Why so serious?
When I first heard that Zack Snyder is stepping in the shoes formerly occupied by Brian Singer, I was interested but apprehensive. After all, he has surprised me with some of his films (“Dawn of the Dead” and “300”). However, his handling of that superhero film “Watchmen” seemed uninspired. I mean, it was very respectful to the original material but showed nothing more that would’ve made the transition from comic to film feel more epic in scale. Hence, my apprehension.
This reboot of the “Superman” story appeared to combine the elements that worked well from the first two “Superman” films that starred Christopher Reeves. His origins, set in Krypton, in which Russel Crowe plays Jor-El with less pomp than Marlon Brando, and the mayhem brought by General Zod, played this time by Michael Shannon with less restraint than Terrence Stamp’s original performance.
The first third of “Man of Steel” is the most effective for me: from the trippy but excellent visuals of the scenes in Krypton, to the introduction of the adult Clark Kent as a drifter with a perpetual frown on his forehead, to the sharp flashbacks that show the roots of Clark’s emotional malaise. The scenes depicting the discovery of his super powers (X-ray and heat vision) were equally harrowing and tender; and wonderfully acted by Diane Lane (as Mrs Kent) and the child actor whose name I don’t know. It is perhaps Clark’s misfortune that his adoptive father (Kevin Costner) has a somewhat jaded worldview that he inferred the world will be cruel to someone like Clark. This is the part where I glimpsed Christopher Nolan rearing his blonde head into the story.
While the introduction of Clark’s adoptive family proved to be an abundant source of gravitas, Lois Lane’s entrance is less spectacular, literally. For one, I never imagined that Amy Adams was so curvy. I wondered if the figure walking to the editor’s office, with her back to the camera was a body double. Or she must be wearing hip pads or something. But I digress. Of all the characters, I think Lois Lane had the the most interesting story arc. Imagine attempting to track down this elusive ‘hero’ while dodging various security agencies. Unfortunately, her character was severely under-written that there’s not much she can do but aim to be relentless and perky to contrast with Clark’s lack of humor. I hope that in the sequel, Lois Lane gets written better; I’m sure Amy Adams can handle that.
And probably because Lois Lane was under-written, the development of her relationship with Clark was also, at best, sketchy. Gone was the banter that I loved in Superman and Superman II. Even the glum ‘Superman Returns’ had some old school banter that brought a smile to my lips. Here? Zilch. Shades of Nolan again? I can only speculate. Again, I hope they pay more attention to this in the sequel.
So what happened in the latter half of “Man of Steel”? Did I say mayhem? So much mayhem? I’d say the amount of mayhem in this film surpasses the level of destruction in probably the last five Marvel superhero films combined. I think I just made someone at DC Comics happy with this statement. But it’s true. I mean it got so much that at one point I had to remove my 3-D glasses to ‘wipe the soot out of my eyes’. My grasp on the narrative also got lost as the visual spectacle unfolded, with Clark moving (or getting thrown, dragged, and kicked into) from one huge set-piece to another, until he was faced with an extremely real situation of choosing between earth-people and his only remaining Kryptonian landsleute.
As a film, “Man of Steel” is immensely entertaining. It packs some emotional wallops and allows self-examination on what makes us human. The visuals, especially the liquid-metal device-thingies are right up my alley. As a new introduction to the Superman mythology, this is a great introduction. Henry Cavill, who bulked up his already splendid physique for this film, is perfect for the role. Brandon Routh was also perfect in ‘Superman Returns’ but I can’t imagine him in this film. I also doubt if Henry Cavill would do well in Routh’s Superman film.
As in “Watchmen’, Snyder’s treatment of the material is respectful but unlike it, there are some creative flourishes here that give it an epic and original feel. Although at times, I feel that it is weighed down by the sketchy relationship between Lois and Clark (previously discussed) and its humorlessness. There is joy in this film, but humor? I know Superman is not Iron Man, but I still think Superman needs to lighten up a bit. Hope Mr. Nolan takes note.
Maybe, if I watched ‘Man of Steel’ as many times as I did The Avengers, I’d be happier. Let’s see.
Posted on June 12, 2013, in review and tagged Amy Adams, Brandon Routh, DC Comics, Henry Cavill, Man of Steel, Superman, Superman II, Superman Returns, Zack Snyder. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.