Thursday, June 13, 2013

Man of Steel: Good but still felt wanting


Superman may be the granddaddy of all superheroes but I've always felt this disconnect from him. Maybe it's because he's an alien. He's also just so... super. Yet he can also be so lame. Nonetheless, I was excited for Man of Steel.

After Superman Returns failed to reignite the franchise, a reboot seemed like the most logical way to go for Warner Bros. In Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder takes us back to Superman's origins in Krypton. He sure didn't rush his introduction and he really took his time on the dying planet, which had me thinking how long before this film gains traction.

Following his lengthy prologue, Snyder avoids a linear storytelling approach by cutting straight to a scruffy Clark Kent at sea, very much like one of those men from Deadliest Catch on Discovery but very timid, and where the audience gets its first glimpse at Kal-El's heroic deeds. From here on we are taken on a journey, however abrupt, of a man trying to fit in, interspersed with flashbacks from his childhood in Smallville, a kid confused with his abilities, frustrated as to why he should keep all this a secret. These flashbacks are aplenty throughout the whole movie, some of which even proved to be Man of Steel's most powerful scenes.

man of steel_clark kent
None of his hairs burned, so how does he shave?

While Christopher Nolan's imprint is evident in this production, the movie somehow still lacks the emotional gravitas of Batman Begins no matter how hard it tries to be all serious and gritty. There are very few light moments, and some even felt too contrived. To be fair, though, and in the mold of The Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer tried to ground the film with some "scientific explanation" involving the sun's radiation and the earth's gravity for Kal-El's superpowers and how he could lose them altogether. Now as to whether there's any kryptonite in this reboot, you'll have to find out for yourself.

Man of Steel isn't all drama, though, as it packs a lot of "super fights" and tons of destruction eye candy in desaturated colors. By super fights, I mean none of those highly-stylized, slow-motion shots but really fast action that all happen in a blur, you can barely see what's happening. It can get a little tiresome, however, since none of them really remain hurt for long. The level of destruction here is epic although I was also wondering whether they went a little too far because how were they supposed to rebuild after all that? More so, with such power and devastation left in the wake of his fights, how can Superman just succumb to a Lex Luthor later on? There's already an allusion to his existence in this film, so they better get a lot of things straight if they decide on featuring him in the sequel.

Putting that aside, Hans Zimmer did a fantastic and effective score for the movie, a tall order given that it's hard to shake off that iconic John Williams original. The costume department also did a good job with more utilitarian-looking ensembles that just made more sense than bright-colored spandex. And thank goodness Superman finally figured out the right way to wear briefs! I thought his cape was too long, though. Also, maybe I missed something but I still didn't get why only Kal's suit was blue and red when everyone else wore black. I was hoping for an explanation.

man of steel_handcuffs
Don't you think his cape is too long? Look closely at the seams; the cape's catching a lot of dirt.

As for the newest guy to don the blue tights and red cape, Henry Cavill did a handsome job in embodying the last son of Krypton and was a notable departure from the fine features of Returns's Brandon Routh, whom the producers arguably tried so much to pattern after Christopher Reeve. Cavill was brute and all manly. He was ridiculously muscled and pumped up, which made for a great case for him looking very much the part of the celebrated superhero, with or without the suit. Of course he was also the more emotional one, very different from the steely expressions we've been used to from Men of Steel of days past.

The rest of the cast were just as fine although many were easily replaceable in my opinion. Michael Shannon did a decent General Zod but he just wasn't that interesting enough to me despite his emotional displays and his trying to make us understand his point, his beef, about why he's so angry. I don't know, either he wasn't evil enough or he simply lacked the color, mystique and complexity that make for really great and memorable villains. Come to think of it, he seemed to be in a state of perpetual scowl.

man of steel_gen zod
General Zod: boring and forgettable?

As for Amy Adams, I was never a fan of hers and her turn as Lois Lane did little to make me one. It may not be entirely her fault but it got pretty annoying at times that she seemed to be just everywhere. One minute she's amid all this rubble, then Superman and Zod battle it out in the air, on the ground, in space, through buildings, and then Lois just shows up where the two super creatures are. It's also always her who's worth saving more than anyone else, those men in uniform included. Oh well, he loves her.

man of steel_lois lane.png
Lois Lane was just everywhere.

Man of Steel may easily be the best Superman movie to date but it still lacked the punch that would elevate it beyond that distinction. The attempt to make it something like Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy was palpable; it just wasn't as engaging and in effect, fell short. Because Kal-El is just so super with his super-strength and super-everything, he will always be less of a character with whom people can relate. Maybe they should have tried harder to make people invested in him, maybe they should have gone darker, or maybe they could have gone an entirely different route and just have made Man of Steel into one big fun ride instead like The Avengers.


  1. Probably its just people thinking or insisting that the producers are trying to pattern it to the Dark Knight Trilogy when it is really not - I sense they made Man of Steel the way it is as a set up to something definitely big. Accept the movie's flaws but continue to hold - something explosive is yet to come.

    1. yeah, but tdk/tdkr or not, i just didn't feel it that much. but i'll be watching the sequel and hopefully, the justice league move (finally).


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