Man of Steel is a movie made in 2013 and is about guess who? No, it is not about a robot. It is about Superman. Yeah, I know, pretty obvious. Don’t know how it was rated or received. I don’t remember hearing much buzz at the time.

 

It definitely made use of the latest CGI effects. There was a lot of whizz bang, especially toward the end when they tore up a lot of New York. Why is it that New York always seems to get the raw end of things?

 

What was interesting was the way the movie fleshed out parts of the Superman creation myth but also changed some long standing parts of that myth.

Beginnings on Krypton

It starts out with Superman’s father Jor El talking to the council about escaping from the planet Krypton. No one believes him that he planet is unstable and will self destruct. They turn him down but just then General Zod comes in with troops and tells the council that he is taking over because they won’t listen and shoots the head councilwoman. Jor El and Zod agree about the planet but disagree on everything else.

 

It turns out that for centuries all babies born are bred in special pods and not born naturally. Each is selected genetically for a specific role. Jor El and his wife Lara have decided that more choice is needed and so they have just had a son through natural birth.

 

Jor El escapes Zod, steals a device called a codex with the genetic code for everyone on Krypton and gets back to his home / citadel. There he uses the codex to incorporate all the information it contains into Kal El’s (Superman) genes or cells. Based on my knowledge of biology and genetics, this seems a bit dodgy. How do you store another person’s entire genetic code in the cell of another person?

 

Anyway, Kal El gets shot off in a rocket, Zod kills Jor El, Zod and other get banished to an alternate zone, Lara watches the planet explode around her and everyone dies. As we find out later in the movie, because the planet is destroyed it frees Zod and his compatriots.

Superman Arrives on Earth

Kal El lands in a farm in Iowa (?) and a farmer and his wife raise him as Clark Kent. They hide his powers and warn him that people might react badly if they found out about him. But he keeps saving people and giving glimpses of his powers.

Superman and Lois Lane

Then something is found under 300 feet of ice in the arctic in Canada and Lois Lane goes to investigate. Clark hears about it to and signs on as a laborer. Lois sees him leaving one night and she follows and finds he has drilled a hole in the ice using his laser eye power. He discovers a space ship which turns out to be from the planet Krypton. It is from 20,000 years ago and yet his father appears to him as a hologram. So did the software automatically upgrade itself over time or had Jor El lived for 20,000 years? Or was there a time warp on Kal El’s flight to earth? Kal El saves Lois from a flying robot and then he flies the ship away so it won’t be discovered by people from earth.

 

Then Lois starts trying to figure out who this guy is. She finds his name or rather alias (not Clark Kent) and traces him slowly back to where he grew up. Finally Clark shows up and confronts her. He explains how his father died when Clark could have saved him because he didn’t want Clark’s secret to be exposed. Lois decides to stop pursuing the story and trying to publish it.

Zod Reappears

Then Zod shows up, drawn by a beacon set off when Clark / Kal El started up the ship. Zod asks for the person from his planet. The FBI finds Lois and takes her to a secret facility. Kal El surrenders and lets himself be taken in as long as it it so where Lois is being held and that she must be released.

 

Then he is handed over to Zod and Zod decides to take Lois as well. In the ship, Jor El appears to Lois and helps her escape, but before that she and Jor El make enough changes that Kal El can escape as well. Good thing because he needs to save Lois from crashing. As soon as he gets her down safely he realizes Zod is at his mother’s house and he gets there in time to save her and a big battle ensues during which half of his home town gets ripped apart. Zod retreats.

 

Then Zod deploys a machine that will terraform Earth, or perhaps we should say Kryptoniform, because when it is done, it will be uninhabitable for humans. Lois tells of what Jor El told her and they plan on using the ship Superman came in to connect with Zod’s ship and create a black hole that the two ships would be sucked into.

 

The terraform ship and Zods ship made a connection through the earth. The other was in the Indian Ocean and Zod’s was over New York city. It started destroying the city from the beam outward. Superman flew around and tried to destroy the other ship. He had troubles because he lost power when he was back in his own atmosphere. But, of course he struggles and overcomes and destroys the machine.

Lois and Scientist Saves the Day

That allows Lois, a scientist and others crewmen to arm the device and crash it into Zod’s ship and form the black hole. Lois falls out of the plane and Superman sees her and catches her again and saves her. He has to fly and strain like crazy to beat the effects of the black hole. This time they kiss when they get to the ground.

 

Somewhere in here Zod has gone to another ship, (the one found in the ice??) which has the ability to grow people from Krypton with the information in Superman’s cells. Superman confronts Zod and destroys the ship which Zod says means an end to the Krypton race that he spent his whole life trying to protect.

 

In a way, Zod is like the bad computer in I, Robot or in 20001 which decides that he knows what is best for mankind or Krypton kind and will do anything to protect it even if warped and misdirected.

Superman Saves the Day

Zod emerges from the crashed birthing ship and he and Superman have a battle royal which destroys a bunch more buildings in NY. Compared to most Superman stories, this one had an amazing amount of collateral damage. Finally Superman snaps Zod’s neck.

 

Then it shows a general driving along and a drone crashes right in front of him. Superman shows up and says I am willing to work with you but don’t try and track me. The general said that was a $12 million dollar drone. Superman says basically, so what. I will help but on my terms. Don’t pry into my business.

Intro to Clark Kent

Finally he tells his mother that he needs to get a job someplace where he can get information about what is going on in the world. He next shows up at the Daily Planet with glasses on. Like that is going to keep people from recognizing him? Especially Lois? That was kind of lame. Although I guess it was a bit suspect in the original comic too now that I think about it.

If you like a puzzle and you like computers and technology you will quite likely love this movie. It tells the story of Alan Turing and his genius and how he and his team help defeat the Nazis in World War II.

Enigma Machine

The movie revolves around two foci, Alan Turing and the Enigma Machine. The Enigma machine was invented in Germany as a way to code messages so they couldn’t be broken. The possible combinations were in the billions and if you didn’t solve the problem that day, you had to start all over again the next day because the Germans changed the code.

Childhood

The movie starts by showing Turing as a school boy in a British all boys school who was brilliant in mathematics but had some odd characteristics. It has been postulated that he had Asperger’s Syndrome. He didn’t want his peas touching other things on his plate and he didn’t seem to pick up on other people’s emotional cues. He found it much easier to understand math than people.

World War II

He had a good friend in school, Christopher, who gave him a book on codes and he took to it like a duck to water. So when the war starts and the British are looking for ways to break Enigma, they invite Turing and others in for interviews. Turing is put on a team headed by Hugh Alexander. Everyone is trying to understand the code and break it each day except Turing. He tries to build a machine that will crack the code since he realizes that people can never work fast enough each day to break the code. At the same time he manages to alienate most of the team because he doesn’t know how to relate or doesn’t think they are doing useful work.

At one point he asks for something and is refused and told he can take it up with Churchill if he wants. Apparently he does, because a letter comes putting Turing in charge of the team. He immediately fires several people he thinks are useless. He then searches for people who are good problem solvers in an unusual way. He puts a puzzle in the newspaper and tells anyone who can solve it to come for further interviews to help the war effort.

A number of people come including Joan Clarke. She is almost not admitted because she is a woman and the person checking people in tells her to go with the other secretaries. Turing intervenes and she takes part in another puzzle he has devised as a further test for the applicants. Joan ends up solving the puzzle even faster than Turing can and becomes part of the team.

Joan is a big help because she coaches Turing on how to interact with people and clues him in to things. She is also a big help because she is brilliant and can help solve some of the problems.

One of those problems is convincing Commander Denniston, who is the military person in charge, to fund Turing’s machine. Denniston doesn’t understand scientists and mathematicians, doesn’t particularly like them and particularly doesn’t understand or like Turing.

Gradually the team comes to believe in Alan’s machine and get it to work. But by the end of each day, it hasn’t crunched through enough combination’s to break the code. Denniston says it is worthless and tries to destroy the machine but the rest of the team threatens to quit if he does that.

Breakthrough

They all go to the officer’s club where Hugh is chatting up a young lady. She comments about how she has a German lover. (She was being tongue in cheek) She is picking up coded German signals and recording them. She doesn’t know what he is saying but has realized that he as a certain style and can identify him compared to others. This gets the team thinking and they realize that there is a weather report each day at a certain time and it always ends in Heil Hitler. This gives them a key to feed into Christopher which is the name Turing has given the machine. Voila. Enigma is solved.

But the problem is that they can only let a very few people know. And they can only selectively choose when to act on the information. If they chose to act on all the information, the Germans would know the code was broken and would change it and all their work would be for naught.  This meant they had to play God and decide who would live and who would die depending on which information was acted upon.

Detective Robert Nock and Problems

Interwoven with the other parts is a period after the war. There is a break in at Turing’s apartment but nothing is stolen and he tells the police not to bother. Detective Robert Nock thinks this is odd behavior and that Turing is hiding something. He digs into Turing’s war record and comes up with nothing. This is because it was so top secret that nobody knew about Turing’s Enigma operation until decades after the war. Nock eventually discovers that Turing is gay and the break in had to do with that. Because being gay was a crime in England at the time, he was sentenced to two years of chemical castration or he would be sent to jail.

The side effects were so severe that after one year he commited suicide. This was a crime against humanity perpetrated by the British government. Turing’s machine Christopher was the first computer. What he created basically has transformed all our lives. Who knows what he could have invented if he hadn’t died so young.

Unbroken is an amazing movie about Louis Zamperini. Great movie. I have heard the book is even better. The movie starts with Zamperini getting beaten up just because he was Italian. I had forgotten that there was just as much animosity to the most recent immigrants then, Italians and Irish, as there is against Mexicans and others now, if not more so.

The movie implied that one reason Louie became a good runner was it was the best way to keep from getting beaten up by a group of boys. Although this doesn’t mean he was a coward. It also shows him fighting with the boys.

Running and Track

Then his brother, who is on the track team sees Louie take off when he sees the group of boys. His brother starts pushing him and soon he is the star of the high school track team. Unlike now, in this era track was a big deal and a prestigious sport the way football is now.

Running got him a scholarship to the University of Southern California. He decided to try out for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and made the team. One funny story that wasn’t in the movie was when he took the ship with other athletes to cross the Atlantic. Being in the depression he had never even bought food at a drug store. Apparently the food was included with the price of the ticket and he could eat as much as he wanted, which he did. Most of the athlete’s gained a good bit of weight on the trip. But it wasn’t a bad thing since they had lost so much weight training in intense heat for the Olympic trials in New York.

At the Olympics he beat the American record holder but only came in 8th. However he had the fastest final lap for that event in Olympic history to that point I believe. In college he set the record for the collegiate mile despite being badly cut by the spikes of competitors who were trying to slow him down. It stood for 15 years.

War

Zamperini enlisted and became a lieutenant and a bombardier on a B-24 in the Pacific. On one run the plane was damaged badly by flak and strafing but they managed to make it back. The plane was useless however and Zamperini and some of the others were reassigned to another plane that had the reputation of being a lemon and rightly so. They were out looking for a crew that had crashed in the water and while looking their engines cut out and they crashed. Only 3 survived the crash. The three of them had 2 life rafts and little food or water.

They survived by catching fish and essentially having sushi. They had to eat them raw. They also caught a couple sea birds and tried to eat them and used them as bait for the fish. As if these problems weren’t enough, they had to deal with sharks that were constantly trying to attack them. Then on top of all that, a Japanese plane strafed them and punctured the rafts. Luckily they were weren’t hit themselves and they were able to plug the leaks and stay afloat.

One thing that bothered me was that Zamperini seemed to maintain a pretty nice goatee during all this time floating in the raft despite losing weight and looking emaciated, his goatee stayed in impressively good shape.

Finally, after one of them has died and the other two are weak and feeble, Zamperini is awakened and says to the other, Well, the good news is we are rescued. The bad news is we are Japanese prisoners. Amazingly, they had survived for 47 days.

Prisoner of War

Louie and the other survivor, Phil were taken to a prison camp on an island and beaten mistreated. Then they were taken to the mainland and separated and went to different prison camps. Zamperini’s run by Watanabe nicknamed “The Bird”. To say the Bird was sadistic might be an understatement. In one scene, he forced every prisoner in the camp to punch Zamperini in the face. There were numerous other beatings and humilities but amazingly Zamperini and many of the others survived.

Incredible story, well worth watching.

Age of Ultron was good, but I liked the first Avengers better. Better banter. But I will have to watch it again because some of the dialogue was going by so fast I might have missed some of the funnier lines.

I will also be curious to see if Quicksilver somehow comes back. I wasn’t sure what kind of powers his sister, Scarlet Witch had. Seemed to involve the mind but then during the movie expanded to a lot more.

I was also surprised to read that the studio wanted to take out most of the scenes at Hawkeye/Jeremy Renner’s farmhouse. It made perfect sense and was a breather in between a lot of action.

I was disappointed by the main plot point – Computer Intelligence gone awry. That has been hashed over so many times. It was done well in War Games and then there was HAL in 2001. You can also include Eagle Eye and I Robot. And then of course there are the Matrix movies. Plus, it wasn’t clear why Ultron was acting the way he was. It seemed to change during the movie, starting with protecting them by eliminating them and then to I just want to dominate.

Also, there seems to be a complete disconnect with the TV show Agents of SHIELD. I saw one interview online where Joss Whedon says for the movies Agent Coulsen is dead and will remain dead. I think he isa bit miffed that as they were getting the TV show off the ground, SHIELD was mostly destroyed in the movies and they had to scramble to have everything make sense in the TV show.

Also, what was that thing that looked like a blue Hulk at the end during the credits?