Man of Steel

91734_gal

Release: Friday, June 14, 2013

[Theater]

You could sit and argue all day whether what’s inscribed on Superman’s chest is an ‘S’ or a symbol of hope, but it should take little to no time at all coming to the conclusion that the epic new blockbuster from Zack Snyder (who directed 300) is just that — epic.

Unfortunately the term ‘epic’ and similarly lofty descriptions are often two-sided coins, and have this tendency to invite criticism more than they do praise since these words conjure up the idea that nothing has been or will be coming close to this particular standard, at least not any time soon. Hyperbole is so easy to use when describing superhero films and in particular, the reboots thereof, and I really don’t want to go into this review using a boatload of them; however there is almost no other way. This film is just so intensely visual and action-packed it is a total manifestation of that one word.

This is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to talking Man of Steel. Grand in its scale, sprawling in its running time, and ambitious in its execution of a relatively simple plot, it seems as though Snyder has bitten off a little more than he could chew with this one. Only so much can be gained out of a bombastic vision: Michael Bay (and I’m not comparing this movie to a Michael Bay movie, just to clarify. . . ) sacrifices even halfway decent dialogue and character development for the sake of spectacle and CGI parties because that is his style. He’s become a lightning rod for criticism in that regard. Christopher Nolan (who operates in a producer capacity for this adventure) bases his characters in reality and lets the action speak for itself, thus making it more authentic and believable, as opposed to the sheer awe factor that comes with an excess of exploding shit. Other directors have their own styles that define works possessing various other strengths and/or weaknesses. But here, Snyder seems to be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Man of Steel, hoping that whatever sticks sticks firmly. Well, some does and some does not.For all of the film’s surprising shortcomings, the more critical factors worked in its favor, leaving only details (some may say big details) to be left as questionable.

For all of the film’s surprising shortcomings, the more critical factors worked in its favor, leaving only details (some may say big details) to be left as questionable.

Snyder begins the film in spectacular fashion, focusing on a Krypton that is falling apart due to the planet’s unstable core. In the midst of all the panic, we bear witness to Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) giving up their only child so that he may live elsewhere in the universe, free of the destruction of his home world. It is a heartbreaking moment and a heck of a way to start things off. The journey to Earth is also compelling and this transitional scene manages to connect our two worlds as succinctly and brilliantly as I (and I’m sure scores of years-old fans of Superman) had hoped.

When we cut to a scene that’s obviously years after his crash-landing in Kansas, we see a fully grown and disheveled looking man (Henry Cavill) who at once appears displaced and lonely. He’s working as a sea fisherman, which is pretty much one of the most isolated jobs I can think of off the top of my head.

Despite the following sequence being a hodgepodge of flashbacks and flash-forwards, this hectic arrangement of scenes allows us to really get a big-picture perspective of how this incredible individual is adapting to our world. Indeed, I’ve read more than a few reviews that indicate relief that we are spared the “growing-up” First Act, which could have just as easily been used here. Where he’s been and who he has tried to be is vital to the story Snyder has gone with here. We are experiencing a more honest characterization of Superman, and it’s just the earlygoing here. (At least, I’m assuming there’ll be sequels — plural.)

These early days — that is to say, pre-General Zod invasion — build interesting drama, but not in an overt way. The scenes in which young Clark Kent (I love that adoptive name, by the way) and his “father” Jonathan (Kevin Costner) talk about his place in the world are wonderfully written, and they really help contribute to a growing list of reasons why we should love and care about Superman….er, rather, Clark’s life and what the future holds for him. “You’ll have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be,” he tells Clark, who’s just recently been hassled by some bullies from school. There is a poignancy in these small moments that really help carry and build momentum to the spectacular action sequences that still lay ahead — you know, the stuff that probably most of us are going to see this movie for.

Clark/Kal-El’s departure from Krypton does not go unnoticed, though. The impossibly angry and powerful General Zod (Michael Shannon) soon emerges from the cloak of deep space and delivers a chilling message to the human race. Unfortunately his message goes the cliched, blockbuster route and is only but one example of some of the glaring weaknesses of the Goyer/Nolan script. It goes a little something like this: “Hand over the suited hero, or we destroy the planet.” The foreshadowing of a gigantic scene of violence and chaos is less than subtle, to say the least.

Even with a star-studded cast, including those behind the cameras and the ones responsible for the script, there is a lot left to be desired in moments that are not filled with an incredible amount of CGI. The Lois and Clark relationship is neither as accurate nor as compelling as I was hoping for, and we still are plagued with a lot of the cheese-factor as it pertains to bystander reaction and the general mass confusion of the populace of our world, as told by the blank expressions set on only a few faces — some military leaders, the staff at the Daily Planet, for example. I thought we would be past this with a cast (again, referring to more than just those on-screen) as talented as this.

Even with a star-studded cast, including those behind the cameras and the ones responsible for the script, there is a lot left to be desired in moments that are not filled with an incredible amount of CGI. The Lois and Clark relationship is neither as accurate nor as compelling as I was hoping for, and we still are plagued with a lot of the cheese-factor as it pertains to bystander reaction and the general mass confusion of the populace of our world, as told by the blank expressions set on only a few faces — some military leaders, the staff at the Daily Planet, for example. I thought we would be past this with a cast (again, referring to more than just those on-screen) as talented as this.

There is also no holding back during the massive fight scene that comprises the climax of this film (a.k.a. the Third Act; seriously, the final showdown must be at least 45 minutes in length). The action does get a little numbing. How many skyscrapers can we count where Superman and Zod crash through at lightning speed? Though this may seem like a trivial complaint, the end of the film suffers from a bit of a bloated ego — mostly as a result of Snyder thinking this needed to have the most grandiose of grandiose send-offs when in fact there is likely going to be more installments under the guise of Man of Steel. Don’t get me wrong — seeing what Superman is fully capable of in this particular case was exhilarating. But to a point. The film could have benefitted from some editing; somehow seeing him disappear under the harsh laser of Zod’s impressive ‘World Engine’ just didn’t do much for me when everything leading up to it has been just as insane.

There is one thing that has been overlooked quite terribly, though. There’s a consensus about this film’s lack of humor or discernible “warmth” to the script, or even to the characters, that distances Man of Steel from it’s theoretical potential. Such is simply a gross oversight and misses the point of this film’s purpose: bringing Superman back full-strength and true to the character. He’s human, but not really. He’s invincible, but not really. He’s a member of planet Earth, but. . . not really. Notice how none of these are really descriptions of Tony Stark, Spider-man (at least the Tobey Maguire version), nor the Green Lantern — the likes of which Clark Kent is most definitely not.

Wit and the inescapable buddy-buddy relationships in other action films don’t have much of a place in Man of Steel. Superman walks alone; this is part of the motif not just for this 2013 version, but of any of the films made. This movie’s title alone suggests a ‘colder,’ more dispassionate atmosphere, and is evidenced by the immediate introduction of General Zod who commands as much screen time as Henry Cavill’s God-like physique. Realistically, the world is a cold place. While I thought there could have been a few more happenstance laughs (Nolan does that quite nicely in his Dark Knight saga) sprinkled throughout, the purpose here is not to be funny. It is to drop those jaws to the floor.

It’s just too bad that most of that comes from the magic of special effects, and is not the result of incredible scriptwriting in conjunction with impressive action. So. . . ultimately, is the final product successful in the sense that it lived up to the record-levels of hype building up to its release? That’s very easy to answer: no it isn’t. Is it a good film? Most definitely. It’s epic and sweeping. We go to so many places within this film, and so easily too. It may be easier to overlook some of the many flaws within the narrative for some people and harder for others. Opinions are going to vary widely, but there’s no denying the size and beautiful grandeur of Snyder’s vision.

The director may have set his sights a little high going into this project, and he’s also no superhero who can shoot lasers from his eyes (which would be badass). But his film has taken an awfully hard bashing, more so than it deserves. If there was this much anticipation going into this film and the result is a mediocre 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, then there’s no telling what the damage will be with expectations for the next installment. . .

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4-0Recommendation: While it’s not vintage Christopher Reeve, this is a film that holds nothing back with energy and visual splendor. The best way to enjoy this film — and although it’s probably impossible to avoid seeing extra spoilers or reveals by now — is to go in with an open mind. Make your own opinion on this new take on Superman. Highbrows and perfectionists, yes, are going to be in varying degrees let down. The casual moviegoer is going to be blown away. The ratio of the latter to the former is something like 10:1, so it’s important to keep that in mind as you watch this behemoth unfold.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 143 mins.

Quoted: “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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25 thoughts on “Man of Steel

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  6. Excellent review. Someday I may actually try to write a decent review instead of just going on about Superman wearing no shirt. Lol! We seem to agree on the movie for the most part even though I was very (maybe overly) harsh. Don’t think my expectations were TOO high, though – just very disappointed by the ending. :-/

    • Hey, thank you! Yeah the ending I’m not going to deny, needed some work. It could have been cropped by 20ish minutes and have still been just as exhilarating. A lot of this movie seemed to be emphasizing the dramatics of Superman, and we seemed to get that pretty quickly. A little less reminding every now and then would have been good. I thought your review was good myself!! The part about him shirtless is great! 🙂

      • hahah, too bad. maybe in Man of Steel 2 he’ll go around the entire movie flying shirtless. That might help out!! 🙂

  7. Tom you dug this a bit more than I did.

    What sort of pie is that by the way? I am partial to Strawberry Rhubarb.

    If you get a chance you should check out Shannon in Jeff Nichols films. I thought his performance in Take Shelter was particularly amazing.

    • Maybe I’m just easier to sell on big powerful explosions and the drama around it haha. this movie definitely had weaknesses, I just had en easier time overlooking them. I really did like Shannon here but I am hearing consistently it’s not his best stuff. I did want to check out Take Shelter, and I completely missed the boat on The Iceman — both of which I’ve heard he’s fantastic. Hopefully soon I can get to these! 🙂

      As far as the pie goes, it is intended to be a circular shortbread pie. I think most shortbread pies are square, but I wanted a better rating/graphic that matched my page. I can’t wait to get my hands on some better graphic design and actually make it look like something!! Thanks for the comments man!

  8. Even though I didnt enjoy Man of Steel as much as you Tom, this is a fantastically written review. I loved reading it. Don’t be angry with me but when the fight scenes were happening the first thing that popped into my head was ‘Michael Bay’!

    • Haha FOR SHAME!! But i’m not mad…this fight scene between Zod and Superman went on a little too long, and started to approach Michael Bay-esque levels, but you’ve gotta think — pretty much the basis of this entire film…hell, the story of Superman….is already blown out of proportion. There’s just so much grandeur to the narrative that the fight sequences just had to match that, or one-up the rest. Maybe a little less CGI could have helped….thanks for the kind words!

  9. Good review and you know how I feel about it. Great film and bring on a sequel 😀

    Also the picture of superman flying over the earth you used is from Superman Returns 🙂

    • Dude that’s really funny. I was just assuming everything I was searching for when I googled “Man of Steel” were all images from that movie hahah guess I’ll have to go back and edit. Or maybe leave it, Idk now. Maybe it’s cool to have images from both. Thanks for stopping by man.

    • Haha yeah I’m a little confused as to why it bombed so badly with a few folks, but that’s totally cool too. I’m among the few that thought it was really damn good, but was far from perfect. I’ll check yours out. I definitely disagree about this thing being worse than Superman Returns, though. That film was definition of bland and uninspired. I also really dislike Brandon Routh, so that probably didn’t help

  10. Good review Tom. Plenty of ideas and thoughts started this movie off perfectly, but it lost it’s sense of direction by the end once all of the havoc and destruction came around.

    • Thanks man, I agree it did seem to get a little lost in the sea of CGI towards the end which was unfortunate. Still think a lot of critics are bashing it hard but its all good. Audiences seem to be loving it haha

  11. You make a number of excellent points, Tom, and I really enjoyed the running discussion of “epicness”. One day a director is going to have the balls to make a non “Epic” superhero movie, and I shall applaud him. LOL

    “It’s just too bad that most of that comes from the magic of special effects, and is not the result of incredible scriptwriting in conjunction with impressive action.” Indeed.

    Like you, however, I had to give it a high grade at the end of the day. It may not have been the movie I wanted to see, but it was still a pretty good movie.

    Nice Review!

    • Thanks Fogs!! I really think the hype for this film just got to a point where, no matter what they did with it, someone’s gonna be disappointed. I guess we are now looking at different tolerance levels for the blockbuster film, and I was thoroughly blown away but the action here. Yeah there were a few things that coulda been better but ultimately I enjoyed myself immensely. Glad you did as well.

      I’ll be on by to read yours in a bit.

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