Man Of Steel (2013)

Man Of Steel (2013)

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Brandon Routh? Who dat?
Brandon Routh? Who dat?

Twitter Plot Summary: Superman’s origins again, told in twisty-turny Batman Begins style. Zod turns up for a bit and looks angry. They hit each other for a bit.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Director: Zack Snyder

Key Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix.

Five Point Summary:

1. Hey look! It’s Gaeta and Helo from BSG!
2. Is NOBODY concerned about collateral damage?
3. Laurence Fishburne running is funny.
4. Look, a stereotypical mad German scientist – but he’s from Krypton!
5. The mere hint of the classic Superman theme within the score is awesome. In fact the score overall is awesome.

Seven years after the disappointment of Superman Returns, a lot was riding on Zack Snyder, director of the rather good Dawn of the Dead, 300 and Watchmen, and the slightly less impressive Sucker Punch and that one where he gave us CGI owls (Gwa… Gwer…. the owl film). Adding to the palpable sense of super-tension ahead of release was that the director and writer of the Dark Knight trilogy, the brace of Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer respectively, are attached as producer and er, writer again of this film. Can Superman be relevant in this day and age? Can Zack Snyder resist the urge to shoot everything in fast-slow-fast-slow motion?

Yes on both counts, Supes remains as relevant as ever (even Man of Steel is relevant to the themes of the movie), and Snyder trades his trademark slo-mo stuff for lots of super Kryptonians punching each other repeatedly. That is the one major flaw of Man of Steel – if you’ve seen one super-powered fight where they beat seven shades out of each other, you’ve seen them all. There’s very little variation in the action scenes as a result, although there’s a lot of subtle differences that Joe Public may not be attuned to. During the first fight in Smallville, you get the usual punch up, but you also have Faora being super fast and moving like a villain in a Metal Gear Solid game. It’s easy to suffer from action fatigue though, there’s a lot of action set pieces and once you think the film’s going to end, there’s a little bit more. And then a bit more. It could be worse, at least it’s not The Return of The King: Extended Edition.

The collateral damage is absolutely epic. Metropolis is left as a shell of its former self, chock full of destroyed buildings and no doubt countless deceased. The same goes for Smallville, they both take a pounding. This is barely mentioned after the fact and in my eyes it’s a huge flaw that they don’t even acknowledge this. Okay fine, Superman does fight to prevent the total annihilation of humanity and he can’t be expected to save them all, but they really could have done more to balance this out against the sheer level of destruction we’re subjected to.

I WILL FIND HIM!!!!!!!!
I WILL FIND HIM!!!!!!!!

Having now seen the film, I was more enamoured with how they presented it in the trailer, certainly when combined with Hans Zimmer’s frankly excellent score. The scenes where Kevin Costner is instilling a set of virtues in the young Clark Kent are perhaps the best thing in the film. The narrative jumps around all over the place, with flashbacks to Clark’s youth being thematically linked to the events taking place in the present. Naturally we start with Krypton, and incidentally see a lot more of it than we have in the past, including a flying dog dragonfly thing that is a mix of Jor-El’s pet and transport. It’s a funky and completely alien world, but with more than a hint of The Matrix to it.

There are funny moments, little comments here and there, but for the most part it’s a very po-faced approach to the character. That’s fine, but if we’re graced with a sequel I’d appreciate it being played a little less straight, a little less “Man of Steel Rises” and just add a little bit of fun to proceedings.

As for the cast – Cavill is more than adequate as Supes. He doesn’t steal the scenes he’s in and he lacks a certain something that Christopher Reeve had, for example, but at the same time I can’t really criticise his performance. Same again for Amy Adams, she’s a good Lois and incredibly smart to boot, a far cry from Margot Kidder’s version of the character. There’s a little too much of Supes having to rescue Lois after she’s dropped from great heights (okay, maybe only twice), but the scenes they share have a zing to them. To go into any more detail would spoil the film, but I’ll leave it by saying they have fantastic on-screen chemistry. There’s a lot I’ve not covered as well – Clark’s relationship in general with his Earth parents, the friction between Supes and the US military, Faora’s Kryptonian warrior not conforming to the usual “female comic book character” stereotype (“For every one you save we will kill a million more”), and Russell Crowe’s Jor-El. Zack Snyder certainly got his money’s worth there.

And finally – Zod. Michael Shannon is an imposing screen presence and his version of Zod is a far cry from Terence Stamp’s slightly camp “Kneel Before Zod!” incarnation. He can be summarised by the following piece of dialogue, in all its intensity-driven glory:

‘You think your son is safe? I will find him. I will find him. I will find him, Lara! I WILL FIND HIM!”

So – there’s a lot to recommend – Clark finding his way in the world, Lois investigating the origins of this mysterious heroic chap, and Zod shrieking at people – however the action sequences need variation should a sequel make it’s way to our cinema screens.

Favourite scene: Kevin Costner showing Clark the pod that brought him to Earth. Powerful, emotive stuff.

Quote: “You will give the people 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. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

Silly Moment: Supes smacking Zod in the face. Again. And again.

Score: 4/5

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