Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Man of Steel Review

No time to talk. Must ponder. 

I read the debates and the tirades. I read the arguments about “my” Superman vs. someone else’s. And I really think that I went in to see Man of Steel with an open mind. Well, if not an open mind, I was ready to accept the film for what it is; a re-imagining of Superman set up to compete against Christian Bale’s Batman. And if that was the goal, then I think Zack Snyder really did nail it.


For the first 15 minutes or so, I was enthralled. The scenes set on Krypton were a spectacle that more than delivered. I thrilled to the alien ships, sets, costumes, and fauna. From the animals to the insect-like spacecraft, I couldn’t get enough. I found myself stunned, thinking that DC’s Superman could launch a space opera like Star Wars if someone focused on material like this. I was so excited; I actually thought “Who couldn’t like a movie like this?”

Then things came to Earth. And Superman. He didn’t say anything for the first 40 minutes of the movie (or so) and after that, ol’ Supes barely added anything else. There wasn’t a whole lot to connect to with the dark-blue suited, cold, Superman. I blame his Dad. Kevin Costner as Pa Kent was one stern dude, and he sure gave Clark some daddy issues to carry around for the rest of his life. Pa took his lessons way too far, too.

Only in a few moments did Henry Cavill channel any of the likeable, relatable sincerity of previous cinematic Supermen. I liked the twirling landing with Lois Lane. The whole interrogation scene with the US Army was also charming. I could see Cavill’s charisma trying to break free from the dour, serious tone of the surrounding film. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the movie theater lobby. Two comic book posters sitting on the wall, right next to each other. Thor is grimacing, wielding his hammer, ready for a fight. Superman is staring pensively off into the middle distance, pondering heavy, emotional thoughts that weigh him down.

The supporting cast is great from start to finish. Amy Adams is a charming Lois Lane; it is hard not to root for her. Lawrence Fishburne felt natural as Perry White. The lack of Jimmy Olsen did bum me out; was he too “silly” to get put in this dramatic film? Russell Crowe had way more to do than I expected. And are you really dead if there is a computer program running around that is basically you?

Of course, Michael Shannon was a great Zod. He really seemed to live in that heavy Kryptonian battle armor. It looked great on him, and his square head looked like a natural helmet. I loved the way Shannon was all business until the end, when he stated the reason he was so dedicated to his cruel path.

And the fights! The super-hero battles looked great. The POV punches knocking people around town. Snyder’s use of snapping into and out of focus for faraway shots. The use of larger than life weapons. It was all visually stunning and entertaining, as I’d expect from Snyder.

Not sweating the property damage.
But man, that’s not my Superman. My Superman wouldn’t START a fight by plowing his foes into his hometown, then proceed to wreck it. At the least he’d move the battle away from innocents. He wouldn’t destroy his last link to his birth world to send a more dramatic message to Zod. And he surely wouldn’t have allowed such a hugely destructive battle to literally level Metropolis. I understand a lot of that is inherent in the huge threat he faced, but man, the loss of life must be in the millions. That city was absolutely destroyed. And AFTER that, Superman started punching Zod through occupied buildings! That’s insane!

I actually don’t have a problem with Superman taking Zod out the way he did. Zod forced his hand, Zod wouldn’t quit, etc. BUT, I guess we’re supposed to just assume that Superman COULD taken that action at any time, but the people in those buildings weren’t as worth getting as riled up over as that family in the train station. I’m pretty sure a lot of kids died when their apartment buildings collapsed.

So, basically this is an entertaining but flawed film. As a super-hero movie, it actually holds up OK. Good villains, great special effects, nice fights. As a Superman movie, it doesn’t hit the mark for me. Superman doesn’t inspire, doesn’t engender any trust, and is pretty darn reckless. Heck, he’s actually selfish! He STEALS CLOTHES! My Superman would at least do some chores to pay the family back, right?

This is a modern Superman story. My problem is I don’t want Superman modernized. He should be better. But that won’t make Warner Bros. the money. I get it.

The Energy Analyzer says that anything that raises awareness of comics is at least somewhat GOOD.


David Charles Bitterbaum said...

I'd agree the movie was "good" but had things keeping it from being much more. I too didn't mind the whole deal with Zod, and while I didn't really think about all the damage and destruction Superman was doing, I did get bored watching it go on and on--even if it looked col. Here's hoping a sequel fixes the annoyances and keeps the stellar cast.

Dan Reilly said...

I'm glad I wasn't the only person shocked by the sight of Superman stealing someone's clothes.

Timbotron said...

One other thought: If the goal was to make Lex Luthor seem like a reasonable response to Superman, the movie succeeded. Lex will be able to make a good argument against Supes in the sequel!