Thursday, June 27, 2013

Steel Criticism

I've seen Man of Steel twice now; I'll probably see it a third time in the next week or so. I'll put up a review at some point, but for now I'll just say that I really liked it.
That said, there are a lot of major criticisms people have with the movie; I figured I'd respond to some of them.


Too grim
This one I partially agree with. For a movie about a guy who can fly, this one is extremely serious. At the same time, the tone works for the story they're telling. Man of Steel gives Clark a level of realism and drama that demands a more serious tone than something like what they're doing with the Marvel films at the moment. That said, I do wish there had been more bright moments to alleviate the grimness that permeates virtually every second of the film. The ending definitely is a bright note; hopefully that indicates that the sequel will have a more fun tone than this one. All in all, however, the seriousness of MOS wasn't so much that it made me not enjoy the story, and it's probably better to err on the side of too serious rather than lean too far back towards the Reeve/Routh Superman films of the past.

Too long
MOS takes its proper time. There's one scene that probably should have been edited out (the Indian Ocean battle), but aside from that everything in the story was necessary and well-told. I'd rather have a movie that takes its time to do things right than rush so quickly that it loses its impact.

Lois knows Clark's identity at the beginning of the story
The love triangle between Clark, Lois, and Superman is central to the Superman legend, and the fact that it's tossed aside and accelerated into the Clark/Lois romance from the get-go is a rather bold move. It's certainly different, though not unprecedented (Smallville did the same thing a couple years ago). I don't know that I prefer Lois knowing at the beginning, but it does do three notable things for the story:
1: It makes the story different enough that it's not a retread of every past Superman story ever.
2: It proves how smart Lois is. Instead of seeing Clark's two identities every day and never putting it together, in MOS she's so smart that she figures out Clark is Superman before he's actually Superman.
3: It emotionally ties Lois to Clark much more than normal. As one of the very few people privy to his secret now—as well as someone that's steadfastly supportive of him and romantically linked to him—Lois is now very important on a deeply emotional level. Yes, Lois was important before, but moreso in a "desire/love interest" manner; now she's Clark's confidante, best friend, lover (maybe), etc.
If and when I write a Superman story of my own, I will definitely keep the identity a secret from Lois for a good long while, if only because that fairy tale romance is very important to me for a plethora of reasons. However, I don't fault Man of Steel for breaking that tradition, and I'm very curious to see how it develops in the future.

Everyone (supposedly) knows Clark's secret
David Goyer, writer of MOS, mentioned this in an interview:
"In our minds there are people in Smallville who know Superman’s secret as well [as Lois], Pete Ross seems to know, there’s probably a couple dozen people who know and we thought it would be interesting if they’re protective of him."
That's fine with me. I think a couple dozen is probably too many, but the two that are confirmed to know on-screen in the movie (Pete and Lana) make sense. It's confirmed in the film that although the military knows Superman was raised as a human somewhere in Kansas, they have no idea who he actually is. The only thing I really don't like is that it's apparently public knowledge that Lois knows who Superman is. Now anyone who wants to know Superman's identity can kidnap her and use her (as was done by Zod in the film). They're gonna have to figure a way to get out of that in the sequel.

Jonathan Kent doesn't want Clark to use his powers (for now)
Jonathan in MOS is far more focused on the big picture than any other version of the character. He's partially concerned for his son, but also concerned about what might happen if the world found out about the existence of aliens. Jonathan is willing to even die rather than have Clark exposed to the world, which at least proves that he's willing to put his actions where his words are. The thing that bothers me about this version of Jonathan is that he's too motivated by fear, to the point where he literally thinks that the possibility of a national scare is more important than the lives of an entire bus of schoolchildren. That means that in Man of Steel, Jonathan represents Clark's fear of rejection and alienation, not his strength as in every other version.
I appreciate that Jonathan in Man of Steel is nuanced and realistic—and that he still loves Clark just as much as he does in every other version—but the fact that he effectively teaches Clark to make bad decisions out of fear is a very, very bad thing. For my money, this isn't the proper Jonathan Kent; this is very much an alternate-universe character.

Superman does too much fighting and not enough saving
He saved the people at the oil rig.
He saved the kids on the bus.
He saved Lois from bleeding internally.
He saved Lois from falling from space.
He saved Martha from Zod.
He saved that helicopter guy from dying during the Battle of Smallville.
He saved Colonel Harding from getting crushed by Faora.
He saved Lois from falling out of a plane.
He saved pretty much the entire planet.
I think he saved plenty enough people; the problem is only that some people think more people should be saved by Superman in the movie than should die. To be technical, since he saved the planet, that's exactly what happened, but it's not necessarily evident on-screen as much as some people would have liked. I'd have liked to see Superman's saving-to-destruction ratio a bit reworked as well, but as it was I was fine with it. At the very least, we finally got to see a real Superman fight scene for the first time ever in live-action. (Superman IV does not count)

Disaster porn
Some say that there was simply too much destruction in Man of Steel. I think I agree to an extent, but it's not as though it's a serious problem for me either. It's an odd move to have Metropolis go through a nuclear bomb-type event that surely killed thousands upon thousands of people. If there had been even one throwaway line about that part of the city being mostly evacuated, it would have helped things tremendously. Still though, the destruction in Man of Steel—particularly the stuff caused by the Kryptonian fighting—at the very least served to show off the incredible strength and scale of the Kryptonians' powers. It's hard to say that it's a bad thing that MOS too greatly realized superhuman fight sequences.

Superman kills Zod
So here we go. This is the big one. Superman actually kills someone, which is literally the last thing he'd ever normally do. Superman does not kill, period. It's not as though there haven't been a few stories here and there in Superman canon where he did kill, but given the sheer volume of Superman stories in comics (literally over 3000 individual comic issues starring Superman), a few exceptions were bound to occur.
So, to summarize: do I think that Superman killing Zod in any way contradicted his character, and do I have a problem with it personally?
In fact, I actually very much like it.
Here's the thing that most people don't understand about Superman: he's a good person because he has great compassion, not because he's made of a list of moral rules. That's perhaps the biggest hurdle for many critics and fans to get over: The Christopher Reeve Superman was an inhuman icon made of rules and ideas, not a living, breathing person. Henry Cavill's Superman, on the other hand, is a man first and an icon second. Personally, I vastly prefer the Superman-as-a-man approach. If Superman is mentally and morally on the same level we are, despite his powers, it makes his decision to do the right thing all the more amazing. It means that despite the fact that we don't have his powers, we can still choose to do the right thing just as he does.
The fact that Superman kills Zod instead of letting him kill the family (as well as the rest of mankind) is an act of compassion for those in danger, not a breaking of his moral code. He even has compassion for Zod to a degree. Clark pleads with Zod repeatedly to stop, but Zod assures him over and over that he is, on a mental and genetic level, singularly focused to destroy and kill. Clark is effectively backed into a corner, and he responds the only way he can given the situation.
Clark's emotional response to Zod's death is perfect and incredibly strong. Clark didn't kill Zod because he wanted to or because he chose the easy way out. He killed because he was forced, and he nearly breaks emotionally because of it. He's not only been forced to take someone's life, but he's also cut off his last remaining link to Krypton. He's effectively killed a part of himself along with Zod. It was an act of selflessness that led Clark to take Zod's life, not any lack of moral integrity. Zack Snyder (director of the film) explained the decision like this:
" the original version of the script [Zod] was simply once again banished to the Phantom Zone, but Snyder was adamant that Kal-El should kill Zod - because otherwise where does his aversion to killing originate from?"
There you have it. After the ending of Man of Steel, Clark now understands what it means to take a life, and it is precisely why he chooses never to kill again. I wonder how he'll handle similar situations to the one with Zod in the future? Will he work harder to find new ways to avoid killing, or will Snyder and Goyer simply not put him in that kill-or-let-others-be-killed position again?
In any case, I'm extremely pleased with the way they handled Zod's death. It was an incredibly powerful moment that both fit with Clark's character and helped him grow as Superman.

Superman has no red underwear
This one is just unforgivable.
Nah. In all seriousness, I'm slowly getting accustomed to Man of Steel's underwearless Superman suit. I can't say I like the fact that it's solidly blue all the way from chest to knee, but in the actual film and its promo material, it looks great because of the way it's filmed. And it would be extremely bizarre to have the underpants in a film with MOS's level of "realism;" they probably made the right call. In sequels, I do hope they put some more color (gold and red) in the lower torso area just for the sake of breaking up the suit's color and giving it some eye-pleasing contrast, but in the meantime I'm more than happy with Man of Steel's suit.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

iOS 7

This week, Apple announced and detailed the new version of their iOS operating system, iOS 7. It's a totally new design and it looks amazing.

It's pretty epic. Here's some comparisons between iOS 6 and iOS 7 (7 is on the right):

It's not as though the "classic" iOS look was bad, exactly, but 7 just looks wonderful. It's flat, elegant, sleek, functional, and new.

I got to download the beta version of iOS 7 the day after it was announced, and I'm very very pleased with it. Here's some of my screenshots:

Those images really don't do it justice, as they're nowhere near the crisp retina-display resolution of the iPhone. Still, though, they're pretty.

The new features of iOS 7, namely the control center and automatic app updates, are awesome. With control center, I can control Airplane Mode, WiFi, bluetooth, the Do Not Disturb feature, the rotation lock, the screen's brightness, the system volume, and the currently-playing music. It also gives you access to a flashlight feature (it uses the camera flash as a lightbulb), a compass, a calculator, and the camera. It's all surprisingly easy to use, and it's all there to utilize with just one swipe of the thumb. It's surprisingly simple.

I almost feel like I have a new phone now. Since it's only the beta of iOS 7, there's some bugs. Apple's podcasts app doesn't work at all, so I need to use a third-party app to listen to podcasts. Ever so often a menu won't quite reorganize properly when switching between portrait and landscape orientation, and I need to rotate it around again to get it the way it's supposed to be. They're ultimately minor inconveniences overall.

The only other problem I have is that the Music app is much harder to navigate through. It's partially because every element of the entire app is white, so there's no contrast to tell you instinctively which part of the menu is which, or exactly where you are in the app. However, it's obvious that the app isn't final, since certain functions aren't even available to choose in the menus yet are still built into the app. (There's no "play all by Artist" function listed, yet I can ask Siri to do that for me and it works just fine)

On the whole, I'm really impressed with iOS 7. I keep finding new fun things to do with it, and it really just makes me happy that I have an iPhone.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Six Days and Counting