinger.
Looking like a classic retro game (clearly based on Double Dragon) from the SNES era, there is no denying Crank’s intent any longer.
Masters of the Universe (1987, Gary Goddard)
Come on, it’s obvious to anyone around the darker side of their twenties that this is the most memorable stinger ever. It’s probably the first one you ever saw, if, like me, you were so He-Man crazed to sit through the credits.
Well the music was pretty badass (by Bill Conti of Rocky fame) considering the content of the film. Very rousing. My Dad (the one time he took me to the cinema) still mentions the sound to this day.
Seriously though, stingers weren’t hugely popular or widespread at this point in the 1980’s. They were still being used to push future Bonds, the Muppets were breaking fourth walls, and certain passengers aboard a taxi in Airplane! were going insane. It was still a very niche and very rare thing to find unlike today (see Iron Man above).
Most certainly continued a joke or were comical in theme. Masters of the Universe was different. It was a bit scary. In fact what I think I liked the most about it was the fact Skeletor (the indomitable Frank Langella) was seen without his cowl. Considering he was just a yellow cackling skull in the cartoon, Langella really added a level of sincere evil to the character. The makeup was pretty effective. You really did wonder what the hell was under that hood, and when Dolph knocks him off that platform the only thing you’re looking at is Skeletor’s white dome as tumbles to his (apparent) doom.
The stinger was just the icing on the cake.
Unfortunately the lazy philistines over at YouTube haven’t uploaded this monumental clip (I may probably be the only person to have ever seen it, actually). So listen to the badass soundtrack instead.
Two good stinger-related resources:
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