Archive for September, 2013

The_Next_Three_Days_PosterMy wife and I had placed this film in our Netflix queue a long time ago.  To be honest, I had forgotten about it.  However, we were in the mood for a thriller, so I chose to bump it up to position numero uno.  Let me just say that I was pretty impressed by how much I enjoyed this thriller.  For starters, I am a Russell Crowe fan.  I was also interested to see a thriller directed by Paul Haggis [Crash, Million Dollar Baby, & Casino Royale].

The Next 3 Days was a pretty unconventional thriller.  The lines between good and evil are blurred, roles for the male and female leads are a little atypical and the idea of justice doesn’t follow your typical cookie-cutter Hollywood movies.  Just so you know, there are points of disagreement I have about TN3D, but it is an interesting thriller that will keep your ethics in check.  Today’s post will be a bit more positive, but I hope to write a follow-up post raising some questions surrounding TN3D’s theme of justice.

One aspect of this movie I really liked was the male leadership that was present.  Again, I did not agree with the manner in which John Brennan [Crowe] led in every decision he made, but I liked the story of a “present” father.  As we know, there are far too many statistics of absent fathers.  Fathers who leave their wives for other women, fathers who abandon their families because the responsibility is too great and father who are absent even when they are present.  They may “stick it out” in the marriage/familial responsibilities but they abandon their family in their pursuit of too many hobbies or too much television.

Brennan was present in this family.  Even when his wife is accused of murder and sentenced to life in prison, Brennan doesn’t leave.  He doesn’t move on to another woman.  He doesn’t abandon his son who needs him.  He doesn’t sulk.  He continues to work to provide for his family, makes consistent visits to his wife in prison, and continues to fight for the justice his wife deserves.

Brennan’s male role is absent in many of today’s films, because men like Brennan are absent in society.  Sadly, the increasing statistics of loser husbands and fathers exist, because our culture lacks male leadership.  This is what I found refreshing about this film.  It was refreshing to see a movie paint a picture of the fathers that are present in this world – seeing Brennan make lunches for his son, comfort him when he had a nightmare, or talk to him about struggles of life.  It was nice to see a positive depiction of a husband for a change – seeing a husband fighting for his wife and remaining faithful to her even in imprisonment.

Scripture tells men to love their wives as Christ loved the church and to be willing to die for them [Ephesians 5:25].  Brennan’s actions clearly portrayed a man driven by this exhortation.  Just like any earthly husband, Brennan fails at his God-ordained calling as a man. Anyone would question several decisions his character makes throughout the film and may even exclaim that he becomes a bit obsessive in the pursuit of freeing his wife.  However, this can even serve as a good reminder that Christ is the perfect Bridegroom.  Where every male fails, Christ succeeds.

Therefore, if you choose to watch TN3D, at least enjoy this aspect of it.  Men need to take queues from this type of leadership and teach them to our sons.  Men are called to a calling that is beyond oneself, which draws us closer to the only perfect Man to ever walk this earth.

donSooooooo it’s been a while since we lasted posted something here on Reel Thinking.  You may remember we told you that we would be posting less often, but we thought we would at least have something once a week or so.  Well, there’s been some travel this summer for all of us and life has just gotten busy.  And, for me at least, I haven’t been able to watch a movie in over a month!  It can some be somewhat of a challenge to blog on film when you don’t watch film.  Anyway, I do hope to get some posts up to you soon, and hopefully some of our other bloggers can find the time as well.  Be sure and check back soon, or subscribe to our email which will keep you up-to-date on our current posts.

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Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me share some thoughts with you about a film that comes out today, Don Jon.  Let me just say upfront that I don’t plan on seeing Don Jon.  Part of me wants to because I’m interested to hear the world’s commentary on the outrageous porn addiction of our culture; however, I would have to watch a lot of porn in this film if I did.  All that to say, I may watch an edited version of the film down the road.

Not only am I curious to hear an opposing worldview looking at the issue of porn, I would also like to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writing/directing debut.  He is talented and has a certain likability to him.  With that being said, let me share a couple of thoughts that interest me about this film.

The World is With Us

Christians have been discussing the issue of porn for quite some time now.  Books have been written, studies have been performed, software has been installed on computers and accountability partners are set up.  Now, however, it seems that the world is with us on this issue.  I’m not saying that the world agrees with us, there are still many that see porn as a non-issue or a personal freedom, I’m simply stating that certain spheres of pop culture are seeing this as a concern.  The entire premise of Don Jon centers on this tension.  Can a man have real relationship with a woman while having multiple fake relationships through porn?  I’m not sure what conclusion the film comes to, especially since it’s a comedy, but there is at least some tension expressed in the movie.  To be honest, Don Jon couldn’t be an interesting film if Gordon-Levitt, producers, and audiences didn’t see porn as somewhat of a problem.  The controversial nature of the topic actually affirms that the world is (somewhat) with us on this.

Using the Problem to Solve the Problem

Documentaries, as well as feature films, have been used to “solve”, or address, various problems in our culture.  However, one could easily argue that movies have been a major contributor to the problem of porn.  To say it another way, a movie is dealing with a problem created by movies.  Moving pictures have only increased the allure and danger of pornographic images.  Yes the MPAA has setup various boundaries to guard from explicit porn entering the theaters, but we know you don’t even necessarily have to view an explicit image for it to be pornography (see PG-13 sensuality). Even Don Jon addresses the problem by exploiting it.  There may be some good thoughts in the movie and it may actually call out people in the various problems, but the genre implies that it pokes fun at something that’s very serious.

Again, I’m not telling anyone to view or abstain from this film, these are just some thoughts to ponder.  You may also find this article interesting.

Man of Steel by: Stuart Chase

Posted: September 6, 2013 by jperritt in Uncategorized

man-of-steel-posterI grew up loving comic books, and my favorite superhero character was always Superman. (Side note: While I would be the first to apologize to the world, on behalf of DC Comics, for Aquaman, DC still owns Marvel!) I can still recall waking up on a Sunday morning and sitting at the breakfast table to hear my dad tell me that Superman was injured in a horse-riding accident. (Or, at least, Christopher Reeve was.) I was gutted. True, I was seventeen years old, but Reeve was a childhood icon. For superhero lovers, he was Superman.

Dean Cain took over the small-screen Superman mantle for a while, and was pretty woeful. Tom Welling tried it in what became a painfully drawn out reinterpretation of the Superman story, and fared little better. Then it was announced that Superman would return to the big screen. I had personally never heard of Brandon Routh, but a little googling revealed a man who looked, at times, strikingly similar to Reeve. Could he pull of what others had tried and failed?

I watched Superman Returns and loved it. Granted, he didn’t punch as much stuff as some people would have liked, but it was a great continuation of where Superman II had left off. (In case you never picked up on it, Superman Returns ignored events of Superman III and Superman IV and continued the story of the Reeve sequel.) I was psyched about a Routh sequel. He did, in fact, manage to play the part almost as well as Reeve, and Brian Singer had set things up very nicely for a future, more action-packed film.

It never happened. Time passed, and rumors rose and died. Then one day it was confirmed. There would be a Superman reboot. Sadly (to me) Routh would not be used—in fact, none of the preceding cast would—but Superman would come back nonetheless.

News came of another unknown (to me at least) being cast as the Man of Steel, and for the first time, I googled and immediately thought, “That guy looks like Superman.” Over time news of the supporting cast came in, and I was impressed with each decision. Previews showed Christopher Nolan’s influence all over the film. I wasn’t thrilled with the new-look costume, but figured I could live with it if the film was good enough.

The release date arrived. Like a kid in a toy store I sat down to watch the long-awaited return of Superman to the big screen. Two-and-a-half hours later I found myself wondering, “What have I just watched?” The answer, in part, is that Man of Steel was, without a doubt, this year’s most polarizing blockbuster. What follows is nothing more than my personal opinion of the film as a long-time Superman fan.

THE GOOD

Here’s the thing: This film was packed with (admittedly repetitive) action and eye candy. In fact, it’s so action-packed that you may come away from it on an initial high, and only really think about how good it really was much later.

The cast was almost perfect. I personally had mixed feelings about Michael Shannon’s Zod and Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White, but my reservations were not universally held. Amy Adams offers a fresh spin on Lois Lane as an investigative journalist. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Ma and Pa Kent to perfection, and Russell Crowe gives us a look at Jor-el that we’ve not seen elsewhere.

I thought that the story was re-imagined well enough. The radically new-look costume made good sense, and I particularly liked how Zod’s forces needed to adjust to earth’s atmosphere before they could do everything that Superman could do after years of exposure to the yellow sun.

THE BAD

One of the biggest complaints I have heard about this film is that it lacked character development. We are quickly introduced to characters who get on with their respective roles, but we never get much insight into who the characters are. That is a fair enough complaint, though it didn’t bother me too much personally seeing that I am already so familiar with these characters.

I have also read complaints about the depths of storytelling. To be fair, I think that there was so much crammed into this film that it was hard to tell the story as well as some would have liked. (The Reeve film series, for example, took a full movie to tell Superman’s story before introducing Zod inSuperman II. Here, everything is crammed into two-and-a-half hours.)

All that said, the one thing that I really missed in this film, strangely enough, was Superman. The film featured a super-powered Kryptonian in blue and red, but it wasn’t Superman. As it was noted in one YouTube interview I saw, Kal-el was in this film less of a superhero and more of a rock star.

When you walk away from a Superman movie in which there are exponentially more people that he didn’t save than he did save, you know that something has gone horribly wrong. Those who hated Superman Returns will be thrilled that he punched more stuff in this film, but if I can be hyper-critical for a moment: Superman had one job! What happened?

There is one scene in Superman Returns that illustrates the world of difference between the two films. As Lex Luthor is growing a Kryptonian landmass from crystals stolen from the Fortress of Solitude, Superman flies over the ocean to confront him. As he does so, he sees, using his x-ray vision, that the growth of the landmass has created an undersea fault line that is speeding toward Metropolis. Human lives are in danger. What does Superman do? He stops, turns around, flies back to Metropolis, saves everyone, then heads back to deal with Luthor.

The Kryptonian in Man of Steel chooses to play Kryptonian tennis with his enemies. He tells the residents of Smallville, “Get inside: It’s not safe!” before demolishing the entire town center. And then, as if that is not enough, he heads to Metropolis and (in what one reviewer called pure “disaster porn”) flattens the city center in an epic battle with Zod.

THE UGLY

Watson Technical Consulting has looked at the film and crunched some numbers for us.

They estimated the area of major damage to be a mile in diameter, with 129,000 people killed, a quarter million missing, and almost a million people injured, which was the same damage the U.S. caused from dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki during WWII.

They estimate the building damage to be $700 billion, with damage to the economy reaching $2 trillion. To put that in perspective, 9/11 wreaked $55 billion in structural damage and $123 billion in economic impact.

The Kinetic Analysis Corporation did some of its own homework when The Avengers was released and estimated the damage to New York in that film at about $160 billion.

As expected, Superman saves Lois Lane a number of times in this film. He also saves a fighter pilot and, later, a family of four by making the agonizing decision to kill Zod. (For those debating whether or not Superman ever kills, here is some debate on the matter.) And then, despite the flattened city in the background, a Daily Planet intern looks at him with admiration and cheesily declares, “He saved us!”

This is not the Superman that I grew up with. The Superman I know would have done whatever was necessary to get people out of harm’s way. If he had to take the fight with Zod to the desert—or to the moon—he would have done so in order to avoid injuring and killing innocent people. Unfortunately,Cracked.com hits the proverbial nail on the head:

We know it doesn’t look as cool and CGI artists love to render flying debris, but that’s part of the cost of heroism. As it stands, it will take Metropolis decades to fully recover, assuming people don’t just abandon like Detroit. And that’s not even counting the hundreds of thousands of families left with Superman-shaped holes in their lives where their loved ones used to be. Jor-El should’ve left a copy of Of Mice and Men in Superman’s space crib.

If Superman was set to earth for a reason—which Jonathan Kent seems to think that he was—then he failed pretty miserably in this film. As an aforementioned reviewer has noted, “From everything shown to us from the moment he put on the suit, Superman rarely if ever bothered to give the safety and welfare of the people around him one bit of thought.”

CHRISTIAN PARALLELS

It is impossible to think about Superman without thinking of the Christian parallels. This is true historically of the character, and there are some added elements to it in this movie. As director Zack Snyder told CNN, “The Christ-like parallels, I didn’t make this stuff up. . . . That is the tried-and-true Superman metaphor. So rather than be snarky and say that doesn’t exist, we thought it would be fun to allow that mythology to be woven through.”

Kal-el was sent to earth by his father to be a saviour. He always chooses to do what is right, though in this particular film he appears to be less decisive than he classically is. (An indecisive Superman—now there’s a terrifying thought!)

This particular film goes further by adding an interesting twist on the virgin birth, with Kal-el being the first natural birth in centuries on Krypton. Jor-el says to Lara at the beginning of the film, “He’ll be like a god to them.” Sent to earth, Kal-el is given a human name and raised in humble surroundings by a childless human couple. Though he is clearly far more powerful than they are, he submits willingly to them. This rendition of Clark Kent is a manual laborer (though not a carpenter), only taking his post at the Daily Planet in the final scene of the film. The world is oblivious to his existence until, at age 33, he is called upon to save the world. At one point, Superman floats out of an alien spaceship with his arms spread out in a “crucified” pose as his father urges him, “You can save them, Kal-el. You can save them all.”

Superhero films, by their very nature, provide us opportunity to think about issues like catastrophe and redemption. They give us pause to contemplate the battle of good-versus-evil, and give us the warm fuzzies that good ultimately wins. This film is no different.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

All that said, collateral damage in the Superman universe is generally minimal. In this film, it played centre stage.

When Captain America: The First Avenger was released, a (female) fellow church member, who has always been a Superman fan, quipped on Facebook that Captain America had stolen her heart from Superman. At the time, I remember thinking, “Don’t worry: Man of Steel is coming soon, and Superman will have your heart back.” When I walked away from my Man of Steel experience, I realised that this Superman had little chance of doing so.

While Man of Steel would’ve made a great Hulk film, and is a decent enough action flick, it didn’t impress me so much as a Superman story.