The Death of Superman (2018)

Director: Jake Castorena, Sam Liu

Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Matt Lanter, Shemar Moore, Jason O’Mara, Rocky Carroll, Patrick Fabian

Screenplay: Peter Tomasi

81 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action including some bloody images.

 

I remember seeing Superman: Doomsday when I was younger. The animated movie sounded incredibly exciting to me, even though I had not read The Death of Superman, the comic it was based on. It was, to me, probably the most famous Superman run that I could remember, and it was incredibly intriguing as an idea. The animated film version wasn’t very good. I remember finding it slugglishly boring, and that was that. Probably wouldn’t see another version of that story play out, especially with the reception of the most-recent live-action Superman film, Superman Returns. I just figured that was the end of it. To my surprise, DC’s animated films have decided to play this out again, and this new incarnation, The Death of Superman, is thankfully much better.

Clark Kent (Jerry O’Connell, Stand by Me, Boy Band) is struggling internally to tell the love of his life, Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn, X-Men, TV’s The Librarians) his biggest secret: that he is really Superman. He can see that his secrecy about his past is straining things in their relationship, and if he plans to move forward with their courtship, he needs to figure out how to deal with his identity. He sees fellow Justice League members Batman (Jason O’Mara, The Siege of Jadotville, TV’s The Man in the High Castle) and The Flash (Christopher Gorham, The Other Side of Heaven, TV’s Insatiable) moving forward with their real lives and he wants the same thing. Meanwhile, a team of astronauts led by Hank Henshaw (Patrick Fabian, The Last Exorcism, TV’s Better Call Saul), on a mission aboard the Excalibur space shuttle, witness a boom tube opening and unleashing a meteorite toward Earth. When it crashes, a giant creature is released from the wreckage, and it has a trajectory for Metropolis.

I like the voice cast for The Death of Superman. I feel as though the star players involved really understand their characters and I like how they brought them to life. I also wouldn’t have been able to peg a lot of these performers without having looked at the cast to write this review. The only true standout is Rainn Wilson (The Meg, TV’s The Office), who is woefully miscast as Lex Luthor.

The action is much better in The Death of Superman because it takes the time early on to establish its characters and their motivations. Superman spends the whole of the film fighting with himself to open up and be a normal human. Even The Flash describing his normal life makes Clark pine for one of his own, and yet he is the only meta-human capable to taking down the creature, Doomsday. It’s his internal conflict that makes the external conflict so intriguing.

There’s still some pacing issues in the film, especially with the large-scale fight with Doomsday. It is broken up quite nicely but the narrative does tire out earlier than it should. It’s the same problem that Man of Steel had. Superman is such a powerful guy that the stakes don’t feel like they are there, even knowing how this one is going to end, and perhaps that’s part of it. This is very clearly The Death of Superman, and perhaps it would be a stronger outing to focus on the fact that this is the first part of a two-part story or even just smash it all in one film, a bit of a lengthy film, but perhaps one that doesn’t sputter so close to the finish line.

Overall, though, The Death of Superman is a strong DC Animated film. It stumbles a bit as it builds momentum, but for fans of these animated superhero tales, I think there’s a lot to like on display here. It definitely sets up the sequel really nicely and made me all the more excited to see the conclusion. This is a Superman film for Superman fans.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017)

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone

Screenplay: James Gunn

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

 

Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is now available on home video and streaming platforms, and this film was universally liked but not universally loved. I took another look at it to see how I really felt.

Set a few months after the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World, Passengers) and the team find themselves on the run from the Sovereigns when they come across a being known as Ego (Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight, Deepwater Horizon) who announces that he is Peter’s father and has been looking for him. Peter takes off with Ego and brings along Drax (Dave Bautista, Spectre, Enter the Warriors Gate) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, Live by Night), leaving Rocket (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel, Furious 7, Riddick)  to fix the ship and keep an eye on their prisoner, Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan, Oculus, The Circle) who is very much alive. While Peter learns much of his heritage from Ego, there is something strangely perfect looming over their time on the living planet while Rocket and Groot are hunted down by the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker, Cliffhanger, The Belko Experiment). With the team split up, they soon learn that they are at their strongest when they stick together in this sequel helmed by James Gunn (Movie 43, Super).

Is Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 an improvement over the original? No, but does it have to be? No. I’m tired of these comparisons that say that a sequel or follow-up is not successful unless it surpasses the original. It doesn’t have to. But there are some things that are better. First off, I think the film’s coverage of its secondary characters is better. We get a much better look at Yondu that’s more than the somewhat one-dimensional character we had in the original. Michael Rooker is a masterful and often forgotten character actor and he absolutely shines here.

I also think the obligatory Stan Lee cameo is the best one in his entire filmography, which, at this point, is a pretty impressive feat. James Gunn’s choice to overload the end credits with five mid and post-credit scenes is brilliant and it adds to the insanity. I think overall, Gunn’s choice to embrace the flavor of what he brought to the screen is the winning element of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. You probably saw the music video for Inferno, the Guardians theme, recently, and I love that this kind of marketing and viral social meeting presence is available to fans.

I also felt that the relationship between Star-Lord and Ego is an interesting and complex one. Chris Pratt said in an interview that this film helped him to get over the death of his own father. Theirs is the driving force of the film and everything feeds off it. In fact, this is a film about fathers and the families we create, whether by blood or not (oh, and the de-aging of the devilishly handsome Kurt Russell is pretty impressive).

Things that altogether weren’t as good as they should have been? Really, it’s a small list, but I wish Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Oldboy, Hacker’s Game) could’ve done more. I think we will see more of Mantis later, but I felt like she was underused. I also was never a big fan of the Nebula/Gamora dynamic and I hope more relevance comes to this when Infinity War hits. Then there’s the loss of Nathan Fillion’s terrific cameo. I wish there had been a place to squeeze him in, but the film is rather bloated. Maybe that’s it. There’s so much going on that the film feels a little bloated. Yeah, that’s it.

“I am Groot.” -Groot

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is a fine film and a fine addition to the MCU. I love these characters and treasure further adventures with all of them. The soundtrack is subtle and important and stays with you long after the film ends (I’m still humming it). Yeah, it’s just a damn fun time at the movies and in that respect, it’s a beautiful experience.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

  • For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.
  • For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.
  • For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.
  • For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.
  • For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.
  • For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.
  • For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

 

 

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31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 20 – Monsters University (2013)

 monstersuniversity2013a

Director: Dan Scanlon

Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren

Screenplay: Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon

104 mins. Rated G.

 

Pixar sequels scare me. I wasn’t a big fan of Toy Story 2. I hated Cars 2. Toy Story 3 was great, but it felt like the exception that proved the rule. When Pixar announced that my favorite property Monsters, Inc. was getting a prequel, I was both shocked and intrigued by the concept. When I discovered that we would be seeing the story of Mike and Sully meeting in college, I was still very confused. Then, I saw it…

monstersuniversity2013b

In Monsters University, we get another look into the unique universe that Pixar created where monsters exist and get energy from the screams of children, where a young monster named Mike Wazowski (TV’s The Comedians, When Harry Met Sally…) experiences disapproval by his peers in his attempts to become a professional scarer. But he finds a new rival in fellow student Sully (John Goodman, TV’s Roseanne, The Gambler). When both students are kicked out of the scaring program, they decide to join Oozma Kappa, a failing fraternity, in an effort to win the Annual Scare Games and earn their way back into the scaring program, proving to their judgmental Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren, The Queen, Woman in Gold) that they have what it takes.

Pixar has great timing. Releasing Monsters University at a time when fans of the original film are entering the college portion of their lives is perfection, much in the same way they did with Toy Story 3 a few years previously. Great working of their audience.

The voicework here is phenomenal, getting great work from the veterans as well as new additions Helen Mirren and Nathan Fillion. Charlie Day absolutely steals his scenes.

"MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" (Pictured) SULLEY amongst other MU monsters. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Monsters University is a perfect prequel, rarely feeling the need to fall back on referencing the original. For the most part, it blazes a new trail and knows it doesn’t have to embrace a cliché finale.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Pete Docter’s Monsters, Inc., click here.

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