Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Superhero Snowflake

"Let SHIELD go!" - Elsa auditioning for Avengers 2

It occurs to me I never reviewed Captain America:  The First Avenger despite the scathing rebuke I had written about the director's plans for the character.  Suffice it to say, his first outing was actually a pleasant surprise that I rather enjoyed.

Now we’re into Phase 2 of Marvel’s plan for their movie world, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier continues the story of WW2 super soldier Steve Rogers following The Avengers (which was pretty awesome.)  It seems a common notion that The Winter Soldier has dethroned that movie as the best thing Marvel has done to date, and those folks do have a convincing argument.

While Iron Man is Marvel’s most consistently good movie (and my favorite) and The Avengers is the most fun ride, The Winter Soldier is the best story they’ve told.  Instead of your standard Guy Becomes Hero/Supervillain Needs Stopping movie, we have a man trying to hold on to the values of his time period while buffeted by the forces of an entirely new era. One part espionage mystery, one part social commentary, and one part superhero blockbuster, it manages to be both incredibly different from the previous Marvel films and yet still a solid sequel.

Unlike all the other Marvel heroes, Captain America really has no place to go after The Avengers, so he’s still involved with SHIELD almost by default. It’s clear that his reservations about all this covert double dealing going on with SHIELD have grown, and he not only starts questioning his orders, but the defining philosophy of his bosses as well.  SHIELD is looking to end threats before they become problems, but as Cap says, “I thought the punishment usually came after the crime.”

There have been accusations that this is some kind of pro-Snowden propaganda, but I found a refreshing debate going on between the characters.  Cap is not treated as automatically right by virtue of being the hero, and we get a nice range of points of view, from the villains’ desire to control everyone to Nick Fury’s insistence that it’s necessary in a dangerous world.  After all, with all these aliens, gods, and Hulks, what happens if you don’t act and the next Iron Man uses his technology to commit genocide?  What risks are we willing to take for freedom?

Helping that work is some fantastic chemistry between the characters/actors.  Chris Evans really seems to have this character down, and Scarlett Johansson has stuff to do this time other than look hot.  Anthony Mackie is a fun new addition as the Falcon, and I found it refreshing that his character didn’t suffer from a stereotypical tragic past, forcing him into a buddy cop relationship with Cap.  Instead he’s a guy whose experiences allow him to relate to Steve, and he follows out of a sense of respect for both the man he comes to know and his hero persona. Even the namesake Winter Soldier feels suitably menacing without having nearly as much screen time or dialogue as the title would suggest.

Of course all of that is framed by some straight up superhero punchy goodness.  I was afraid at first the action was going to be frustrating due to some shaky cam at the beginning and some stupid hero-accepts-villain’s-challenge-for-a-1v1 stuff, but by the end I was delighted to see action sequences that were interesting to watch and not chock fill of dumb villain tropes.  When a villain has a shot, they take it. If somebody goes down, there’s an attempt to get a finisher in.  The heroes take damage and that damage is even enough to require stitches.  We top that off with just some incredibly creative usage for Cap’s signature round shield to keep him from being a total Bourne clone, and all around, it’s a fun time.

Henry Jackman turns in a fine score, which gives me the opportunity to correct an opinion I had in a previous review.  When I talked about his score for Wreck-It Ralph I think I seriously undervalued his contribution to that film.  Upon repeat viewings, I’ve found a new respect for that soundtrack.  Since I felt similarly about this one, I suspect I may come around to that opinion again after a few times with this film as well.

On the bad side, it’s pretty predictable how things are going to play out and there are some standard action/espionage movie tropes, including a couple of real eyerollers. (Seriously guys, can we just get rid of the countdown to one second thing?) In addition, if you’ve seen the trailers, they’ve managed to spoil just about all the best “holy crap” moments like they did to Iron Man 3.  Lastly, it does have the baggage of “so, where’s Hawkeye during all this?  Maybe call Stark?” that The Avengers has created for all these movies with the Falcon coming across a little bit like a low-budget Iron Man towards the end.

Fortunately, that just feels like nitpicking a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed, enough that if one of you hasn’t seen it and wants to go, I’d be liable to come with you.  Oh, since people still haven’t learned, there is in fact a second extra scene at the end of the credits, so stick around for it.

*this post cross-posted over at

Click to read the full post.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Way Past Cool

I’ve written previously about why involvement in gaming culture is important and worked through an example of how video games can help us explain political concepts to the youth of America. Now let’s talk about how the video game industry can teach us how to fight the culture war directly.

The gaming world operates very much like our political system. Thanks to new technologies, the whole industry goes through cycles where consumers “re-elect” the existing brands/franchises or hop on board with the inevitable newcomers.  Instead of political parties and ballot boxes, rabid fans will line up along battle lines and try to drag moderates into their camps, and their vehemence makes hardcore Democrats and Republicans look like posers. After all, nothing quite compares with the stream of obscenities that can come from a 9 year-old that disagrees with your opinion of the latest Call of Duty game.  So if you want to learn about swaying entrenched supporters, there are few better places to look for examples.

For instance, just as progressives dominate today’s political landscape, back in the late 1980s Nintendo dominated the gaming one. After the video game crash of 1983, Nintendo had soared to total supremacy with what was then called the Famicom, or as it’s better known here, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). With it they reigned over the gaming world virtually uncontested until right about 1990. Then along came Sega.

Sega was a traditional coin-operated arcade game company that was nearly wiped out in the crash. They went through a few buyouts and management changes after that, and when they finally recovered, they jumped into the console market with the Sega Master System. It was largely a flop, but it did give them enough of a foothold to instigate a battle with Nintendo that would end up defining a generation of gamers. The ensuing 16-bit “election cycle” between the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) would become known as the first “console war”, and it was a fight in which Nintendo started with every advantage.

How did Sega keep from being squashed outright? Sega “did what Nintendon’t”they attacked Nintendo with a marketing campaign that cast Nintendo’s consoles as inferior hardware only little kids played.  Meanwhile, they built a brand for themselves as the place the cool, mature gamers went to play. Even their new mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, was designed to be everything Nintendo’s wasn’t.

While Mario leisurely romped along to save the princess over at Nintendo, Sonic tore off at blistering speed on a quest to ruin his bad guy Robotnik’s day.  Mario was happy go lucky and kind of goofy; Sonic had an attitude, cracking wise and tapping his foot with impatience to get moving.  On TV they did the Mario whereas Sonic was the fastest thing alive.

Sega understood that taking on a market leader requires distinguishing your product from theirs in a way that is simple and that resonates in everything you do. The GOP on the other hand thinks appealing to people outside the “base” means looking like a cheap knock off.  They believe appeal has to do with policy and votes and “tactics”, when in reality it’s about branding and marketing.  Put the right face on what you’re selling, and people will buy it.

Sega was all about being the newest, fastest, most badass thing around, and we would do well to imitate that strategy.  That means our mascot can’t be an old, white, rich, male, career politician like the John McCains and Mitt Romneys that go out there to rep for the GOP now.  Lock those guys in a closet and find the hottest young businesswomen and men you can instead.  I hate identity politics as much as the next guy, but the fact is you’re not going to convince anyone of anything if they stop listening because the person delivering the message fits a stereotype that makes them uninteresting or worse, untrustworthy.

Sega went right at Nintendo, and we need to send those new folks into enemy territory to do battle with the loudest opponents they can find. Dare to have the campaign events in the bluest districts in the country, and don’t fear the Jon Stewarts. Instead go on their shows and give their arguments the old “that’s so cute you still believe that”-style response you would for any five year-old’s naiveté about the world, because liberalism is for toddlers.

Toddlers can wander in and out of a “big tent”, but they can’t meander into the hottest nightclub in town.  Nothing attracts people faster than telling them they can’t get in someplace, especially when a few gorgeous famous faces walk in with ease.  If you can make admission convey a sense of adulthood too, young people will line up around the block. Once that happens, even Sonic the Hedgehog will stop by long enough to toss off a trademark “way past cool.”

And that’s really all what it all boils down to, isn’t it?  It’s time to be way past cool.

Click to read the full post.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Virtual Obamacare

“Stay a while and listen.”

Coming up on March 25th, the first expansion pack for Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo 3 will be released.  Reaper of Souls, as it’s called, has gotten many gamers, including myself, to take a second look at a game that didn’t quite live up to its predecessor.  While ruminating on the successes and failures of Diablo 3, it occurred to me there are some striking parallels with, of all things, Obamacare.

Back in Diablo 2, Blizzard had a multiplayer component that allowed users to trade in-game items, and naturally a market formed between the players. It wasn’t long before people started paying real money for these digital goods, and of course some people got ripped off.  You may even remember news reports from around that time of people paying exorbitant sums of real money for items in Diablo 2 or perhaps later in World of Warcraft.

When Blizzard created Diablo 3, they decided to take control of this market by adding the Auction House, an online exchange if you will. They argued that with it players could more easily trade their items and be protected from getting their money stolen. (And of course, Blizzard could get a cut.)  However, for it to work, Blizzard had to mandate that everyone play the game online, even if they just wanted to enjoy the story in single player like the previous games.  Otherwise people could have abused the system by hacking their copy and/or pirating the game.

Like Obamacare’s exchange, Diablo 3’s launch was a disaster, with most players spending days after its release staring at error screens instead of playing. People who did get in were plagued by bugs that lost their items, progress, and in some cases, entire characters. The dreaded Error 37 even became a meme for a time. 

Eventually the tech problems were sorted out, but then a new issue began to emerge: the existence of the Auction House totally undermined the gameplay. The Auction House had actually made it easier to just buy loot rather than work for it in the game, and further, the transitions between difficulty levels punished players that didn’t use it because the game was designed assuming they would.  Since the attraction of continuing to play up through harder difficulties is to get epic loot, and the Auction House has the epic loot, why bother to play?

All of these inevitable problems were foreseen by forward looking gamers by the way.  That didn’t stop Blizzard though.  Instead they swore up and down the Auction House was not an issue and went on adjusting all the other underlying rules of the game to try and compensate.  To no avail, I might add.  Fortunately, unlike Obama, they eventually came around.  As of Reaper of Souls, the Auction House will be no more.

So, when you’re trying to explain why Obamacare is such a colossal failure to millennial gamers, try putting it in terms of Diablo 3.  They might just get it.

Click to read the full post.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Next Political Battleground: Video Games

"Get over here!"

It’s no secret conservatives lag way behind liberals when it comes to almost all aspects of the entertainment industry. Fortunately they’re starting to come around to the idea that engaging that part of the culture is absolutely necessary to change the tide of politics, but when people think of entertainment as a battleground, usually they stick to movies and television while ignoring a very large elephant in the room: video games.

Video games are a huge part of the lives of the American youth and over the last couple decades have become a juggernaut industry.  Just a few months ago, Rockstar Games’ magnum opus Grand Theft Auto V grossed $1 billion in three days.

If that’s not reason enough for us to take the uncontested battleground of the gaming industry seriously, Microsoft gave us a new one at CPAC. As Brian Fung writes over at the Washington Post
Microsoft is trying to [ersuade[sic] politicians to take out targeted ads on Xbox Live, Skype, MSN and other company platforms as midterm elections begin heating up around the country. To plug the idea, Microsoft officials handed out promotional materials Thursday at CPAC, the annual conference for conservatives.

It's the latest move by tech companies to seize a piece of the lucrative political ad market. The ads, which would appear on the Xbox Live dashboard and other Microsoft products, combine Microsoft user IDs and other public data to build a profile of Xbox users. Campaigns can then blast ads to selected demographic categories, or to specific congressional districts. And if the campaign brings its own list of voter e-mail addresses, Microsoft can match the additional data with individual customer accounts for even more accurate voter targeting.

He also notes it’s not the first time Microsoft has made this play, having done some work with the Obama campaign in 2012. In fact their entire business strategy with regard to entertainment has shifted towards controlling advertising space, leading to considerable grousing by gamers not terribly thrilled to see their interfaces overtaken by ads of all stripes.

With the new Xbox One, Microsoft has put all their chips on being the go-to device for the entirety of your home entertainment, focusing on the capabilities of the console to handle TV, movies, and Internet streaming even over the games it was ostensibly created to play.  No doubt they know that once they can guarantee your eyes are on their box at all times, the advertisers will come running, and with a Kinect 2.0 attached to every one of those boxes quietly monitoring everyone in the room, they stand to have enormous ability to target ads, political or otherwise. (And report to the NSA, but that's a topic for another time.)  If it works, Sony, Nintendo, and the other players in the industry will almost certainly follow suit.

Even if Microsoft’s gambit fails, the gaming industry has long since started bleeding into other forms of entertainment. Though film adaptations of games have largely been complete flops, cinematic, story-driven games with full CGI cutscenes feel more like interactive movies, and many of them are arguably better stories than the stuff showing up in theaters today.  (I maintain the introductory sequence to Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic is better than all three Star Wars prequels combined.)

TV isn’t immune either. Last year SyFy Channel premiered a series called Defiance, which is actually a tie-in to the massively multiplayer game of the same name with plans to have player actions in the game affect how the show unfolds. Microsoft intends to break in here too by bringing its hallmark Halo franchise to your TV screens soon, helmed by none other than Steven Spielberg.  

You can even take in an evening at the symphony with an orchestra playing renditions of the prominent themes of the gaming world, though a cheaper date would be a night in with one of the scores of Youtube channels of young musicians playing or otherwise remixing their favorite video game tunes.

Beyond all that, gaming is an experience like no other.  Conditioning people to dislike certain political concepts takes multiple movies and television shows, but when that evil businessman betrays your character and kidnaps your character's girlfriend in a video game, that's personal, and it sticks with you.

Those of us on the Right side of the political spectrum cannot afford to ignore this critical part of our culture. Talk about healthcare premiums and mandates and a 20-something's eyes glaze over, but they understand what forced online DRM is and what having your loot stolen means.  I've got another post coming up to talk Obamacare this very way, so keep an eye out for it.

*h/t to Sarjex, for the graphic. Check out more of her work in her store.

Click to read the full post.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Very Die Hard Christmas

"What is the greatest Christmas movie of all time?"  Why Die Hard of course, followed closely by The Ref, and yet this year, for some inexplicable reason, it seems people have begun to question Die Hard's status as a Christmas movie.

I imagine this is just some attempt to troll people who don't think A Christmas Story or It's a Wonderful Life should be in the top spot, but it's been a while since I wrote a post and it's a good a reason as any.  The fact is Die Hard is unquestionably a Christmas movie.

Critics of this classification boil their argument down to two points:
1. Die Hard was not released around/marketed towards Christmas
2. Die Hard is not about Christmas

That first one seems reasonable enough, except for the fact that the release and marketing of a movie are not bound by what's in the movie or by the people who made the movie.  For example, Miracle on 34th Street,  a film I doubt anyone would question is a "Christmas movie", released on May 2nd, hardly in or around Christmas.  Even the vaunted It's a Wonderful Life didn't see actual full release until two weeks after Christmas (and then it bombed.)

So clearly the release date (and thus marketing) isn't a particularly good indicator, especially if a movie has since come to be played a lot around Christmas in spite of it, as Die Hard is now.

That leaves us with whether or not it's about Christmas.  "About Christmas" is a very loose phrase that, depending on your definition, could easily exclude classics like It's a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, and A Christmas Story, so it makes more sense to ask whether Christmas is part of the plot of the movie or merely the time of year in which the movie takes place.

Well, the entire opening act of Die Hard relies upon the fact that it's Christmas. It doesn't just happen to be Christmas; Christmas actually informs the actions of the characters.  McClane was perfectly content to wait and hope that his wife's new job wouldn't work out and she would come crawling back to him, and based on her name change, she was perfectly content to forget about him too.  They can't even go ten minutes without fighting once he gets there. (Note that her name is *Holly* by the way. You know, deck the halls...)

So Holly's not going to invite him out there on a whim, and even if she did, he's going to make excuses as to why he can't come.  To do otherwise would be to give ground on their age old argument, and these characters are too stubborn for that.  Then Christmas comes along, the season of giving and forgiving, of bringing people together, and making people believe in magic again, and it gives both John and Holly the rationalization they need to put their pride aside, since if nothing else, they want their kids to have a merry Christmas.

At the same time, the villain's plans hinge on the setting Christmas provides. The building is empty because everyone else went home to their families.  The people who remain are clustered on one floor at the Christmas party, and thus are easy to corral as hostages.  Security is light, and nobody is monitoring the computer codes or the vault.  (Also, given the incompetence displayed by the cops, all the actual experienced and useful officers are probably at home with their families too.)

Thus, pulling Christmas out of Die Hard means changing some characterizations and/or creating a more convoluted setup.  Can it be done? Of course, but A Christmas Story could be re-written to be about Ralphie's birthday, the family in Home Alone could be going to Disney World during one of the winter school breaks, and Miracle on 34th Street could be about a guy who thinks he's the Easter Bunny or Jesus.  Would the films still work? Yes, but they'd lose something, just as Die Hard would, so yes, Christmas is integral to Die Hard.

"But those other movies have Christmas themes," chant the naysayers.  Well, what are the three things pretty much every Christmas movie ever made revolves around?  Recognizing the importance of family, overcoming an obsession with material things, and believing in magic and redemption again.  Die Hard actually has all three.

Clearly Die Hard quite easily fits the bill in that first one. A husband and wife are trying to reconcile and reunite their family because it's Christmas.  Moreover, the experience gives McClane a new appreciation for his wife.  He recognizes that he's been an idiot this whole time, that Holly was "the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me." "She's heard me say a 'I love you' a thousand times. She's never heard me say 'I'm sorry'," he laments, "Tell her that John said he's sorry."  They might as well have had him find Holly and kiss her under the mistletoe after that line.

What about overcoming some hang up with material wealth? Well, Holly has chosen to pursue her career rather than stay with her husband, to the point she won't use his name because it might endanger said career.  Classic Christmas setup right there.  Beyond that, one of the first things that happens is that Ellis tells her to show off the expensive watch he gave her to rub it in John's face.  That could have been a total throwaway, except that at the end of the movie, that watch is the difference between all of them dying or just Hans. He catches it as he falls you see, and it gives him enough leverage to pull her with him and turn to fire at McClane. Once McClane manages to release the watch from her wrist, thus discarding that symbol of materialism and Holly's pursuit of her career to the exclusion of their marriage, Gruber falls to his death.

Of course there's Hans himself, who is ready to kill a bunch of people and blow up the top of a building just so he can get rich.  His Christmas miracle is the vault opening.  He's the bad guy. Rejection of obsession with material wealth, much?

How about Christmas magic and redemption?  Al Powell can't bring himself to draw his gun anymore because of the tragic mistake he made.  In the end, through the magic of having bonded with a voice on the radio, he redeems himself by shooting the last baddie before he can kill John and Holly.  Are not Christmas movies rife with tales of someone having made a mistake and given up something precious to them, only to get it back as the Christmas magic brings them together with someone who can change them for the better?

Even the score fits these thematic elements, being a Chistmasy mix of Ode to Joy of all things.  So looking past the action movie trappings reveals a film that does indeed reflect the spirit of Christmas. Come to think of it, looking past base appearances to see the truth of something is one of those Christmas messages too, isn't it?

Finally, there is one overriding factor that makes Christmas essential to Die Hard being the classic it is today.  Consider that the most famous quote from the movie, aside from McClane's "Yippe Kay Yay Motherfucker" catch phrase, is "Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho."  Would anyone still be repeating "Now I have a machine gun. Gobble Gobble Gobble"?  Would the line be funny if the movie took place in the middle of the summer and the terrorist didn't happen to be wearing a Santa hat?  I don't think so.

So this Christmas, make some fists with your toes and enjoy the epic Christmas movie that is Die Hard.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Click to read the full post.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Woulda Shoulda Coulda

Nothing plagues the human mind so much as "What if?" What if I had chosen to study law instead of business?  What if I had told that girl how I really felt about her?  What if I had just kept my mouth shut and gone home? What if I had made that left at Albuquerque?

With the George Zimmerman case, there have been all forms of malpractice by the media and certain folks with agendas, but the most reckless and infuriating of them all is damning Zimmerman because "if Zimmerman had just stayed in his car, Trayon Martin would be alive."

In point of fact, Trayvon Martin's death is the result of a chain of events, any one of which changed ever so slightly may or may not have affected the outcome.  In hindsight, we can say George exiting his vehicle to follow Martin contributed to this chain, but it's absurd to point to an event so ambiguous in its outcome as getting out of one's car to continue observing a suspicious person and call that the deciding factor.

For example, what if Trayvon Martin was not skipping home with his Skittles like a perfect little Cherub as he has been portrayed, and George's decision to follow led him to catch Martin burglarizing a house, such that the police could arrive, arrest him, and use Zimmerman as a witness at trial?  Would we call the decision to leave his vehicle overzealous and foolhardy, or a brave choice by an upstanding, observant citizen?

On the other side of the coin, what if George Zimmerman had stayed in his car, and the person that Trayvon ultimately confronted turned out to be a police officer, wherein the events played out exactly as they had for Zimmerman? What then, do we say of George?  That if only he had followed the officer with his smart phone we'd know exactly what happened?

Or quite simply, what if Zimmerman had exited his vehicle and not walked quite as far, such that the two men never see each other again?  Then what would we say of his choice?  Nothing at all since it would never have come up.  It would've been just another day in the lives of two random Floridians.

The fact remains that nobody alive but George Zimmerman knows what happened at the actual critical point, the interaction between the two men.  If we take Zimmerman at his word (and what little evidence we do have supports him), the decisions that had the best chance of changing the outcome were Trayvon's, to not go home, to punch Zimmerman, to pin him to the ground, to continue assaulting him even when the neighbor said to stop.  And yet, it would still be foolish of us to point to any of those things and declare "If Trayvon had only...he'd be alive today. Thus this is all his own fault."

It's clear the jury, at least, understood that no matter what they thought of George's decision to follow Martin, laying this incident at his feet for that one decision is not justifiable.  In any case, it makes about as much sense as a tornado full of sharks to turn this case into some kind of sociopolitical racial battleground over the idea that a guy getting out of his car constitutes hunting down another human being and killing him.

So I ask...what if we all just let this go and move on?

Click to read the full post.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Man of Lead

Bet that knee's starting to hurt.

So DC and Warner Bros. have finally gotten around to re-rebooting live-action Superman with Man of Steel, and it's taken me about a week to figure out how to sum up my thoughts on this movie because I didn't hate it, I was entertained most of the time, and yet I didn't like it either. Ultimately, the guys crystallized it for me with a part of their discussion of the movie.

They were talking about how one of the scenes felt like it was just trailer fodder, and to me, the whole film feels like it was made just so they could then cut really awesome trailers from it. Everything looks great.  The cast fits and acts well.  The score is excellent.  ...if you cut it into a 2 minute trailer of the highlights.  The fantastic bits are perfect out of context, but in context they are unearned, disconnected, and undermined by the rest of the movie.

I lay that problem at the feet of the "grounded in reality" trend Nolan started with Batman Begins and no doubt brought to this movie. That approach is fundamentally incompatible with Superman.  You cannot make Superman "grounded in reality" because his entire existence is the very opposite of reality, combining the fantasy of having unlimited power with the impossibility of absolute moral goodness. Superman is fantasy incarnate.

I've often complained about the Dark Knight franchise's focus on having the "real world" Batman because in the real world, the news reports billionaire Bruce Wayne was found dead in an alley shot three times in the back, and for some reason was wearing a rubber batsuit.  So the movie constantly has to break its own rules to keep the story from grinding to an immediate halt as the inconvenient questions from the real world pile up.

Now, you can kinda get away with it with Batman because the dark, brooding atmosphere that comes from the real world fits with a character who uses fear as a weapon and hangs out on the edge of what's plausible.  You cannot get away with it with Superman because a real world Superman is going to be more terrifying than even Batman.  Either he will be a huge hazard to everyone around him or he will be a tyrant. Maybe both.  (Absolute power corrupting absolutely, and all.)

Man of Steel goes with the hazardous Superman.  By the end of this movie's interminably long action sequence that is the film's climax (seriously it's so long it actually becomes boring), he is directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands to maybe even millions of people depending on the population density of Metropolis.  Would a world that saw the first "mission" of Superman result in that much death and destruction accept him as their savior and "give the people something to strive towards" as Jor-El puts it? No, he'd give the people freaking nightmares.  "Mommy, I'm afraid Superman will throw a car into our house!"

Superman has to have the callous disregard for the lives around him we see in the movie because it would be impossible in the real world to save them all or to avoid collateral damage.  He'd go insane if he allowed himself to care about people as much as the Superman we know and love does, which kind of undermines that whole "absolute moral goodness" thing that is a hallmark of the character.

It's also why their Jonathan Kent cannot be the folksy moral center for Superman in this movie, as any parent in the real world would be terrified their adopted super alien son was going to wind up in a government lab being experimented on for the rest of his life.  Or they'd try to exploit him for their own ends, but thankfully the movie isn't stupid enough to go that far.

Thus, their story is totally at odds with itself, with a Superman who wouldn't and couldn't be Superman.

Even some of the film's technical problems can be traced back to "grounded in reality."  For example, they do the whole Krypton thing and then they jump to adult Clark and use flashbacks to tell the part in between.  That was a neat approach, but it's totally botched by the fact that the flashbacks are completely random and out of order, because we're supposed to be seeing Clark's memories, and in the real world, those do not happen in a convenient, story building order.  They are triggered by random stuff, and so that's how it is in the movie.

The introduction of shakey and out of focus cam during simple dialog exchanges only makes sense if you're trying to make people feel like they're watching found footage from someone's smart phone, rather than shoot a movie.

The climax has to go on forever because in the real world a normal human can take multiple bullets to the chest and keep moving, so nigh-invulnerable super powered aliens that are constantly recharging from the sun are going to take a while to beat each other into submission.

In the end, you end up with all the technology and money and talent to create a superb film, but those things cannot substitute for a good story or great characters.  They can only elevate a bad story or stupid characters for a few scant moments, which means all you're really left with is one really awesome movie trailer spread out inside a pretty awful movie.

(P.S.  It probably goes unspoken, but I'd probably avoid taking the kids to this version of Superman if you want to see it, especially given something near the end I can't explain without spoilers.)

Click to read the full post.