Movie Review: Man of Steel

My DH and I went to see Man of Steel for one of our very few date nights back in June while we had family in town to babysit. I thought the movie was awesome. And now I can address some issues people have with the ending and the general tone of the movie. I’m sure everyone that has wanted to see it has seen it by now, but still: there are SPOILERS in this post!

Great start for a reboot

Culturally, we’ve been living off of the Christopher Reeve incarnation of Superman for over 30 years. The first Superman was, in my opinion, the first serious attempt to tackle the superhero genre. The material was taken seriously. Superman II was even better. Yes, there was some camp, but not too much.

Then, Superman III and IV happened and…*tears, ugly crying*

Then, Superman Returns happened and…*cursing, throwing chairs, Hulk Out*

I think the mistake Bryan Singer made (in addition to ditching the X-Men franchise HE started, to horrid results, but I digress) was riding on the coattails of Reeve’s version of the character. Perhaps he was banking on the nostalgia so many people have for it. But it was a failure. If I want to watch Reeve as Superman, I can just watch the original, not something pretending to be the original.

So enter Man of Steel. I think it was a great start to a new franchise. In my opinion, complaints about it being darker are unjustified because they are based, in part, on too much comparison to Superman I & II. In Man of Steel, Clark’s internal conflict was illustrated well and, I might add, more realistically. In the first Superman movie from 1978, Clark comes out of this 12 year hibernation ready to roll and fight for “truth, justice and the American Way.” Cavill’s version of Clark made it a little more clear that the character had to make a choice on what path he was going to take for his life and that it was not a particularly easy process.

That ending

Major spoilers ahead, so if you’ve somehow wandered here, LEAVE. Like in Superman II, Zod dies in the end; only this time it is from Superman snapping his neck. Some people think that killing someone goes against Superman’s established morals or ethics or something. I disagree.

1. Superman kills Zod in Superman II, as well. In fact, an argument can be made that he did this in somewhat of a cowardly fashion. He tricked Zod (which is fine) into getting his powers taken away. Then he pushes him off a cliff inside the Fortress of Solitude. Um, okay? Zod and his crew were as weak as a human at that point, why not take him to jail to face this justice you fight for?

2. In Man of Steel, however, it was clear that Zod was going to continue to go on a rampage. But that’s not completely why I think Superman made the correct decision to kill him. Superman had gotten the upper hand with Zod while inside a building with bystanders. Zod decides he going burn up a group of adults and children with his newly controlled heat vision. Superman asked him repeatedly to stop. He did not. After all that happened up to that point, only a fool would have taken a chance on those people’s lives, to see if Zod would suddenly not be homicidal, just that one time.

I think he made a good call that in no way diminishes his ethics. In that situation, killing Zod was the right thing to do, not just to save those people’s lives, but to stop the madness that was sure to continue unabated. Also, he clearly did not want to do it. I imagine that he was conflicted on not only killing another person, but the last surviving person of his “race” besides himself (that he knew of).

That’s my take.

Christianity and Star Trek

I’ve always been a huge fan of Star Trek (ST). On the surface, it appears to be just a fun science fiction series. And it is. However, as any serious Trek fan knows, there is much more beneath the surface.

ST creator Gene Roddenberry’s secular philosophy is obvious. And lately, I’ve started wondering how avid fans, that also happened to consider themselves strong Christians, viewed the series.

Speaking for myself, while still a Christian, I remember watching an episode of the original series and thinking, “Where does God fit into ST’s vision of the future?” The people of Earth have finally created the means to venture far out into space. They’ve met beings from other worlds who have never heard of any of the religions on our blue orb, much less Christianity in particular.

If that kind of progress became a reality, how does it fit into God’s plan?

The answer was simple. God does not fit into ST’s vision of the future. Both alien and human cultures/religions exist. Rituals and beliefs about how things came to be exist.

But belief in God, as a literal entity, an intelligent, omnipotent, omniscient being that controls our fates and the world around us, that punishes or rewards based on obedience to specific laws or commands, had largely vanished.

Even after realizing that, it never stopped me from enjoying the series and movies for what they were. Now, as a secular humanist, I appreciate Roddenberry’s creative, hopeful vision for the future even more. But some Christian Trek fans think otherwise.

After a Google search, I found that many Christian Trek fans lamented the absence of a “Bibical message” and Christian characters (as a side-note, I found it amusing that they were not terribly concerned about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism getting the same treatment).

Others, however, see what they believe to be many parallels between Christianity and Trek. They seemed almost willfully ignorant of the true philosophy behind the series.

So, I guess it’s a mixed bag. I think when religious-minded people really like something, they find a way to fit it into their worldview. But why does it have to fit into anything at all? Especially when we’re talking about something as benign as a TV series. If you like it, just enjoy it without guilt. If you don’t, it’s not “evil”; just don’t watch it.

Truly Outrageous: Jem Review, Part II

In part I, I talked about Rio never getting a clue that Jem and Jerrica were one in the same. Now we’ll conclude with three more puzzling aspects of Jem.

The Misfits are criminally insane

In almost every episode, the Misfits pretty much try to kill Jem and the Holograms. Whether it’s nearly getting driven off a cliff, run over by a tractor or eaten by a killer whale, the attempted murder/assault is always caused by a Misfit.

Yet, no one ever presses charges. Ever. Once, Eric Raymond lamented about possibly getting sued, but no one in the group really gave a shit. Early on, we learn that lead singer Pizzazz is loaded (her daddy is a business tycoon). Maybe this is why she thinks nothing of committing crimes? Who knows. The only with an ounce of conscious is Stormer, who actually saved Jem from being arrested (Misfits tried to frame her) in one episode.

People are born with hair colors not found in nature

So, I pretty much assumed everyone in that show dyed their hair in order to be 80s cool and stuff. But no. In a flash back showing Aja and Shana arriving as little girl orphans to stay in Jerrica and Kimber’s home, they both have ice blue and purple hair respectively. Rio, as a teen, has deep purple hair. And we eventually meet Stormer’s brother Craig in the series (twice), who sports the same bright blue locks as his sister.

Um, okay.

BaNee has serious emotional problems that no one takes seriously

BaNee is one of the Starlight girls. She is orphaned when her Vietnamese mother dies. Her white American soldier father is no where to be found; the only detail her mother told her about her dad is that he has red hair.

Now, BaNee stays obsessed with this man she never met. She even picks a random man with red hair and declares him to be her father. When this guy realizes what BaNee is thinking, he tries to sensitively correct her, but she goes off on him and almost gets herself killed after running away crying and maybe falling into a river (I can’t recall exactly how, but she does end up in water and almost drowns).

Then in the last episode, BaNee becomes depressed. She tells Jerrica that if she can’t find her father, she does not want to live. What does Jerrica do? Instead of taking this girl to therapy, she tries to find this guy, who may not even be alive (Jerrrica herself points this out).

But it’s a cartoon and you know they find him. Not without BaNee, again, almost getting killed. They let a con artist pretending to be her father take BaNee away. He calls them and demands a million dollars from Jem to get her back. Another guy Aja and Kimber dug up is there. He has amnesia and can’t remember anything about the war, so he doesn’t claim BaNee. But he volunteers to rescue her, which everyone jumps on, versus, say, calling the police.

In the process of finding BaNee, this guy remembers marrying her mother, etc., etc., happy ending.

Despite the high-drama (it was the 80s after all), Jem was a fun show to watch then and now. My mom was only able to afford to get me three of the dolls (Jem, Kimber and Jetta; in fact, my uncle and aunt got me Kimber) but for the three years it was popular, I loved, loved, loved it!






Truly Outrageous: Jem Review, Part I

One of my favorite shows as a kid was Jem. If you are of my generation, you should be familiar: Jerrica and her sister, Kimber, and childhood friends Aja and Shana, become a famous rock group with the help of a super computer called Synergy that creates holograms. Synergy transforms Jerrica into the lead singer, pink-haired Jem; this technological feat is managed with the red Jem Star earrings which serves as her communication line to Synergy.

Other main characters include rival rock group, The Misfits (Pizzazz, Stormer and Roxy) Eric Raymond, a scheming music exec, Rio, Jerrica’s boyfriend, and the Starlight Girls, Jerrica’s foster girls that she raises using the money she makes from being a rock star. Eventually a fourth Misfit (Jetta) and a fifth Hologram (Raya) are added to the mix. Also, a new group, The Stingers (Riot, Rapture and Minx), arrive in the third and final season.

When I saw that Jem was on Netflix, I immediately put it into my queue. It took a while, but I watched every episode.

Overall, the series was pretty good and stands the passage of time well. Much effort was put into writing/producing the music/story lines and designing the clothes for the characters. There was also quite a bit of diversity in the show. Aja is Chinese-American, Shana is African-American, Raya is Mexican-American, Jetta is from the UK, and the Starlight girls are from various backgrounds.

Now, time to mention some oddities I hadn’t noticed as a child. Do I have to say this is tongue-in-cheek? It is. I love Jem. But I have some questions…

Rio, you really couldn’t figure out that Jem and Jerrica were the same person? Really? Really??

One of the benchmarks of the series was this love “triangle” between Rio, Jem and Jerrica. But, remember now, Jerrica and Jem are the same person. And it seems Rio never suspected a thing. He has kissed both of them, rarely saw them in the same room at the same time (on just a few occasions, Jerrica would project a hologram of herself or Jem, but for obvious reasons, she couldn’t do this often) and they both wore the exact same pair of earrings, all the time. And yes, Jerrica’s hair was blond and shorter, and Jem’s hair was maybe three times as long and pink. But come on, they looked exactly alike.

But it gets even more bizarre. Whenever a man showed romantic interest in Jem, Rio would get insanely jealous. To the point of violence and rage. No one ever pointed out that Jerrica was his girlfriend and questioned why he was getting so upset. Also, on a handful of episodes, Jerrica seems to have a emotional breakdown and starts being jealous of herself.

I think Rio should have been told Jem and Jerrica were the same person by the end of the first season. It was all cute in the beginning. “Oh look, he’s really into Jem, but he doesn’t know it’s actually Jerrica, his girlfriend, hee hee!” But towards the end, it got a little embarrassing to watch. Even as a kid, I knew a secret of this magnitude wasn’t a good foundation for a relationship.

Part II coming up next week.