Monday, June 17, 2013

Review - "Man OF Steel"

Been a while since I have posted anything here, seems like I have been saying that a lot lately, but unfortunately life has a tendency to get in the way of things, even something like this blog, which I love doing.

Anyways, now is as good a time as any to start things back up again, so here we go.

“Man Of Steel” Directed by Zack Snyder.

Where to begin....this movie was phenomenal, on every level.

1978's “Superman:The Movie” was the first really big, serious take on a superhero at the time. Since that time, the Superman movies that followed ranged from very good (“Superman II”) to mind numblingly awful (“Superman IV:The Quest For Peace”). Bryan Singer's “Superman Returns” was an attempt at a continuation of the series, and although I liked it very much, it was more of a homage to the earlier Superman movies. “Man Of Steel” is a new vision, a new beginning, and it's different in many ways, but manages to maintain the spirit of Superman.

One of the first things I really loved about the movie was that Krypton, Superman's home planet, was a fully realized, alien world. Visually stunning, and definitely not just another planet like Earth.

I have heard some complaints about the nonlinear storytelling that the first part of the movie utilizes. Clark Kent's childhood is told in flashbacks, as we see him progress from place to place, keeping a low profile as he comes to terms with who he is. In my opinion, it is a refreshing break from the standard structure of an origin story. Some have said that the first act drags a bit, but I never felt that at all. IT was great to see Clark's reactions to his emerging powers, it wasn't just “gee whiz I got super powers how cool is that” kind of thing, he struggles to understand and deal with what is happening to him, and at first, it's not pleasant, it's overwhelming. Even when he first begins to fly, he doesn't just soar away, it's awkward for him. I also love that he isn't the perfect hero from the start, he has a hard choice to make in this movie and it is handled perfectly, and makes Superman grounded in a way we have never seen before, and sets the tone for his future behavior.

When I first heard about this movie, I was a bit bothered by the fact that General Zod was going to be the villain, at the same time glad it wasn't going to be Lex Luthor, because he's been done to death. Lex Luthor should be a part of Superman, he just doesn't need to be the bad guy in every single movie. I also loved Terence Stamp's portrayal of Zod in “Superman II”, so like many, I was weary of another actor 's take on the character. After seeing the movie, I can honestly say I really loved Michael Shannon's take on Zod. He is a military man, dedicated to his planet and his people, unfortunately he takes that dedication to a genocidal level. But his intentions at first are not what I would call truly evil, they evolve into it. Shannon took the part and not only played it to perfection, he became General Zod.

The movie is visually stunning, as you would come to expect from director Zack Snyder (“300”, “Watchmen”). But his movies, while visually brilliant, have always felt devoid of heart, almost as if he really didn't understand his characters to the degree that he needed to. Not so in this case, I definitely felt that Snyder understood Superman, and gave him some depth. Having Christopher Nolan on board as a mentor to Snyder was a great combination, although the downside, as many have pointed out, is that the main female lead, Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, wasn't as fully developed as I would have liked to have seen. Adams was fine in the role, but I felt like there was more she could have done, I feel like they didn't do the character the justice she deserves, but perhaps they are going to do that with the inevitable sequel. That has always been an issue with Nolan, as his female leads never seem to be as strong as the male leads. Hopefully Snyder will remedy this in the next movie.

The action was on a level we have not seen in a Superman movie. The fights between Superman and the Kryptonians are huge, and there is massive destruction, as there would be from super powered beings fighting each other. There is also collateral damage, it is clear that people were killed as a result of these battles, something else we never really saw in a Superman movie. While that is a good thing, it brings up another point that others have pointed out. The collateral damage seems glossed over, no one really stops to look at what has happened, when all is said and done, it's basically, “ok thank god it's over” and that's pretty much it. Even a few lines about it would have at least given recognition to the fact that everything comes with a price. Apart from that, I thought the action was well staged and exciting, and on the level it needed to be at. Visual effects were solid, what imperfections there may have been , I didn't notice. I absolutely loved seeing Superman break the sound barrier when he flew, a very nice touch. The score by Hans Zimmer was also very good, although at times the score wasn't as noticeable as it should have been, but it could just be that the movie kinds distracts you from it. The one thing I missed was a central theme, the theme from “Superman:The Movie” is iconic, and one of, if not the best theme for a movie, ever. I wasn't expecting anything along those lines, but I was really hoping for a new Superman theme that was as fitting as the John Williams theme was. Not a big deal, as the rest of the music was solid, just the nostalgic side of me coming out.

The acting....solid all around, with Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe being the standouts, they owned their roles, two of the best performances from them both. In fact, I'd say it's the best role Costner has done in a long time, one of the finest of his career in fact. Laurence Fishburne was a great Perry White, Diane Lane was also excellent as Martha Kent. Henry Cavill, as Clark/Superman. While he was not what I would call outstanding in the part, he was very good, he made the part his own, he was not trying to emulate Christopher Reeve (the quintessential Superman, always has been, always will be) but that's not what the film makers were going for, so on that level, they succeeded. He did what he needed to do to make this a fresh start for a new Superman. Christopher Reeve was an outstanding actor, so anyone who takes the part of Superman, has a lot of weight on them, and Cavill handled it just fine.

I can see why people would not care for this movie, as it is very different from any Superman movie we have seen to this point. Many people, including myself, have a great love and affection for the 1978 movie. But this is a different time, and as we saw from the reaction to “Superman Returns” trying to  recreate the magic of that movie is a difficult task, and one that probably should not even be attempted. Like I said earlier, I liked “Superman Returns” but I see it as a stand alone love letter to the Reeve movies, and looking at it from that point of view, makes it enjoyable for me.

“Man Of Steel” brings us a new vision of Superman, one that can stand on its own as a great movie, but also serves as the beginning of a new series of Superman movies, and I look forward to the future adventures that Snyder and co. will bring us.

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