“Man of Steel” Preview, Part III: Everything at Stake

“Man of Steel” mustn’t suck. We are living in a moment of American history when corruption’s rot has tangibly spread across entire states, screwing up the lives of everyday innocents. Supervillains are real. They’re in Congress. If Superman isn’t awesome, that will only make it worse.

Emotional investment is key. For “Man of Steel” to be great, General Zod must feel real and terrifying. He’s gotta put up a spirited, spectacular fight. Michael Shannon as much as anyone (except, maybe. . .) is the right man to play Zod. His crazy, crooked cop in “Premium Rush” is a classic*. For just this scene in “Revolutionary Road” (this is such a good scene), he earned an Oscar nomination:

Flip Side editor’s note: This is the thrilling final chapter in an epic “Man of Steel” Preview Trilogy. In Part I, we fretted the director selection and costume (Click here). In Part II, we handed Hollywood the blueprint for a “Justice League” movie that will make more money than all the Harry Potter and Star Wars flicks combined (Click here).

The first scene of that movie, incidentally, is Joker giggling and murdering his way through a maximum-security underground government/Green Lantern Corps prison (with help from Deathstroke, whom he’ll quickly double cross) to free a shackled, locked-down Doomsday.

Count this somewhere among the Top 10 greatest things about the Netflix TV show “House of Cards”: It reminded us how good Kevin Spacey is. Spacey had been, for a while, the best. “Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty” Oscars. Hypnotic in “A Time To Kill,” “L.A. Confidential” and, especially, “Seven.” (Not “Se7en.” How did that happen?)

Since those high times? “Superman Returns” in 2006. No one cared if another Lex Luthor raised an ugly continent, or whatever the f*ck. We just wanted them all to shut up. And Spacey was such a predictable choice as Lex Luthor. You know who would have been way better? Duh.**

Anyway, Spacey turned to TV to finally douse the permastink from a lousy Superman movie.

Watch out, Michael Shannon. You might get the stink on you too. Spacey’s “American Beauty” and Shannon’s “Take Shelter” feel kind of similar—they’re both entertaining, emotional movies about normal guys, and they both address relatable issues simultaneously personal and grand. (“American Beauty” and the meaning of freedom; “Take Shelter” and fear of disaster.)

Zack Snyder will take something wonderful and twist it into garbage. Again, see “Watchmen.” No don’t. So the pressure is on Shannon. “Man of Steel” might very well need saving from a runaway maniac of a movie director. A transcendent bad-guy performance can work like ultimate medicine.

Oh, and what’d Kevin Spacey play in “House of Cards” to reestablish his cred? An evil, corrupt politician. Check out Kelsey Grammar as an insane, murderous Chicago mayor on “Boss.” What about “Scandal”? I didn’t watch it, but isn’t the president an alcoholic sex freak? TV is getting its villains exactly right lately.

Read the news, or just look around. Superman fights for truth, justice, and the American way, right? Except truth and justice aren’t the American way anymore. You or I can’t do anything about that, but maybe a superhero could. We need the Man of Steel.

At the very least, we need “Man of Steel” to not suck.

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* This can’t be stressed strongly enough: “Premium Rush” is the best movie a person in the mood for something fast and fun could rent. Daredevil bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) vs. corrupt cop (Shannon), on the streets of Manhattan. It’s a great, great time.

**

Lewis

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