Older Woman Young Heroes

17 06 2013

In most movies, particularly action movies, the male character is generally older then the female. Who the protagonist is doesn’t matter, your male character will be older then the female love interest unless the plot specifically calls for the female to be older.  In many cases the male star is over a decade older then his female counter-part, like in Star Wars Episodes IV-VI where Harrison Ford is 14 years older then Carrie Fisher.

The reasons for casting younger women is not a surprise to anyone. Women are heavily sexualized in mainstream media. J.J. Abrams even had to apologized for a scene he directed in Star Trek: Into Darkness, where actress Alice Eve stands before the audience in a full body shot with only her underwear on. The scene had no purpose in the film besides giving teenage boys something to talk about at school. I Really I don’t have to much of a problem with the sexualization of women in most films, because men are also portrayed in very unrealistic ways. Will Smith is in his mid 40’s but still plays many of the same kind of roles he was playing in his mid 20’s. I’m in my late 20’s and just watching him perform stunts exhausts me. I feel like I need to rehydrate myself every time I watch a Will Smith or Tom Cruise movie.

My issues with younger women in films comes from the types of roles they are given. The directors and screen writes spend a lot of energy establishing a believable universe. Whether it is sci-fi, romantic comedy, or something in between, as an audience member the film makers want me to believe in some capacity the world they created could be my own. In any cases martial art instructors are hired so real fighting techniques are used and historians are consulted to add accuracy. The same film makers will then cast a 23 year old woman as the leading expert on genetic manipulation, or some other crap, while every male scientist in the room is in their 50’s. You really expect for me to believe someone who’s not even old enough to rent a car is some how the top dog of science? And while this same thing happens with males, because younger females are more appealing for roles (especially action roles) you see a higher number of young actresses playing roles where because of their age, any realism built is thrown out the window.

This is one more reason I am a big fan of “Man of Steel.” Actress Amy Adams is nearly 40 years old, almost a decade older her love interest Henry Cavil who play Louis Lane and Superman respectively.  I’m not going to believe someone in there early 20’s is going to be an award winning journalist who is known across America. Is it possible? Sure. Is it possible that big foot will have lunch with the president next week? Sure. Are either of these scenarios likely? Hell no. The movie industry can be heartless, and female actresses often have a shorter life span than male actors. By making Louis Lane an “older” woman (though I hardly consider 38 old by any stretch) it makes me believe the role Amy is playing much more. It’s also great to show that women in their late 30’s and early 40’s are still very attractive.

It’s also great to see a younger male with an older woman as his love interest. The way our media portrays relationships it almost feels taboo to see a woman with a younger male, even if the age difference is miniscule. The chemistry between Amy and Henry on screen shows that it’s the portrayals by the actors, not how tight their butts are, that makes the characters believable. A similar trend was in Thor, where Natalie Portman is older then her male co-star. Both where great on screen, and it would have been tragic to cast anyone else. With the success of Super Hero films, and the caliber of creators behind each movie, I hope Hollywood will take a hint and realize that movie-goers would rather have two quality characters in a film then a 3 minute bikini scene.

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Man of Steel Review, a comic book reader’s review

14 06 2013

(Minor Spoilers)

 

 9 out of 10 (As a Superman story)

 

I’ve never been a big fan of Superman. Batman? Hell Yeah! Static Shock? Cool! But Superman? In many of his comic books I always felt like he was too heroic.  He could do no wrong, make no mistake, and had the power to move planets by himself. Snyder & Goyer tore that version down and gave me a Superman Clark Kent full of inner conflict, personal struggles, and moral dilemmas.

When we first meet Clark he is traveling the world, seeking the answer of who he is, not unlike the way Bruce Wayne was introduced in the Dark Knight Trilogy. Through flashbacks we see Clark has always struggling with his identity, torn between keeping his secret and doing what he believed was right. As Clark learns about himself we see him stumble, not only with his powers but with his temper. This isn’t a Clark Kent who doesn’t mind being walked over. We see him clearly frustrated that he’s forced to hold back his strength when dealing with bullies and jerks. In fact, in more the one occasion actually see him lose his cool. For me this is very important because everyone gets mad, right? No one likes being pushed around. So when I would read Superman comics where Clark would get spat on, only to walk away, instead of inspiring me to turn the other cheek it made Clark’s character very two dimensional. By showing Clark get angry, and even act out at times, it reminds us that this guy is trying his best to live a virtuous life. In many ways, that’s the real theme of the film “The most important thing to do is to try.”

It’s a theme that repeats itself. Clark goes from job to job lost, as a boy he can’t control his powers, and as we watch his struggles his successes become all the more exciting to watch. Even with the other characters in the film, the theme carries. Lois Lane is following a story no one believes in. Jor El and Zod are trying to keep their species alive. Jonathan Kent has a child with abilities he doesn’t understand, but Kent even says it in the film, “we’re trying the best we can.” And sometimes your best isn’t good enough, as we saw in the fights. The glourious glourious fights.

People died in the film. Superman doesn’t save everyone, and has to make choices that conflict him at his core. This was KEY in making a great Superman film. In the comic books, how many times did we watch Superman save every person in Metropolis from an Alien Armada. Seriously?! No one’s even hit by a stray bullet? In “Man of Steel” we see Metropolis crumble due to the battle between earth and the Kryptonians. Collateral damage is grand and many people are not only killed from direct confrontation with Zod’s forces, but from the crossfires coming from Earth’s side. Each fight has you eyes wide open because you don’t know what to expect. This is Superman fighting in a way we have always wanted to see. Fist swung at lighting speeds, building parts used as weapons, everything you would want to see in a Superman fight scene is there, and it’s as good as you’ve always hoped it’d be.

Going back to the cast, as a comic book fan this is where the film became hit or miss. As a whole, the cast was great. Each actor brought to life our favorite Superman characters in ways that will long be remembered. In fact “Man of Steel” gave me my favorite incarnation of Lois Lane to date. Lois is much less of a simple plot device in this portrayal, playing an important role in Clark’s progression and success. And without giving too much away, it takes much more then a pair of glasses to fool miss Lane. Crow as Jor El was powerful, almost to powerful. I can see many people viewing Jor El as the “Good dad” and Jonathan Kent as “Jerk Dad.”

Jonathan is shown as a reserved man who recognizes the power Clark wields. He’s clearly a concerned parent and loves his son, but he’s not the “Pa Kent” I fell in love with in Action Comics. The Pa Kent I know taught Clark how to be a Super hero. It’s his guidance Clark would turn to when things where at their worst. In this version Jonathan makes Clark fearful of his abilities, and is willing to make controversial sacrifices to keep Clark hidden. Jor El on the other hand inspires Clark to become the hero of two planets. I like Jor El as much as I like any other “Ghost Dad” but Jonathan raised Clark. For this computer program to be what inspires Clark to become Superman after a 5 minute conversation makes Mr. Kent seem unimpressive as a care taker. In fact, a reoccurring part of the film was Clark making it clear that the Kents where not his true parents. I’m not adopted, so my teenage years didn’t have those sort of Identity issues, but it was vastly different portrayal of the Kent family then what I am used to.

 

What I was the most curious about walking into the film was the origin story. I knew they made changes to Superman’s background, which has been done in the past, but as far as Krypton’s destruction goes, this was one of the best. Kal El is not only the last son of Krypton, but the first organic birth in thousands of years. Before Kal El, each Kryptonian is born with a role in place. Kal El was given free will. This is a wonderful twist to the Superman mythos. Clark is not special because he is the last son of Krypton, he is special because he is also the first in centuries. This also ties into the them of “Trying.” Other Kryptonians, as Zod points out, know their role from birth. Clark is forced to find it, and it’s not an easy road. And it shouldn’t be.

 

This idea of a Superman who doesn’t know his path really speaks to me, we all can relate to this. All of us go through a phase in our life where despite our successes or failures, our strengths or weaknesses, we still feel lost. And we’ve all felt that no matter how hard we try, it doesn’t feel like what we’re doing is good enough. But we only truly fail when we stop trying.

 

Man of Steel isn’t perfect. But it doesn’t have to be. As a DC comics fan, it gave me almost everything I wanted from a live action Superman film, and gave me a Clark Kent who wasn’t suffering from a boy scout syndrome. If we can see more of Man of Steel and less of Green Lantern, Marvel might have to watch it’s back.