A blog about movies and filmmaking.

MAN OF STEEL

In action, comic books, sci-fi on June 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

New Man of Steel PosterHey all, I’ve been working on posts for movies that I wanted to review, but honestly, nothing has really inspired me to press the “publish” button. Let alone go back through everything to edit and clean it all up. So, you’ll probably never see my reviews of IRON MAN 3 (liked it), FAST 6 (eh..major issues), or AFTER EARTH (liked OBLIVION better, but thought it was Shyamalan’s best in a while).

But, today brings the movie that (hopefully) has inspired such confidence. MAN OF STEEL, the reinterpretation of Superman by the guys (and gals) that brought us the newest BATMAN movies. Added to the mix is Zack Snyder, the man behind such comic book adaptations like WATCHMEN and 300. Whatever you may think of them. I like them, for the most part… And that really leads straight into Man of Steel. I liked it for the most part. Didn’t love it. Didn’t think it was great. There were some fun moments that I really liked, and then there were others that were really dumb. 

To start, I think the casting is amazing. A lot of the great actors they called in for this movie, could wind up paying off in sequels (Laurence Fishburne and Michael Kelly), and others that got bit parts here that paid off perfectly well (Christopher Meloni and Kevin Costner). Naturally, the leads really shine. Amy Adams is fantastic as Lois Lane (real-life double-alliterative names!), who actually gets to be a reporter, not have to try and make us buy that she’d be fooled by the whole “glasses” thing, and in some ways even becomes the lynchpin for the story. Russell Crowe, as Jor-El, was probably my favorite character for his parts toward the end of the movie.

Then there’s Michael Shannon and Henry Cavill, as General Zod and Superman/Clark, respectively. They both do really great jobs. Shannon has playing psychotic (whether the character is or not) down to an art form. He’s menacing and dangerous in all the right ways, and manages to differentiate his Zod as much from Terence Stamp’s, as Heath Ledger did from Nicholson’s Joker. Cavill also manages to pull off bringing Superman to life and making me almost forget about the previous actors who’ve donned the tights. There’s moments where his voice gets right to that pitch that Christopher Reeves had, which would be a little jarring. (Not to mention, the one moment where his British accent peeks through.) When he flies for the first time and smiles, to then fly past the camera around the curvature of the Earth was spine-tingling. Just like it was when Richard Donner did the similar shot in his film.

Bringing up the old movie is something I also wanted to address. A lot of the movie, played like a complete re-imagining of Donner’s original movies (and Richard Lester’s sequel – I’m not a fan of the Donner recut). There’s the backstory of Krypton; the banishing of Zod; Clark as an outcast in Kansas; and then Zod and his gang showing up to take over the planet and kill Kal-El. Zod even has two main goons that are exactly like the old movies – one is a cold-hearted female with a thing for military men (Antje Traue), and the other is a silent giant (I didn’t catch his name, or the actor that portrayed him). The other thing that would throw me back into nostalgia mode every now and then was Hans Zimmer’s score. I know he did his best to create something uniquely not John Williams-ish, but there were a certain notes that just sounded like part of the original score… (Unfortunately, the score wasn’t that impressive to me. Combining the percussive and droning sounds he used in all the Dark Knight Trilogy, and failing to create something truly memorable for the king of all superheroes.)

The things that I disliked were small things, in general, but larger in the scope of the movie. Like how the opening scenes on Krypton were almost what I could imagine as deleted scenes from a STAR WARS movie. There’s weird beasts – ridiculous choices to ride said beasts when everyone else is flying about in space ships (that one’s more of a prequels’ thing), to what I hesitate to call the “Midichlorian” factor. While I enjoyed the world building involved with those opening scenes, it just seemed like overload. And the technology was confusing, going from high-tech to weird, bronze-aged machines. For parts where we’re getting the history of Superman’s home-planet, it played almost like an homage to the ‘Deathly Hallows’ story in HARRY POTTER mixed with the Engineers’ ship from PROMETHEUS. I wanted to see a wide-shot to explain how these images were being created and from where.

Zack Snyder does a decent job of creating the world and making it visually interesting. The “Malick-ness” of the Kansas stuff was a welcome change to a normal world we haven’t seen from him since DAWN OF THE DEAD. My major gripe about the movie as a whole is that the special effects were kind of lacking – from the CGI characters that would then morph into the live-action actors, to the fight sequences, which would have been impressive to me in 2004, when THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS did pretty much exactly the same fight and did it better.

**GETTING INTO SPOILERY TERRITORY, SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T WANNA BE SPOILED.**

Lastly, the one question for me is, what do they do next? This felt more like the final movie in a trilogy than the obligatory “origin story.” How much bigger can you get than terraforming the planet and killing the last people from your own planet – especially when the future villain is bound to become Lex Luthor? I guess a majority of the lackeys were sent back into the Phantom Zone, but none of them are as interesting as Zod; who, as mentioned in his final speech, was bred to protect Krypton… And it was that speech, and the alienating nature of seeing Clark develop his powers that won me over. It’s an interesting question/premise for a Superman movie. Seeing him question his loyalty for a second was pretty powerful, and I liked how he’d have to go back and ask his mom what she thought.

**SPOILERS OVER.**

I guess in summary, I liked Man of Steel. It was nice to get a movie that wasn’t beholden to the Reeves’ days of the character. I wasn’t as put-off by the complaints of “mass murder” and collateral damage as others seem to be. It comes down to, for me, what the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT says, “no one freaks out when it’s part of the plan.” (I murdered that quote.) But, when an alien race comes to destroy your planet, people are going to die – on-screen and off. And yes, a lot of stuff is going to be destroyed. I had much bigger issues with FAST 6 for that very issue, than I did here.

My problem with the movie was that it was too big, too soon.

Go see it and let me know what you think.

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