The season of summer blockbusters is well under way now and one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year was Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot. Produced by Syncopy, the Nolan company behind the Dark Knight trilogy it was planned that DC’s other big property would get the same treatment Batman did. But it was never going to be easy, Superman is a very different character and one that is much harder to get right since there are so many potential pitfalls. The biggest issue with him is he’s far too over-powered, it’s very hard to care for someone who’s so perfect. He’s also a lot less cool than Batman, he zips about the sky wisping women off their feet, saving the world, caring for his parents, being ridiculously handsome and wearing bright blue tights. On it’s release man of Steel has received one of the most mixed critical receptions in recent memory, leaving the question of whether Snyder did a good job very much up in the air.
I have to say that in retrospect he really did not. As Man of Steel begins we spend the first fifteen minutes or so with his parents as they try defend his home planet of Krypton from Michael Shannon’s General Zod. The opening battle is alright but it leaves you waiting for at least half an hour before any kind of ‘Superman’ antics begin to happen, we spend a lot of time up on Krypton and even more time watching young Clark not retaliate against bullies. It gets pretty frustrating and annoying having to spend so long on his origin story which literally everyone in the world already knows, but then that is the problem with a reboot. A few years ago they were all the rage, this is the first origin we’ve had to deal with in a while so we’ll let it go. But then things don’t get much better. As Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is introduced we flit back and forth through different events in Clark Kent’s life and it’s often not clear what period of time we’re in, not to mention the fact that we see the exact same situation of young Clark getting pushed around and having to try really hard not to hit back. We got the message the first time, he’s perfect, he won’t snap back. There’s not a single scene in the whole movie that isn’t completely over-dramatic. I think Henry Cavill’s eyes must have constantly had some kind of dew producing contraption hidden behind them so he never stops looking like he’s about to cry, in fact every character looks like they’re about to cry all the time. When we finally get through the under-written, hammy plot we are treated to some great action. Michael Shannon is probably the strongest performer of the film although in the end General Zod’s defeat is completely underwhelming. Zod and Superman being flung around Metropolis provide us with the film’s best moment but even that eventually drags on, I thought it had ended about three times before it actually, finally did and by the end of it all it feels like you’ve just been seeing the same thing over and over. Zod throws Superman, he skids along the concrete. Superman throws Zod he collapses a building and repeat.
I did find myself enjoying it for a short while during the final fight but overall this is Snyder all over, looks nice but is completely lacking in anything else. If a different director helms the sequel perhaps Superman may have more life in him but, in my opinion, Snyder is not the man for the job. Chances are if the second ones good Man of Steel will be easily looked over.
While still no one knows if there ever will be a Justice League movie, the LEGO game franchise have given us some kind of respite in LEGO Batman 2 which allows you to play as pretty much any DC super hero or villain and zoom round Gotham City fixing things and getting rid of the dangerous criminals. The game has full playable free-roam city with various collectables and mini-missions hidden about while the main story takes you through fifteen levels and ultimately take down The Joker and Lex Luthor.
The story play is as fresh as always in a LEGO game, taking many of the same features and styles of previous titles but still maintaining it’s own unique features. The idea of having the different suits that allow Batman and Robin to do certain things helps separate it from other games and when you begin to unlock more characters, especially Superman, they include specific things that couldn’t have been done without them. The missions are quite diverse, most of them have a few bits where you have to run around a location and figure out how you can get the right power to open the next door, then those bits are normally combined with a driving/flying/boating section in which you have to shoot a load of stuff down. It never gives you the chance to get bored and when you go back and play the missions again, because you have to to get all the collectibles, it’s not a chore but still retains it’s fun factor.
Once you unlock Superman and are allowed to fly round the City searching for gold bricks and boss fights the game gains a whole new feel which makes going back and forth finding bits and bobs actually pretty fun. Something that most games fail to do. LEGO Batman 2 is a great new addition to the franchise being perhaps the best of the titles I’ve played since the original LEGO Star Wars games. This is well worth a play.
Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck joins forces with underground rappers 7L and Esoteric to create Czarface, probably the most refreshing hip-hop record in years. I stumbled across the album on iTunes and was taken aback by how special it actually was. They combine old school hip hop techniques with more recent styles and the result is a breath of fresh air for the whole of hip hop music, in my opinion.
The record is not littered with samples like a large amount of popular hip hop nowadays, it instead takes the somewhat old fashioned approach of bringing the actual rapping to the fore, the beats being laid underneath in such a way that no limelight is taken off the lyrics. The album has a running theme of superheroes with the likes of Batman, Iron Man, etc. popping up at various points and the trio have created this character the ‘Czarface’ based on these more well known creations, in doing this its given the guys a fresh way of delivering old school raps, where they reference the things that they love and make brash claims about being the greatest in the world. The art work, of course, ties in with this and I think it just looks fucking sick, giving the whole concept of the album a picture that we can all relate to and therefore engage with the record in a much better way. While the rapping is the stand out factor it would be wrong for me to completely discount how good the production is here too, I’m sure if these guys wanted they could’ve used the same beats more prominently and the tracks would still be excellent, making the decision to have them as a bottom layer to each song even more inspired since so much work have obviously gone into them. It is clear here that everyone involved is just out to create the music they were brought up on and bring it back the way it should be. Czarface is coming for you, let’s hope this isn’t the only thing we hear from him.
So the time has come for the epic conclusion of the Nolan’s trilogy, after The Dark Knight was arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time the brothers really had their work cut out for them. But, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out for yourself, they certainly haven’t disappointed us, although they have perhaps not raised the bar any higher. Obviously the first problem they would have had to face when writing this film is the lack of the Joker, after stealing the show from Batman himself in the second instalment the loss of Ledger meant his psycho-terrorist is barely even mentioned in Rises and in his place comes Tom Hardy’s Bane. The opening scene of the film sets up this characters psychotic character that doesn’t seem that dissimilar to that of the Jokers but this time he’s got a bit more beef behind him. However, although the scale of devastation that he causes is much larger than his villain predecessors he never feels quite as threatening as Batman’s ultimate nemesis and from that viewpoint the film was always going to be fighting a losing battle, this isn’t helped by Bane’s voice effect which is so poorly rendered that at times I literally had no idea what he was saying. But then maybe it is unfair to compare, this film comes off much better if you look at it on its own merit. We also have here the introduction of Catwoman, which, after seeing it, I think is a bit of a master-stroke. If you’d asked me beforehand I would have been apprehensive about her addition to the cast of characters but I found myself enjoying every second of her relatively limited screen time, she brings a mixture of sexiness and humour without taking away from the dark feel that has continued throughout the trilogy and ultimately adds the breath of fresh air that maybe without it Rises would have crashed and burned in the shadow of its predecessor. The final scene brings a fitting, exciting conclusion with a major twist that I could never have seen coming. To put a long story short it’s not as good as The Dark Knight but it’s better than Batman Begins and successfully concludes what must be one of the greatest trilogies in cinema history.