Thursday, June 13, 2013

Man of Steel review; the Superman film we deserve

He is undoubtedly the most recognized superhero in the world.  The "S" on his chest, a symbol of hope.  We are all so familiar with this character, and his incredibly creative backstory.  Born to a dying planet, Krypton; his parents send him to earth in a spaceship.  Adopted by a couple in the state of Kansas, raised to know right from wrong.  His morals unwavering.  This is the man we all pretended to be as children.  Superman!

The first time he was depicted in film was in the 1950's.  But it wasn't until 1978, with Richard Donner at the helm, did we believe a man could fly.  The film was Superman: The Movie.  The late Christopher Reeves gave us a hero that would be permanently etched into our memories.  He embodied Superman in every way we knew the character.  There were of course subsequent sequels, three to be exact.  And in 2006, Warner Brothers would attempt to reboot the franchise.  Bryan Singer, of X-Men fame, cast Brandon Routh as this generation's would-be Superman.  The film underperformed, to say the least, and we were left wanting more.  We the audience felt we DESERVED more.  And finally, we have been given the Superman we deserve.  This is... Man of Steel.  Let's fly!

What I liked about the film:
Our Hero
When Henry Cavill was cast as Kal-El (Superman), I think it was fair to have called him a relative unknown.  That's definitely no longer the case.  Cavill nails it as our hero!  What I loved most about his performance was, it was his own.  He wasn't trying to imitate Christopher Reeves, he was playing Superman.  Clark Kent's story arc is the main attraction.  Cavill portrays Clark as a man who is trying to figure out his place in the world.  I loved this, I've never thought of Superman as a 'lost soul' before.  And he truly is!  We can not forget that he is an alien to our planet.  Through a series of flashbacks, we see Clark as a child, growing up with the Kents.  We see his parents, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, teaching him to be a patient, and kind person.  And I really got the feeling that these lessons lead Clark to become the man he is today.  I think Cavill is the epitome of perfect casting.  Nicely done!

The Supporting Actors
Amy Adams plays the world famous reporter Lois Lane, in a way I've never seen before.  I remember thinking to myself, "I am not annoyed by her at all".  The character is as confident as we've ever seen her, but still shows signs of vulnerability.  Her chemistry with Cavill is dynamite!  I'll explain more on that in a moment.    Laurence Fishburne plays Editor of the famous newspaper, the Daily Planet.  It's a small role for the Oscar nominated actor, but it was a nice change of pace from what we've seen from incarnations past of the character.

Michael Shannon plays the villain, General Zod.  Zod is out to find Kal-El after Krypton was destroyed.  I would describe Shannon's portrayal of the character as safe.  He was evil, had understandable motivations, and determined to execute his plans for the future.  But he wasn't as menacing as I expected Shannon to be.  There are a few scenes with Shannon and Russell Crowe that are perfectly written and performed.  You get the sense that they have a mutual respect, but different ideologies.

Speaking of Russell Crowe, he plays Jor-El, Superman's biological father from Krypton.  The filmmakers found an ingenious way to make Crowe and integral part of the story.  There is something so Shakespearean about Crowe.  He was another example of perfect casting.  I hope I don't ensue a riot, but I believe he is better in this film than Marlon Brando was in the original 1978 film.  Ayelet Zurer (Angels and Demons) plays Laura, Kal-El's biological mother.  While she has limited screen time, she is a part of one of the most emotional scenes in the film.

The Action
The action in Superman is unrelenting fun.  The action, along with the special effects, are seriously top notch.  It shows us Superman in ways we've never seen on film.  The flight looks incredible.  Seeing Cavill in the suit for the first time brought my theater to its feet.  The action set pieces get bigger and bigger as the film moves along.  And while some of the action could be categorized as excessive, it all added something to the story.  Whether it was to portray struggle, success, morality, etc.  It all assisted in the telling of the story.  The climax in this movie is as visually stunning as it is emotionally demanding.  It will have you cheering, and crying, at the same time.  Loved it!

The Score
Hans Zimmer has accomplished the unthinkable.  He found a way to make us, maybe not forget, but put aside the iconic John Williams score that has resonated for decades.  The music in this film is beautiful.  That's the best way I can describe it.  It's big, it's bold, it's soft, it's sweet, it's inspiring, it's anxious, it's anything and everything the movie needed it to be.  I am actually listening to the soundtrack as I type this review.  Perfect!

It's Different 
(SPOILERS), Skip These 2 Paragraph to Avoid Being Spoiled:
There are so many things that are done differently in this movie that I've never seen in other Superman films, and that's a great thing!  For example, Lois Lane discovers Superman's true identity in the first half of the film.  That's huge in my opinion.  I always rolled my eyes at the fact that Lois couldn't figure out who Superman really was.  The filmmakers eliminated a lot of things that had us rolling our eyes in the past.  The suit is another example.  The got rid of the underwear on the outside,  and gave the suit a purpose, a reason to belong in the film.  The suit, along with the "S" on the chest represent Kal-El and his people.  It is a symbol of hope, much as the man himself would become.  And the Fortress of Solitude is done in a very unconventional way.  Loved the creativity to change things up, while still respecting the source material.  Gone too are the cheesy 1940's references and sayings.  You won't hear it's a bird, it's a plane... anywhere in the film.

Another thing that was different, and very creatively done was the history of Krypton.  I can't say I read the comics religiously growing up, but I don't remember any incarnation of Krypton quite like that of Man of Steel.  It answers the question... why is General Zod so hellbent on finding Kal-El on Earth?  Well, Kal-El is the first naturally conceived birth on the dying planet in centuries.  Instead of natural births, children are spawned; genetically manufactured to fill very specific needs within the civilization.  General Zod wants to restore order and claim complete power of the planet by taking out Kal-El.  How creative is that?!  It's so different, it's so clever that you say to yourself, "Yes, that makes sense to me".  Also worth noting, that Kryptonite being Superman's only weakness is gone.  Sort of.  And I'll leave it at that.  That change alone made me respect the character for not being susceptible to green rocks.

The Big 3
If Zack Snyder earned the respect of comic book fans before this film, he can now demand it!  The casting, the action set pieces, the tone, it's all Snyder.  He did a magnificent job of bringing the character to the 21st century.  Also responsible for bringing the character to the modern world, are Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.  The dynamic duo wrote the story, and Nolan was a producer on the film.  Goyer wrote the screenplay and maybe it's not perfect, but it's a major step in the right direction.  The big 3 delivered something that will hold up for a long time to come.

What I didn't like about the film:
Where's the Character Development?
Outside of Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, there is little to no character development in this film.  I would love to know more about Jor-El and Zod's history together.  What about Lois, what is her motivation for being as dedicated a reporter as she is?  And what about the Kents?  What kind of path led them to adopt an alien child who crash landed on their farm?  I loved the flashback sequences with Clark Kent, but I wanted more.

The Pacing
The film flies by so fast (pun intended), that you almost want it to slow down.  In fact, Superman dawns his cape so early into the film, I was a bit taken back by it.  And the action comes at you with only a few breathers in between.  I wish the movie was longer!  I know that sounds crazy, considering its longer than normal run time, but I wanted more!  A good problem I think, when you consider the 2006 debacle Superman Returns, which had little to NO action in the film.

The Verdict:
The Superman Film We Deserve
This character holds a spot near and dear to my heart.  Superman was always my younger brother's favorite character.  We would stay up late as kids and watch the Christopher Reeve Superman films together and just wonder to ourselves, 'how did they do that?'  That's how majestic the character was to us.  That's how majestic film was to us.  We went to the Superman Returns premiere together in 2006, and last night, we were able to watch the Man of Steel premiere together as well.  This character has meant so much, to so many people.  And for me, he was a representation of how good people of the world could be.  It what makes me want to believe in him, even at my adult age.  And when you have a character that can survive the scrutiny that this one has, you know he will be around forever.  I am so glad we finally got the Superman film we deserved, in the Man of Steel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Could have been so much better, but was fun for what it was. Nice review Tony.