It’s a start.
After watching Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, it looks like Batman is still the DC powerhouse and Superman has a long road ahead.
The Superman franchise had its greatest boons during the late 1970’s to early 80’s under the Christopher Reeve regime. As we know, there have been several highpoints and pitfalls since he ended his tenure as the character.
The latest incarnation, Man of Steel is neither a shining beacon of filmmaking nor a total disappointment, as the previous manifestation (Superman Returns) was. Much like the original series, the casting for Man of Steel was perfect. Hopefully the sequels keep Henry Cavill as the lead. The best thing this flick had to offer was the acting of Mr. Cavill and Amy Adams.
Man of Steel was the film that had to be made in order to act as a defibrillator to the series. Snyder shouted “CLEAR” and the eyes started to open, but only faintly. There can be no doubt the series will start to revive, but there must be great changes in future. Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from Man of Steel:
Caution: Mild Spoilers Ahead
We all know the story. Superman is born to a dying planet and sent to Earth, presumably as its future savior. He lands in Kansas, USA and the Kent’s, a good-natured all-American family, find and raise him. In the film, his childhood was handled just right. Mostly in flashbacks, the audience can see the relationship and the principles he learned from the Kent’s. Kevin Costner delivered a great line when he reassured a doubting young Clark, “You are my son.” This is why he is forever tied to Earth. The love between parent and child, though often tested, is forever absolute.
Lois Lane: Amy Adams is by no means a starlet trying to get discovered, but she was revealed in a whole new light in this movie. She made the green screen and CGI work (it was close to not working). Her expression of terror when in peril and the utter thankfulness at Superman’s arrival to save her was so believable that she is the new and perfect Lois Lane. That character had to be played just right. If it was too meek, the actress totally missed the mark (Superman Returns); too strong, someone’s trying too hard. Adams hit it on the nose and overthrew Margot Kidder.
Superman: Henry Cavill triumphantly brought this character to life. He delivered every line with such earnest purpose that you could not help but feel he was the man. Cavill looked the part and, more importantly, did not go over the top. Chris Nolan had to have something to do with this. He is a master at making the audience connect without getting in their face. Bravo, sir. We hope to see you don the CGI cape in future Superman films.
General Zod: Michael Shannon is an acting genius and made some interesting choices with the character. The character itself has flaws but he is the reason it’s in the “Good” column. He embodied the necessary hate for Kal-El and love for Krypton. He was vicious with a hint of reservation, knowing his actions were governed by his breeding.
Misc: We had the Phantom Zone make an appearance. I understand all stories need updating but some classics need to remain. The Phantom Zone is a Kryptonian staple. Though changed slightly, it still works.
The Fortress of Solitude needed work but was otherwise very good. It gives Superman a home to hopefully be explored more extensively in MOS2.
No one wanted anything negative to be in the new Superman movie more than I. Unfortunately, that wish wasn’t granted. I know it’s a sacrilege to trash a story created, even in part, by Chris Nolan, but it has to happen.
Story: The story needed a little work. Perhaps it is because I’m a stickler for strict adherence to comic book lore or because harvesting babies was crazy. Interesting idea, but General Zod was traditionally looking for slaves, not to extinct an entire planet of perfectly good worshipers. Tyrants, be they alien or domestic, want followers and servants, not a barren wasteland where they have to raise a million babies.
Baby Harvesting: And just what happened to those babies in the Genesis Chamber (genesis chamber actually from Star Trek II)? Did we actually watch Superman blow-up a ship carrying Matrix-like slumbering infants? If the newborns weren’t on the ship that blew-up, they were onboard the vessel that was sucked back into the Phantom Zone. I have no problem with darkness in cinema, but damn.
No Famous Line: You casual observers of comic book detail may not have noticed the lack of Zod’s famous line. The line is “Come son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!!!” This is a magical moment in any medium, written or spoken. It appeared that they tried to make the new line, “I will find him”, (speaking to Jor about Kal) the line to remember. Don’t misunderstand me; it was a haunting line, but nothing like what we are used to.
Further Story Gripes: Lois Lane is not supposed to know the identity of Superman. They got him working at the Daily Planet eventually, so good job there, but they blew the interoffice love affair. She spends her career hunting him down for interviews and photo-ops, but now what are we going to have- some Peter Parker-like posing for the best action shot?
The story was not ugly because it had redeeming qualities, but there were some things in this flick that had no possibilities of recovery. (Also, I’ll only mention it here; the film was just too long).
Krypton: This is supposed to be a planet of the future. Instead, it looked like they were cave dwellers with floating cell phones. Those floating things, I mean…. Ah, just forget it.
Krypton looked better in the 80’s when Brando was running the place, and he definitely would never ride on a huge dragonfly.
The Opening: The opening was drawn out. Keep the explanation of why the planet is screwed and nix the rest. Zod doesn’t need a major battle on two planets. Show his trial and sentencing to the Phantom Zone. There are sequels to show flashbacks from the Fortress of Solitude that explain that and other necessary info.
The Fighting: After a while it was getting monotonous and hard to follow. It had its moments of total CGI fake-atude, but just seemed to drag on. They destroyed more of the Metropolis than the World Builder (see Aliens). The whole purpose of Superman is to prevent harm. Please remember, if what action you have is already good, don’t go overboard. If I had to watch the ‘fly fast and ram the enemy” move one more time I was going to pass out.
What gummed up the works was the dreamlike sequence between Kal-El and Zod. This was an unnecessary tool to use. It only pointed out that Superman loved his parents and the human race. Zod threatening Lane and various innocents during his fight with Superman would have better displayed this. The ending, where Superman crosses the line no one thought he would, (I’ll leave this vague for late viewers) should have been the style for all of the fight scenes.
Some found the flashbacks confusing and the Christ imagery controversial but the flashbacks were perhaps the only filming aspect I enjoyed. The Christ imagery works because their stories mirror each other (now please don’t write letters; it’s only an analysis). Superman, like Christ, was the son sent to Earth to save or lead its populace. In doing so, there came some persecution and ultimate acceptance. The literal placing of Henry Cavill in the church with the face of Jesus behind him was blatant. Also, when he floats out of the alien ship, positioning his body in the style of the cross had to be an intentional choice. It was bold to make it so clear. You are either okay with it or not, but that doesn’t affect the actual film too greatly. For those who want to see it, it’s a bonus. For others, it’s just in the one scene.
Folks, believe it or not, I liked the movie. It has a way to go to become just right, but compared to other incarnations, I say let’s move forward with this group. Nolan and Cavill brought the Man in Man of Steel to the forefront without going emo. I thought I would not like the whole “only calling him Superman once” thing but it worked. It made the man more important. This should be the cast for future renditions but I think we could use new directorial and story leadership. I would suggest a Jon Favreau, Kevin Smith, or Joss Wheadon-type filmmaker or writer. Chris Nolan is still a genius but needs to stick to characters from this world.
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