Thursday, 29 July 2010

Superman v. The Law of Torts (2010)

Okay, quick disclaimer.

1. I know very little about law. I didn’t know what a tort was until I reached
that chapter in my study text 5 days ago. So apologies for misuse of
2. Despite enjoying my comics, I’m not big on DC and *GASP* I’ve never read a
Superman comic / book / graphic novel (whatever term floats your boat).
3. I do watch the ‘monstrosity’ that is Smallville. I even enjoy it.

Right, now that’s out of the way hello to you open-minded people who didn’t click the stumble button as soon as I mentioned ‘Smallville’.

So here’s the thing. I consider myself a slowly evolving geek. It started with film when I was 14. A year later I was introduced to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then, through these obsessions (along with my love of classic rock and metal) I met people that helped heighten my interest in Sci Fi, Horror, Comics and Gaming.

But tonight I managed to reach a new level of geekiness.

How? You may ask.

Through my law revision.

I know, I know. Legal principles are about as geeky as watching Sleepless in Seattle.

But whilst I spent 20 minutes staring at the page on Duty of Care, my brain went for a wander. It wandered all the way to Metropolis.

Despite the fact that my only exposure to Superman has been through:

a) A film I saw about 20 years ago
b) A cheesy tv show from the 1st time Teri Hatcher was considered sexy (before
she banged Bond and became anorexic); and
c) The aforementioned Smallville (which is almost universally agreed to be
unacceptable and definitely not canon)

I found myself considering a question so pointless, so random that I now feel very hypocritical for having, only a week ago, mocked the existence of this article:Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex by Larry Niven.

My query?

Could Superman be sued for negligence? And if so – what action (or non-action) could find him super-speeding round to a lawyer’s?

My study text basically says that a defendant with a particular skill or ability will be expected to exercise that skill in a competent manor.

This may have (and probably has) been covered already, but I’m not sifting through 72 years-worth of comics to find out (I’m not that bad... yet)

So I decided to scribble a couple of hypothetical’s and throw them out to the internet.

Say Superman comes across a building on fire. He blows out the fire, saving the occupants of the building. Yay! Day saved right?

But what about the man driving on the road behind the building at the specific moment Superman blew the fire out? The man who’s car got blown off the road and straight into a petrol/gas station or a brick wall or a shop window etc.

I'm betting you can make a fair bit of cash from suing a person who’s responsible for causing your car to be totalled, putting you in hospital, blowing up your business.


Say Superman is wandering down thestreet and he sees a woman a block away falling from a 15th story window.

Running a block and catching a person at the bottom of a 15 story fall is not something a 'reasonable man' could be expected to do. No regular guy in Superman's position would be considered in any way negligent for not attempting to save the woman.

But the Man of Steel could certainly manage it.

So would it be negligence if he didn't. If he just kept on walking? (I know, I know. Massively out of character, but this is a hypothetical situation and I'm betting there's been at least one story where Superman decided to quit helping people - there's certainly been enough Smallville eps where Clark Kent screwed up.)

Could the family of the dead woman sue Superman, hold him negligently liable for her death and demand damages?

Now as I said before. I really don’t know all the intricacies of the law, so there may be various defences to these claims.

Would his saving of the people in the burning building outweigh his Duty of Care to the car owner / petrol station owner? If he even has a Duty of Care there.

In the case of the falling woman, would he be held to the same standard as everyone else, or would he have an added layer of expectations due to his abilities? And who could decide just how much should be expected of a superhero? Is this the point that we get into the same territory as Marvel's 'Civil War' series, with various superheros working with the authorities and telling others what they are expected to do and how they should behave?

Is there yet another reason for Superman to keep his real identity a secret?

Because it’s pretty hard to serve a summons to a man who’s faster than a speeding bullet and has no fixed abode or specific place of work.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Returner Review

Returner (2002) Dir. Takashi Yamazaki

I was recommended this film by a friend for the impressive use of CGI on a minimal budget. But what I found was that, while the CGI was pretty impressive for a low budget movie, (although this is based only on heresay as I can't find a reference to the budget online anywhere - if anyone can point me in the right direction it'd be much appreciated) it also had an enjoyable central storyline, which paid tribute to classic sci fi films such as Terminator, ET and the Matrix. The basic premise is that Milly has travelled back from 2084 to 2002 in order to kill the first Daggra (Tibetan for Enemy) to land on Earth. In doing so, she hopes to prevent the war with the Daggra race that has near enough wiped out the world in her time. She enlists an initially unwilling Miyamoto to help her find and destroy the alien.

Of course there are many complications, and Miyamoto's own storyline. He has spent years seeking out the man who kidnapped and killed his best friend, when they were sleeping rough years earlier. This man, Mizoguchi, is (rather conveniently for the story) also after the Daggra, as he wishes to gain the power of its technology (and take control of Japan - man aims high!)

As well as an ejoyable, yet simple story, Returner also provides some wonderful performances from the main cast.

For me the key performance was of Goro Kishitani, who played villain Mizoguchi. Exuding an air of casual indifference, mixed with a rage that resembled that of a spoilt child, Kishitani reminded me in some ways of the (admittedly far superior) performance of Gary Oldman's Stansfield in Leon. Mizoguchi is a perfect villain for this type of movie, as we aren't given any backstory, other than to support the fact that his main concern is power and he will sink to whatever depths required to gain it, no matter how depraved.

Takeshi Kaneshiro plays antihero Miyamoto well, although the characterisation is nothing extraordinary. He ticks all the boxes required of such a character, impoverished childhood; a tragic loss when he is young, caused by the villain; a life spent searching for vengeance; an older benefactor/employer who also plays the role of somewhat detached parental figure; a reliance on only himself; a distrust of everyone. This is nothing new, but the portrayal is good enough that it doesn't feel like you're being hit over the head with these cliches throughout!

Milly is the female protagonist, whose leap through a 'time shifter' (a portal) back 82 years to 2002 is what kicks off the story. Initially, I wondered why exactly Milly was sent. She appears to be nothing more than a scared young woman who has no real plan for saving the future, and rants like a madwoman at Miyamoto. The eventual reveal that she was not chosen, but merely the only one left gives her character more credibility and she does gradually come into her own, displaying a determinedness and courage that allows her to grow on you. By the end I really liked Milly and felt that her growth throughout the movie seemed natural enough.

The fight scenes were well shot, and the use of bullet time did not feel to me to be too excessive, some of which were explained away by a handy little piece of futuristic tech that would really help me out with getting to work in the mornings!

Another thing that really impressed me was the soundtrack. The score by Akihiko Matsumoto is beautifully understated, with a particular lilting, soft phrase running throughout. A sample of it is used in Roni Size's No More feat. Beverley Knight. This is not a song I would usually listen to as I'm not huge on Drum and Bass and R&B but I checked it out whilst writing this and it's not terrible.

The use of this soundtrack really highlighted the noir-ish elements of the films look.

All in all, I found Returner a really enjoyable way to spend a Friday night. It covered all the bases for me - good character interaction, an interesting storyline, familiarity with films I've enjoyed (without feeling like one long rip-off), some good gunplay, a few great fight scenes and your fair share of explosions. And all of this without the gaudiness that comes from Hollywood movies of the same ilk.

I'd definitely recommend this one, provided you like SciFi and aren't looking for something truly original.

(Though if you are? I'd give up now, as in my opinion, there are no truly original stories, only new takes on the same old thing.)

If you could only read one magazine for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Empire - Greatest magazine ever! (in fact, it's pretty much the only magazine I read anyway, excepting DWM and Classic Rock very occasionally)

what is your favourite movie and why?

What's the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?

I really couldn't remember. But yesterday my mum bought me a whole new bed spread set, went round my flat, made up my bed, did some of my washing, cleaned my kitchen and left me dinner in the fridge - just because she wasn't busy. Was very nice surprise!

what is your favourite movie and why?