Grade: BB / 60%
Summary: Superman is a welcome addition to the list of recently rebooted superheroes. While the second half of Zack Snyder‘s ‘Man of Steel‘ can be described as ‘Noise! Blasts! Destruction! Noise! Noise!!’, the first half soars largely because of Henry Cavill‘s performance. It’s worth catching this flight once.
Superman is a welcome addition to the list of recently rebooted superheroes that includes Spiderman (where Andrew Garfield replaced Tobey Maguire to don the new Spidey suit in The Amazing Spiderman). Henry Cavill is the young man in blue suit and red cape (without the red trunks, thankfully) who’s our Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El this time, and the actor has everything that makes him the perfect choice for Superman – a square-jaw, an extremely ripped body and a dashing appearance.
The character he plays is the strongest of all superheroes, but he is a superhero with a big heart and Henry Cavill has the face of a charming guy, a loving son, a doting lover and a responsible citizen, everything which makes us instantly empathise with him.
It takes Zack Snyder an entire film to establish Cavill as the harmless, bespectacled office employee Clark Kent, yet we already get to see our Superman saving the whole world from total destruction in Snyder’s Man of Steel. My concern here is that when Snyder keeps the stakes so high in the first film itself, how will this franchise (everybody knows there are two more films to come in the near future, and then a similar reboot) move to a whole new level in the sequels?
That is what troubles when I see the recent ‘saving the whole wide world’ trend in superhero movies. There was a time when common people ( i.e. Everyone excluding the Superhero and his nemesis) had some powers of their own but now it seems everyone has little job except to be attacked until their Superhero finally rescues them. Man of Steel had me wondering that when human beings on earth could use their technology and knowledge to create televisions, skyscrapers etc, why do they fall completely helpless a race from Krypton, whose world looks quite barren compared to Earth, invades them?
Apart from this, I’ve observed that CGI has upscaled the level of calamity to a 11 out of 10 and nobody really bothers about property destruction worth billions of dollars in Superhero movies; in Man of Steel, it seems as though the CGI team invaded the sets of the film as the second half was being shot, drove out Snyder from his chair and took over until the very end. Half the city is blown to pieces with skyscrapers tumbling like a house of cards, and still everything turns fine just like before the moment good wins over evil. Wouldn’t it take months or maybe years for redevelopment of a city, but no one pays attention to that!
In spite of these grumblings, I found myself liking Man of Steel more than the other Superhero blockbusters released this year like The Ironman 3. While director Snyder falters during the action sequences (he similarly botched up the nearly unbearable Sucker Punch), he is able to film the flashback sequences well, which form the core emotional content in the film.
His first shot is a close up of a mother’s wailing face as she’s giving birth to a child. Seconds later we realise the mother and child belong to a different world, and we cheer because Russell Crowe’s the father.
The Oscar winning actor plays Jor-El, Superman/ Kal-El’s father who belongs to the Kryptonite race; Jor-El and his wife celebrate this event as it’s the first natural birth in centuries on their warring planet. They want their son to ‘be free to forge his own destiny’ and so decide to send him away to Earth, where he shall be the first Kryptonite to adapt to human condition.
Before he can convince the leaders of Krypton (a bunch of conservative oldies) to move to another planet before death consumes them all, rebel General Zod and his supporters, who will go to any lengths to save Krypton, attack the leaders and try to convince Jor-El to support Zod in reviving the planet. Jor-El, however, has certain principles and he wouldn’t think of attacking his own people only to save the planet; when he refuses to support Zod, he is taken as a prisoner. Jor-El puts up a fight and escapes to his wife, and they successfully send their son to earth on a spaceship before Zod can stop them.
Zod kills Jor-El and then surrenders eventually; along with his supporters he is sentenced to three hundred cycles of ‘somatic reconditioning’ (whatever that means). They are in fact lucky to get this sentence as the planet is soon consumed in flames and they’re the only ones to survive. For the next thirty three years, they try to locate Kal-El and find him on planet earth on last. I must say poor earth is the most resilient planet of all, withstanding zombie attacks, alien invasions, bird terror, dragon rampage, Voldemort etc… the list can go on forever.
Jonathan and Martha Kent, a couple living on a farm in Kansas, find an infant Kal-El inside the spaceship and name him Clark. They raise him as their own son, and try to dissuade him from revealing his supernatural abilities to others for his own good. In one instance, when he saves all his class-mates when his school-bus crashes into the river, Clark is reprimanded for using his ‘god-like’ powers. When he asks his father whether he should’ve let the kids drown, he reluctantly replies “Maybe” only because he doesn’t want the world to see his son like a freak of nature.
Through various flashbacks, we are shown how Clark is pushed around, insulted and bullied by his school-mates and he bears the abuse silently. Words like ‘Dumb-a**’ and ‘ass-w*pe’ are used to taunt him only because he reads Plato in school (he’s have been my friend!). Clark keeps switching jobs when he grows up and remains a mystery man for almost everybody who knows him.
Tales of his abilities become a part of urban legend, until Daily Mail reporter Lois Lane (played by lovely Amy Adams) begins investigating about him. Now how does she know about him? The two cross paths when Clark’s a part of the crew that investigates a mysterious ship found in the Arctic, later revealed to be the Kryptonian spaceship; both Clark and fearless Lois try to find out what’s inside the spaceship before others can. When the ship’s automated defenses attack Lois, Clark rescues her and cures her using his abilities, telling her “I can do things other people can’t” (he means powers, supernatural powers).
Lois publishes an article about him anonymously after her boss refuses to publish it in his newspaper. She finds Kent after a series of investigations, and learns about his wish to keep his powers a secret. Before she can drop the article, a new storm brews up – a UFO is sighted close to earth, and it’s learnt that General Zod and his team are its inhabitants. A message is sent across to the whole world about the presence of a Kryptonian on earth, and a warning is given that if Kal-El doesn’t surrender in 24 hours, earth shall see its doom.
There is a humorous scene where Kent visits a church and confesses to a stunned priest that he’s the man Zod is looking for. He decides to surrender, and is handed over by the US army to Zod; however, Zod also demands that Lois be sent along with Kent. When Kent learns about Zod’s mission to wipe off human existence and establish their kingdom on earth, he fights back. Lois meanwhile learns how she can stop Zod from the ghost of Jor-El.
While the first half of Man of Steel is entirely taken up in building the plot, going back and forth in time to give much insight on Clark’s childhood and boyhood, the second half is taken over by a non-stop chain of action sequences. Something’s going on everywhere and you feel quite disoriented because the first half did a commendable job of holding you in.
There is little to write about the second half except ‘Noise! Blasts! Destruction! Noise! Noise!!’ and the sequences are not as smart as those in Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman; Spiderman could use his web to ingeniously trap his enemies, while all Superman can do is ‘Pow! Pow! X-Ray Vision!’. And while I do commend Lois’ tenacity, I thought her character seemed a little too over-zealous; take the scene where Zod asks the army to hand over Lois and she says ‘I’ll go’ like she’s going shopping. I would’ve wet my pants had I been in such a position.
Still, still, still I do believe this movie works. It’s sequels should scale down the scope and scale action and restrict to the destruction of New York or whichever place they’re shooting in, instead of ‘World destruction’. Maybe Superman should think twice before destroying property, and the sequels could have more sequences that show him saving a specific group of people (like Spiderman saving passengers on a runaway train in the brilliant Spiderman 2). This film has its moments, like the part where Superman finds out his true identity and soars across land and seas in his newly obtained suit. The first half soars in the same way; the second half spirals unsteadily but lands safely in the end. It’s worth catching this flight once.
- A Defence of Man of Steel (nicksteinberg.wordpress.com)
- Unreal Man of Steel (snippetstudios.wordpress.com)
- Man Of Steel #MOS: What I Loved About It (Spoilers Ahead) (politicaljesus.com)
- Film Review – Man of Steel (quitedapperblog.wordpress.com)
- “Man of Steel” – Overkill (tdhicks.com)
- Movie review: Man of Steel (praguepost.com)
- Dual Review – Man of Steel (themonsterpopcorn.com)
- ‘Man Of Steel’: On My Planet, The ‘S’ Is For Sucks [Spoilers] (comicsalliance.com)
- Man of Steel – Abs of Steel, Not Script of Steel – Review (dc50tv.com)