To Snap Or Not To Snap?

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy are responsible for dark reboots we’ve been getting of classic characters. Nolan is a good director. Memento is still his best. The Dark Knight is a close second. I liked the trilogy. Batman Begins is a reintroduction to Batman and an establishing of the gritty realism that would permeate the rest of the trilogy. The Dark Knight is a legitimately good movie. Heath Ledger’s Joker deserved that Oscar. The Dark Knight Rises is a follow-up that Nolan’s heart was not into. The theme of rise is redundant and I could not get into the stakes of the film. It had a weird commentary on the 99 percent and Occupy Wallstreet movement. I felt that was out of place. His take on Batman toned down the supernatural more comic-booky elements and focused on the crime drama of Gotham. I appreciated Nolan’s vision but not every hero should be dark like this.

If only someone told Zack Snyder. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is an attempt to do for Superman what Nolan did for Batman. I don’t want to talk the movie. I saw it when it came out. The movie tries to portray what life would be like for Superman if he was real? What would it be like for him growing up? I think there could be a good story here, but Snyder’s take was not doing it for me. He was trying to tell too many stories at once. Alien Invasion. Superman’s Origins. The Legacy of Krypton. Should the government trust Superman? Pa Kent is crazy. Will Superman have to kill? It wasn’t hard to keep up with them. It was that none of them were executed well. The fights were cool the first time around, but I barely remember any of them.

The one scene I do remember is the climax.  Superman is put in a moral dilemma. General Zod won’t stop until he kills every person. So Superman snaps General Zod’s neck. He violates his moral code and takes a life to save a family. This scene encapsulates everything wrong with this movie.

It’s an attempt to bring Superman out of his black and white comic book morality and into world of grey. Snyder wants to ground Superman from being a symbol for truth, justice and the American way into a person like us with more power. We’d make the same choice that Superman does. We’d snap General Zod’s neck too.

It’s a depressing as hell scene. Superman is mentally bothered by his murder. He’s on the verge of the tears The family he saves is not grateful. I don’t think they’re seen again.

There is no triumph to this. And I think triumph is a part of Superman. People should be excited when they see him flying through the city. He’s an ideal to live up to. People may not be able to fly and be strong like Superman, but they should aspire to be moral like him. That’s what I always got from the Superman side of the character. He needs to triumph and the people in Metropolis should be there to celebrate his fights against evil.  The human side is that he’s a corny boy scout from Kansas. Humble and wants to help people. He takes a job as a journalist to keep up appearances, hit on Lois and keep his ear close to trouble.

I don’t hate the idea of Superman murdering Zod, but I hate it in an origin story. Superman needed to triumph in the first story.  This movie should have been about learning who Superman is. He needs to be established. Snyder jumped the gun. He wanted to have this Superman kill scene in this movie. Maybe in a Man of Steel 2 this scene would work. It’s too early for Superman to kill. In my opinion.

In this movie Pa Kent commits suicide in front of Clark. Metropolis and Smallville are decimated. Superman has to kill Zod to stop him. Give the character a bone. Let him have a moral victory to ride off into the sun on. I watch the ending of others superhero movies like The Avengers and The Dark Knight and it feels like the heroes were super heroic.

The Avengers put aside their differences and save New York from an alien invasion. It felt like without the Avengers, the world would have ended.  Batman proves to the Joker that everyone is not like him and that he is alone. He does kill Harvey Dent but the appreciation for his sacrifice is there from Commissioner Gordon and his son.

Man of Steel‘s Superman never feels like a hero to me.

Movement in “Ghostbusters”

My copy of Robert Towne’s screenplay of Chinatown has a foreword from the man himself; An essay on the role of the screenplay in the film-making process and the importance of movement by actors. Here are a few noteworthy excerpts from that foreword.

“But it has always struck me that in movies, far more than in any other dramatic medium movement, not simply action, is the most defining of character.”

“Consider Fonda in Clementine again. His way of moving embodied paradox: at once awkward and graceful, diffident yet full of purpose, his ambling walk would shift effortlessly – like a powerful thoroughbred changing gaits to a long stride straight and relentless as a plumbine.”

“No one, I think, can really say what makes an effective screenplay because no one really knows what makes a screenplay effective. Certainly part of the problem stems from the fact that screenplays can’t be judged by reading them. They may read well or badly but that often says more about the reader than the screenplay.

The only way a screenplay can be evaluated, almost by definition is not on the page, but by viewing the movie it caused to be made. It certainly can be read and even enjoyed, but you’re stuck with the inescapable fact that it was written to be seen.”

The first quote is the one that stuck with me. Movement is the most important character aspect on the screen. It is fitting. Movies are moving pictures after all. The words on the page help the actor internalize the character and bring them to life.

1984’s Ghostbusters relies on the gifts of its talented acting staff, in particular Bill Murray. Murray is known for his one-liners and comedy. His movement is as essential as his voice to getting the audience behind Peter Venkman. gb1

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The “manic gleam” and “underlying instability” (this latter of the two would be considered cheating by an old writing professor of mine) are the information the page gives to the reader on the Peter Venkman character.

The scene flows well on the page, but is so much funnier on the screen.

I watched the scene with the sound off and watched all the little nuances he put into his performance. The little smiles he gives to the blonde Co-Ed. His eyes go wide when he’s talking to her. He’s encouraging her as he talks. He feigns amazement at her answers. Contrast that to how quickly he turns the cards around for the guy. He relishes in the electroshocks he gives the guy. He moves his hand over slowly and pretends like he’s not going to shock him. He moves his eyebrows to get the co-ed’s attention. Winks at her and Then he shock the kid. With no sound, it’s apparent that he wants the guy to go and for the co-ed to spend some time with him.

This is a just a damn good introductory scene because we’re given information about the supernatural and introduced to a character in a unique humorous way. By the end of the scene, we know Venkman. We can’t wait to see this guy bust some ghosts

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