Man of Steel (2013)
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne
Plot: A young journalist is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Rating: PG for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
This film was reviewed in the 35mm format.
“What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?”
My favourite parts in Man of Steel center on the relationship between Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and his Earth father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner). They are the best moments in a film full of heavy touches, little nuances and action sequences far too overwhelming to be constantly exciting.
They also occur in fleeting flashbacks, which are surprisingly effective from an emotional standpoint, almost always accompanied by a heartfelt solo piano rendition of the new main theme by Hans Zimmer. The result is a film sprinkled with bits of stardust in an otherwise half-decent, albeit fairly ordinary summer blockbuster.
And I must say that considering the hype and loads of publicity work done, Man of Steel may feel disappointing. For better or worse, it feels too blockbuster-ish. Almost the entire last hour is akin to an extended recreation of the final showdown between Neo and Agent Smith in The Matrix Revolutions (2003), only that now it is Superman and General Zod (Michael Shannon) having a duel and destroying everything in their path.
Zod is a formidable villain because of Shannon’s showy performance, but he falls short of being this year’s most memorable bad guy, an accolade that should probably go to Benedict Cumberbatch’s character in Star Trek Into Darkness, which in my opinion is still the action blockbuster to beat this summer in terms of filmic quality, overall entertainment value and good drama.
Director Zack Snyder tells the ‘Superman’ origin story in a non-chronological order, though it is not necessarily confusing. It could have been rewarding, though its promise as a transcendent picture in the vein of The Dark Knight (2008) has been overhyped to its detriment. Man of Steel is a film with plenty of style, copious amounts of CG destruction and is very much made to please. It can be exciting if you want it to be.
Otherwise, it can be a dull affair with a flat performance by Cavill, some inconceivable plot exposition (e.g. Russell Crowe’s character has way too much screen time to be believable), and too generic a treatment. Snyder’s grasp of the material can also be accused of being too fanboy-ish; there is unbridled enthusiasm, but it is sometimes not under thoughtful control.
Man of Steel remains thematically sound with ideals of hope and compassion brought about by reconciling with one’s weaknesses and inner strengths. In this regard, Costner’s role as Clark’s mentor is extremely crucial to this film achieving any sort of emotional resonance. It is the singular most important relationship in Snyder’s film, eclipsing that of any other relationship, and functions as the very fulcrum in which Man of Steel is built as a (flawed) superhero movie.
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