m a n o f s t e e l
14th June 2013
Henry Cavill's Cheek Bones
16th June 2013
Superman must be one of the most reinvented characters to hit our various size screens. Since the 1978 Richard Donner version, we’ve had: three sequels of widely varying quality, the incredibly 90’s Lois & Clark on telly, the part X-Files, part Dawson’s Creek Smallville, also on telly and finally Superman Returns from Bryan Singer. The last of these only released in 2006, making it all of seven years old as we reach Zack Snyder’s all new Man of Steel. Snyder’s back catalogue is dominated by fancy costumes and fantasy universes but nothing that would sit comfortably in the all new world of Clark Kent and co, so what to make of this one?
The IMDB synopsis is worth producing verbatim at this stage as reading it, you would have no idea that this film was even about Superman: ‘A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race’. The name Superman is only mentioned towards the end of the film, and then only in vague derision, giving you some idea of just how much this film wants to be judged by itself.
The movie starts with a prolonged prologue back on planet Krypton, giving far more information about Kal El’s origins than previous and building a decent sense of gravitas into his situation. Krypton’s disturbing world order is given detail and goes some way to explaining the need for Kal El to head out all by himself. Zod’s attempts at a coup are foiled and the Krypton elders unwisely banish him and his crew from a planet that is days away from imploding anyway. Essentially sending him to the only safe place..
The story picks up Clark as he hits 33, drifting from job to job keeping to his now dead father’s wish that he hide his super powers from the populace on account of them not being able to handle the truth. We flit backwards in time to flesh out Clark’s generally unhappy early years as, in the present, US forces have just found something sinister buried in the ice. Now, if there’s one thing movies have taught us over the years, what do you do with something you find long buried in ice? You LEAVE IT THERE. Sadly, these wise words are not heeded and somehow Lois and Clark find themselves inside a buried spaceship where Clark finds a relative. Sort of. Obviously all this leads to a Zod returning to Earth to cause all kinds of bother.
Snyder’s vision is leagues ahead of his previous efforts and he takes time to lay decent foundations for the events that unfold. In fact, the first part of the movie is probably the most rewarding. From the release of Zod we enter more traditional super hero territory, leaving us to wish we’d spent a bit more time with Clark as a youngster. Clark and Lois’ discovery of the Krypton ship is borderline bizarre – a freight worker and a journalist are apparently allowed free reign around what is presumably a pretty secret installation – something that is explained away by it being in Canada. But picking flaws like that is probably beside the point in a super hero story.
Michale Shannon is fantastic as the new, superbly angry Zod. A man frustrated at every attempt to do what he believes is right – a position that arguably has as much merit as Jor-El’s. Zod is a manufactured soldier and Shannon plays him exactly right, a sea of frustration and hatred. Cavill is likewise well cast as Clark Kent. With cheek bones that make you wonder if he is in fact CGI, he manages to express the innocence and isolation of his character at the same time as looking like he could crush you with his bare hands. Sadly, Clark’s relationship with Lois gets entirely lost in the size of the story, there is simply too much story going on for us to spend that much time with them. What we’re left with is a very simple version of a relationship that is told so much better in the various other versions of the film. This is no reflection on Amy Adams who is great as the feisty reporter, she’s just drowned out by the rest.
I think the main issue I have with Man of Steel is that it tries to do too much. With the extended Krypton scenes and one too many fistfights between Zod and Kal El, even at nearly two and a half hours, the film just doesn’t have enough time for everyone and everything. The central theme of Kal El choosing mankind and being its protector is somewhat diminished by the sheer scale of the devastation wrought by the invaders. Almost all of Metropolis is flattened at various points of the final battle, making it odd that Kal El felt it necessary to pluck one falling helicopter pilot out of the sky when so many must have perished in the city.
I did enjoy Man of Steel, I was just left thinking that some of the attempted depth had been lost in the noise. The flashbacks are filmed beautifully and any time spent with Clark and his family is rewarding, as is the extra time spent delving into the history of Krypton, but I wanted more of this and less of two CGI characters punching each other through buildings presumably full of innocent people. The version I watched was in 3D, which was almost entirely redundant even in the planet Krypton scenes.
Check out the Man of Steel trailer here.