MAN OF STEEL (2013)
I won’t say Man Of Steel is a bad movie. It’s not. I was entertained to a good degree. It’s just that it is quite a disappointing movie in that it has such potential and doesn’t live up to it. There was an opportunity to really tell a good story, but Director Zack Snyder and writer David Goyer would rather serve up Independence Day in overdrive than a story about a unique individual and his journey to becoming a hero. The film’s Avatar-ish opening starts out on the distant planet of Krypton with a military coup erupting lead by General Zod (Michael Shannon), just as valiant Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is explaining that their planet is doomed due to their plundering of it’s core. After some Star Trek-esque dialog about genetic codes and the manufacturing of future Krytonians, Jor-El eludes Zod and sends his secretly and naturally born son into to space along with the genetic codes for Kryton’s people. We then pick up as adult Clark Kent/Kal-El (Henry Cavill) is wandering the planet trying to find his purpose and despite being taught by his Pa (Kevin Coster) to hide his powers, he can’t help but occasionally use them to save lives. So Clark becomes this mysterious savior figure being tracked down by an intrepid reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams). I liked this aspect of the story but, like everything else, it is brushed over too quickly to appreciate fully. Meanwhile an alien ship is found in the ice bringing Clark and Lois together at the sight and Clark finds out the ship is of the same race as the ship he arrived in…how Ma and Pa get a mini-van sized ship secretly into their barn is never explained…He then enters and finds his true destiny on board from a computer simulation of real dad, Jor-El… still with me? At this very moment another space ship enters Earth’s vicinity and it is vengeful General Zod looking for Kal-El and the genetic codes to stage a rebirth of Krypton on earth. Now it’s up to Kal-El to reveal his true alien nature and defend the planet he calls home from the malevolent Zod and his Krytonian thugs.
If this all sounds choppy, it is. I’m not the biggest Superman fan, so I didn’t mind the revamping of his origin, but I do mind the choppy, too fast for it’s own good, telling of the story. Snyder is too interested in bludgeoning us with the spectacular action than he is in properly telling us Superman’s story. His past is told in flashbacks and while there are some very important events in Clark’s childhood, we just get quick glimpses with barely anytime to appreciate their resonance before Kryptonians are beating each other silly with trains, planes and automobiles. As much as the action sequences wow us, the movie never slows down to let us enjoy the really important details of what could have been a very good story about a lone and powerful alien who wants to use his strengths to make our world a better place…maybe at the cost of the rebirth of his own. And that’s what disappoints the most, there is a good story here, but the filmmakers are more interested in destroying everything in sight as Zod intends to kill Kal-El and terraform Earth into the new Krypton. The action sequences go on and on and while they are spectacular, I was exhausted and had seen everything they could throw at me long before we finally get to see Zod and Supes battle one on one. By that time, their final confrontation is redundant as we’ve already seen enough cataclysmic destruction to the point of being numb to it. It loses it’s impact.
But there are silver linings in this overblown epic. Henry Cavill was a really good Superman and really helps make up for us not be allowed to appreciate his journey from loner to heroic icon by the explosion happy Snyder. Amy Adams is also good as Lois and despite their relationship being underdeveloped, Adams and Cavill have a really strong chemistry that, again, overcomes the filmmakers shortcomings. In fact the whole cast was good from Shannon providing a strong villain with depth and purpose in Zod to Russell Crowe’s noble Jor-El… though his constant appearance as a simulation is overused. Costner and Diane Lane (Ma Kent) shine in their all too brief scenes and again, all the actors have good chemistry together. Snyder gets such good work out of his cast, it’s all the more disappointing we couldn’t linger with them a lot more to enjoy the emotional resonance of their scenes together properly.
Even Hans Zimmer’s wonderful score really supports whats going on on-screen and helps add depth when Snyder’s rapid fire and sometimes choppy editing weakens the impact. And I won’t lie if I did find some of the action truly breathtaking and spectacular. It is, but when something is breathtaking we need to be allowed to catch our breath before the next thrill and Snyder doesn’t allow us to do that. We get a massive amount of destruction on a spectacular level and are then bludgeoned with it till numb. And it robs us of really enjoying the impact of the story’s final scenes which are the most important, as it sets up Superman and his path towards becoming a hero and his relationship with the rest of us. It is the charm of Cavill and cast that still give it it’s potency even with us being warn out from watching skyscrapers explode and fall for the last 30 minutes.
So my final thoughts are that while there was a lot to enjoy, there is a lot that needs fixing to make Man Of Steel 2 fly right. Most importantly is that Zack Snyder needs to overcome his weakness as a filmmaker and tell his story better and let a great cast do what they do best. Snyder is a great visualist but, really needs to sometimes dial it back and let us enjoy the emotions of the smaller moments which, especially in a story such as that of Superman, is really what matters. It doesn’t matter how many heavy objects Superman can lift, how fast he can fly and how many buildings get destroyed when he is in battle…the real story here is about a one of a kind man who has the strength and power to make our world a better place, if we learn to trust him and let him. Now that’s a story worth telling and taking the time to tell. Despite my criticism, I do hope to see Cavill don the cape and boots again and maybe the movie will be a little more about him next time and the spectacular action will be used to add impact to the story and not overshadow it.
3 Men Of Steels as, despite the film’s shortcomings, I enjoyed the cast immensely and did like the spectacular action before I got numb to it all. I also feel it does provide a good starting point if certain issues are overcome. Still the best Superman film since Superman 2 in 1981.
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