Now that the latest incarnation of Superman has hit the big screen and the critical community has got its story in order (it’s not anywhere near as bad as Superman Returns, Henry Cavill makes a good Superman, Michael Shannon is no Terence Stamp and what is up with the casual disregard for human life?!?), we can turn our attention to Daniel Wallace’s comprehensive overview, Man of Steel: Inside the Legendary World of Superman. With introductions from Christopher Nolan and Zach Snyder, the book attempts to worm its way into the nooks and crannies of the film, exploring everything from casting choices to the genesis of the suit’s redesign. If you’ve seen the film, there’ll be odd moments where you wonder if the people who made it listened to themselves (‘the analogy of Superman as an atomic bomb was always an incomplete one, since it ignored the character’s compassion’ – what, like you guys did in the film?!?) – but then, if you’re as geeky and easily distracted as I am, you’ll find yourself thumbing through storyboards and onset photography and lavish art and forgiving pretty much everything.
World War Z on the other hand. World War Z. Things we can all agree on: Mel Brook’s son did ok. The original book is pretty good (although not quite as good as the World War Z evangelicals would have you believe). What else? Oh yes, the voice-over guy in the trailer saying World War Zee was annoying – we’re in England, it’s zed, baby, zed. And the film itself… The best description of it I’ve heard is that it is rather like watching someone else play a video game. Unlike, say, Prometheus The Art of the Film which somehow or other managed to trick you into wondering whether the film you’d seen was somehow better than you remembered (forcing you to check it out again on DVD and shake your fist at the sky shouting, I was right – it was terrible), World War Z The Art of the Film doesn’t really do anyone any favours. What we have here is the screenplay adorned with call outs from people involved in the film, storyboards, cartoons, artworks and photographs of what look like fibre glass models. You don’t really get a good sense of the making of the film (which was apparently tumultuous and would’ve made for a good story) – rather this feels like an airbrushed afterthought for the most dedicated of World War Z fans – and I’m not sure how many of those there actually are.
Now obviously we’re in a slightly different place with Pacific Rim at the time of writing as the film hasn’t been released yet (Director Guillerme Del Toro says as much in his informative introduction) – and whether or not you’d be excited on getting your hands on this book will be determined to a certain extent by how much you’re looking forward to the film and also, perhaps, how big a fan you are of Del Toro – just to be awkward, I find myself in the position of considering myself a Del Toro fan who isn’t really looking forward to the film. Why am I not looking forward to the film? A few reasons: plot (small men pilot big machines to fight big monsters), casting (aside from The Wire has Idris Elba starred in anything that wasn’t terrible? Prometheus? Terrible. Luther? Terrible. The video for the terrible Mumford & Son’s song? I rest my case), the fact that I can imagine it being directed by Michael Bay. That do you? However. How-ever. Pacific Rim: Man, Machines & Monsters is a truly lavish (more lavish, in fact, than Man of Steel: Inside the Legendary World of Superman) beast with a whole host of cards and bits and pieces that are glued into the book (little top trump type cards of the characters, nicely drawn monster diagrams, storyboards, blueprints, manuscript pages etc), in addition to photography that is so glossy your eyes cannot entirely believe it (the photographs are so glossy you will want to lick them to see if they taste as good as they look). It may be that you don’t get to the actual writing until you’ve whipped through the book a dozen or so times but when you do you won’t be disappointed. If a person like me can read this book and think hey, you know, maybe it would be worth a watch, then imagine how someone who is genuinely stoked about the movie will feel? Also, if you can gauge the worth of the eventual film from the quality of the book, then Pacific Rim should be pretty damn good (using the maths we’ve established in the reviews above – the worse the film, the less enjoyable the book).
Any Cop?: Obviously these books won’t be for everyone (but then what books are?). If you like the movies, you’ll get more out of them by immersing yourselves in these weighty tomes.