Rutgers-Camden Summer Film Class Previews “Man of Steel”

Matthew Sorrento

Matthew Sorrento

For many, summer is the hottest time for movies.  While prestigious films appear during Oscar season around the winter holidays, the big-budget blockbusters arrive with the heat.

The season is prime for studying film at Rutgers-Camden.  Students in the Summer Session course “Film Genre,” taught by film studies lecturer and Rutgers–Camden alumnus Matthew Sorrento (CFAS ‘02) have enjoyed studying the history of the horror film, spanning from 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to 1985’s Re-Animator.

They also had an opportunity to attend a preview screening of the new Superman film, Man of Steel, on Tues., June 11.  Seeing the most anticipated movie of the summer, the audience was packed with superhero fans for the 3D presentation.

Sorrento, a seasoned film critic, scholar, and author of The New American Crime Film (McFarland, 2012), hosts 1-2 screenings per semester. Students from his spring 2013 course attended the highly anticipated biopic 42: The Jackie Robinson Story.  His classes met Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle and comedian-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait at fall 2010 and spring 2012 screenings, respectively. Offered through the Department of English, these courses are geared to majors and media studies minors while also meeting the university art requirement.  The topics address Sorrento’s various interests: he has essays forthcoming in the journal Film International (on disaster films and the “new extremism”), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the War Film (edited by Douglas Cunningham), and The New Western (edited by Scott Stoddart).

On the occasion of Man of Steel, Sorrento’s students reviewed the film before its June 14 release.  While a first attempt for most of them, the class had passionate and thoughtful comments on America’s most famous superhero and the current genre.

Alexandra Blake-Sanderlin, a junior double majoring in English and German, found the visual effects often amazing, and noted, “I did like the way [the film] reworks Superman and makes his powers dependent on Earth’s atmosphere.”

Many students enjoyed the new version of Superman’s back story, including Zaid Mazahreh, a senior law and government major, though Melissa Webb, a junior English major) admitted that she’s just not a fan of this type of film.  She says she prefers art house films like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life which, according to her, “beg multiple viewings.”

Dale Daywalt, a senior psychology major, felt that “as a reboot of Superman [for modern audiences], I feel the film is a success.”  He enjoyed the character’s “inner ethical conflicts.  Should he side with Earth?”  But, the film ends up “focusing on his physical abilities more than anything.”  Daywalt also liked the portrayal of Superman’s adoptive parents, as did Allyse Karakashian, a senior political science major, who also thought that the romantic leads, Henry Cavill as Superman and Amy Adams as Lois Lane, lack chemistry.

Carly Killen, a junior English major, noticed the lack of chemistry and felt that the film “attempts to overstimulate audiences” with explosions and computer-generated imagery.  She also disliked the “unexplained use of alien technology [which] kept me from being sucked in as I often asked myself, ‘What is that?’” (referring to metallic spacecraft from the planet Krypton).

Killen thought the film offers a unique experience, as did Elizabeth Graves, a junior English major.  She noted that “Henry Cavill brings a gentleness and modernity to a role that desperately needed updating.”  And yet, to her, “he always felt alien – where’s the humanity?”  Overall, the action captured the audience.

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