A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.
Director: Zack Snyder
Finally, after several years of waiting in a Hollywood that has probably made most of it’s money on comic book films as of late, we get to see the most infamous comic hero the world has ever known. Despite doing well in the box office and in reviews, 2006’s Superman Returns is not remembered as a great film, and was made just a few years before technology launched comic book heroes onto the big screen in an incredible way. But now, after the success of many comic book films and DC’s own completion of the Batman trilogy, Zack Snyder and company have attempted to tackle the genre’s biggest task: Superman.
Man of Steel starts at the very beginning: the natural birth of Kal-El, better known as Clark Kent, and known better yet as Superman, on the planet Krypton as it is slowly falling apart both physically and politically. General Zod, Krypton’s military leader, stages a military coup, but it is too late, as the planet is lost, along with everyone on it, but not before Zod is launched into black space Superman’s parents, Jor-El and Faora-El, send Superman to Earth, along with the key to Krypton’s future rebirth, to give him a chance at survival.
Splitting the movie into two entities, past and present, you’ll find a clash of vision and style. The opening scenes of the movie establish an elegant, powerful, even emotional fantasy adventure with an incredible score, acting, and direction. This style is continued, in parts, throughout the film, albeit a little softer, in the flashbacks to Clark’s adolescence and interactions with his Earth father, played reverently by Kevin Costner. Here we see where Kent gets his true human civility and sense of good, and the scenes are great, although their presentation comes at strange, non-chronological times. You can find traces of this vision throughout the entire film, but when you are watching the present, there is a much more Zack Snyder feel that overtakes.
By that, I mean that there is some really crazy, creative, stylistic action and fighting, but the style clashes with it’s partner. Not only that, but the fight scenes are long. Really long. Waaaayyyyy tooooooo looooong. I’m probably the last person on Earth to get tired of new, great looking fighting and action, but the sheer amounts of city destruction and Kryptonian combat is purely ridiculous, and creates the biggest problem of the film: an identity crisis.
On one hand, you have an elegant telling of a fantasy tale with power and weight; on the other, you have loads of fighting scenes that young comic book fans want to see. None of them flow together well with the other, and both get campy and exhausted at points. Overall, I don’t think the teenage and younger crowd will enjoy this movie, and their parents won’t like them seeing it, either. There is tons of civilian casualty which causes another clash of ideals both with Superman’s inability to be injured and with his personal ideology never to kill anyone or let people get hurt.
From a structural and technical standpoint, the film is solid. Incredible visuals paired with a powerful soundtrack from my now probably favorite composer Hans Zimmer. There is a long list of awesome actors, all doing very well, most of all Michael Shannon’s villain and Russell Crowe’s heroic, insightful father-figure. Amy Adams is a great Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill really looks the part, although his acting requirements were surprisingly minimal for being the lead, especially Superman. Rounding out the cast is Diane Lane as Superman’s Earth mother, Laurence Fishburne as Lane’s boss, Christopher Meloni as the military captain, Richard Schiff as the leading scientist, and Harry Lennix as the military colonel, all of whom were great. I was scared that the film would become another Dark Knight movie with Christopher Nolan co-writing and producing, along with many of the same production companies from the Dark Knight trilogy, but Man of Steel does successfully create it’s own style, theme, and feel.
There were many parts of this movie that I really, truly enjoyed. But if I ask myself one of my most important movie reviewing queations, “would I watch this again [and again]?”, I have to answer “no”. I would not suffer through the tedious and tiresome action scenes. I might, however, watch the opening scenes and skim through some flashbacks and moments of growth and elegance. Ultimately, however, I would not add this to my Blu-Ray collection or HDD.
2/4 – Man of Steel finds some success in being an elegant fantasy adventure of one man’s growth and learning, and also an action film with new, awesome action; the problem lies with the failure to find a healthy combination and mixture of the two, ultimately resulting in an identity crisis.