Review: Man of Steel (2013)
by Paul (ral)

Man of Steel

Superman - the alien visitor impervious to almost everything except kryptonite...and a box office draw. Hopefully the later will no longer apply when Man of Steel hits theatres on Friday.

Bryan Singer's Superman Returns was a mixed bag. From my point of view it was dogged with a weak script, poor design / costume choices and a crippling sense of nostalgia. Although a modest success at the box office, it didn't do the sort of numbers Warner Bros expected it to and so a sequel was not green-lit. Fair play to WB on that - Superman deserves to be the biggest movie, the most revered hero and thankfully Man of Steel seems satisfy that.

Snyder, Nolan and co seem to have gone out of their way to make MOS feel different and stand out from other superhero movies...especially previous Superman films. The film generally follows the same structure as Batman Begins, with the narrative switching from the present to past events in young Clark's life and back again. I'm still on the fence on whether this served the film as well as it did on Batman Begins.

The story will be familiar to everyone. Krypton is a planet on the verge of collapse geologically. This is mirrored with a society also on the verge of collapse. Jor-El is a great scientist who foresees the impending doom and is unable to convince the Council to evacuate. He and his wife send their son to Earth in a bid to save his life and preserve some aspect of Krypton. Meanwhile General Zod and his followers have been convicted of staging a coup and are sentenced to the Phantom Zone. Obviously it's a bit more complicated than that and I don't want to go further for fear of spoiling the film.

Krypton is fully realized. The design and thought put into their technology is very impressive...gone are crystals! This is a living, breathing planet full of creatures and rugged environment. The movie hints at Krypton's past and politics. This aspect is something I hope is exploited in sequels - there are rich pickings from the seeds they a have sown here.

From a characterization point of view, the film really has played a great hand. There are no cliche characters. Superman is by-and-large portrayed as he always has been. Still someone with a strong moral sensibility, though now he is more world wary. He lays down the law and doesn't allow himself to be dictated to by the military.
Henry Cavill is great. Very earnest and natural. Built like a brick shit house and sporting the suit (that is quite frankly the best costume in any movie ever) I felt like he was Superman. He really felt like a god in our world - it wasn't just a portrayal. He may draw comparisons from previous actors...but what's wrong with that. His accent does waver a little - especially in his last scene.

Everyone's motivations are relevant and valid. I actually found myself empathizing with Zod several times...and that's the films real strong point. Zod isn't here to rule Earth. He's not out to get you to KNEEL. He is a General who's main concern is the preservation of Krypton and its people. His methods may not be the best approach though!
Michael Shannon chews up every scene he is in. Brilliant choice for Zod and someone who could imagine standing up to and going toe-to-toe against Russell Crowe's Jor-El.

Russell Crowe's Jor-El is very different to Marlon Brando as well. He may be a great scientist, but he is also a skilled fighter - both skills that are called upon in the first 15 mins of the film!

Those are some of the ways this film is a very different beast than Christopher Reeve's first two Superman films. MOS also doesn't dwell on sentiment and iconography. Much like Nolan's Batman films. It's a bit of a let down for me that robs this Superman film of some of the warmth it should have had...its all business and plot at the expense of drama and warmth. I would mark this as one of the drawbacks to having Chris Nolan write and produce MOS.

Action is where Man of Steel truly excels. There is a global threat so as you can imagine Metropolis takes a fair bit of abuse. The fight scenes are very cool. Super speed punching is down like an inverse version of Snyder's common place slo-mo. Watching Faora-Ul take out soldier after soldier is very very cool. She is lethal!

The whole movie leads up to a show-do between Superman and Zod. During the movie we see Superman and Zod gaining control of their powers. It all culminates during the final fight scenes. This is the Metropolis battle from Superman 2 on steroids. Some have complained that this went on too long...personally I could have watched another 20 mins of it.

My main complaints are related to the effects. Man of Steel features less wire-work than any previous Superman film. The CGI during the fight scenes is a little dodgy and distracting at times...and they still haven't gotten a CGI cape perfected. Now the makers may say that CGI was necessary for the action they were going for - I felt the flying was unsatisfying overall as Supes was reduced to a flying was just lazy. One of the landing shots with Lois is really bad!

Here's the thing...I could pick any number of scenes from the 1978 Superman film that featured Christopher Reeve against a projection screen that looks more authentic that some of the stuff in MOS. That's a bold statement I know, but there is something about seeing the real actor in flight - flying over his shoulder, flying with his point of view - that makes the viewer feel that a man can fly. We fly with him. In MOS we meerly watch him fly.

Having said that Superman's first attempts at flying and his eventual success do put a smile on your face. Cavill really sells the joy and excitement of soaring through the air.

Hans Zimmer's score has tough act to follow and honestly, it just seems to drone on through the film. Having said that, I do like the main theme he has composed. The score is something of a departure for Zimmer and is really quite good - but other than what you have heard in the trailers and TV spots it never really gets to stand out.

The ending of the film is a little rushed. Sadly we get no flyby and are left hanging a little without a reminder, or lasting final image of how cool Superman is. This is a departure from almost every superhero film to date. Whether it was a conscious decision just to be different I don't know...but audiences expect certain things and that is one of them.

Complaints aside, Man of Steel was brilliant. I left wanting to see more. I left wanting to see it again and I will. Soon. Man of Steel is released worldwide on June 14th 2013.

A very different take on Superman with a familiar feel. Snyder, Nolan and Goyer have created a
very fertile base
 from which to grow sequels and expand into a cinematic DCU. 
You'll believe a man can fly - sadly, were it not for some problems, we could have seen a god soar!

8 /10


From Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures comes "Man of Steel," starring Henry Cavill in the role of Clark Kent/Superman, under the direction of Zack Snyder. A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.

"Man of Steel" also stars Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni and Russell Crowe. The film is produced by Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Deborah Snyder. The screenplay was written by David S. Goyer from a story by Goyer & Nolan, based upon Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster and published by DC Entertainment.

comments powered by Disqus