Saturday, June 22, 2013

Man of Steel

  Upon returning from my viewing of Man of Steel, I came fully prepared to dive into writing my review, when my friend pointed out that there's legitimate hate for this movie out there. I am more baffled by the hate for this movie than I will be baffled about any other baffling thing ever.  People are calling it "hollow" and "emotionless" when this is one of the first Superman movies ever that feels alive and passionate. The story is moving and in the way it's told, is very brilliant. The movie avoids the pitfall of trying to one-up or out-do the Richard Donner movies, it obviously isn't looking to be anything like them either. From the core design scheme of Krypton to the alterations to Superman's backstory... everything is unique and functional. More than that, it has every ounce of potential needed to become fully iconic.

  I feel that this is perhaps the truest representation of Superman ever to be filmed. What he is, what he stands for and represents. There was a whole fiasco about Superman being "American" for a while. Yet in the movie, one of the most brilliant things (semi spoiler) was when he's asked by a US Army general if he'd ever turn on the humans and use his powers against them, he replies: "I grew up in Kansas general... I'm as American as it gets." The line alone is brilliant, the delivery is spot-on. It generates a smile, because we all know it's true. The movie is indeed an origin story, but out of six Superman movies (counting this one) it's only the second time we've seen his origins portrayed. It's quite spectacular too.

  His origin's have been tweaked a bit, I won't say how, except that it's not the ridiculous rumor that Krypton doesn't explode and that it enhances his character in a really neat and unexpected way. Against all odds, Zack Snyder and those responsible, have actually added to Superman, and made it better. They didn't change any fundamentals. The core of his story is the same. What they did was, they took it, deconstructed it logically, and put it back together in a way that would make sense to a modern audience. It's far more of a serious science fiction adventure than it is the light hearted romance fantasy movie Richard Donner made. I think that's what people wanted more of. People probably wanted a movie to recapture the magic and feelings that the Richard Donner movie generated about Superman. Sorry folks. Your hearts are in the wrong era.

  It's hard to boldly tell an audience that their opinion is just... wrong. Yet, in this instance, it's true. They are wrong. The Richard Donner Superman was a product of it's era. It was the best Superman they could have made then. This is now. Superman is due for an upgrade. It's wrong to hate on a movie because it doesn't cater to your desire for nostalgia. Even if they won't call it that, one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes said: "where's the fun? Where's the romance?" This movie doesn't cater to the saccharine-sweet memories people have of Superman movies, because that's all they are anymore. Their memories of Superman. Nobody said that's how Superman should always be. I reiterate, that was then and this is now. To harshly judge this movie because it doesn't match your ideas of fuzzy warm, feel good fun, and romance that Superman should have, is unfair. Totally out of line if you ask me. It's bias. Which is the worst thing a critic or reviewer could possibly be.

  Superman is faced with an eminent threat in this movie, a squad of Kryptonian war mongers who once tried to take over Krypton and control it's future. They've come to Earth after a long and desolate exile in search of a piece of technology that Jor El sent with Kal. This device would allow they to do the unthinkable. Little do they know... it's not where they think it is. Fighting against his own people to save his adopted planet, Superman has never been more compelling on-screen. It's intense and gripping. The plot and story were far better and more developed than I expected. General Zod, the villain, has much better motivation this time around as opposed to the Zod from Superman II. A simple and threadbare god complex and a desire to rule was what motivated the original Zod. Yet, in Man of Steel, this Zod is a patriot to his race and wants only to restore Krypton at any and all costs. Even genocide. This makes him a compelling villain, and a pitch perfect antagonist for this story.

  Superman's physicality here is spot on as well. He's unleashed in fight scenes, generating carnage and destruction in his battles with the kryptonians on levels only comic books could dream up. (-and possibly Michael Bay. Just sayin.) One won't be complaining about a lack of action here that's for sure. His new suit works wonderfully too. A cleverly designed cross between something heroic and royal looking, and a battle ready weave of chainmail. The genius design doesn't stop there. Krypton and everything Kryptonian is also impeccably and creatively designed. In a retelling such as this, a whole alien society runs the imminent risk of looking generic. In an age where every other blockbuster is depicting futuristic stuff and alien civilizations it can be hard to look unique. Yet, this movie looks incredibly unique. It fires the imagination and looks wonderful. I hope it becomes downright iconic. Simply great.

  The movie boils everything in the plot down to what makes sense. Every character has clear cut motivation and goals. Nothing happens just because it can. Like turning back time by reversing the planet's spin. Nu uh. Everything in this movie makes sense and has a logic to it. It's massive in scope and contemporizes Superman without sacrificing the old fashioned sense of duty and heroism that makes the character so wonderful. On the contrary, in fact, it embraces it. They could've messed this up so easily, yet I'm so happy they completely stuck the landing on it. It's perfect. It's not "darker" like you might think. In fact, that word has been thrown around too much. If you look at it, the old Tim Burton Batman movie was literally darker than any of the Nolan Batman films. So when people say Man of Steel is "darker" like The Dark Knight, I call bullshit. Films that take themselves seriously and stop treating the character with fantasy gloves aren't fucking "darker". They just treat the films with a modicum of realism. There's also NOTHING wrong with that. More people should catch on.

  The cast is wonderful. With little screentime to make an impact both Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Pa and Ma Kent, respectively, knock it out of the park. Emotions run high as they raise Clark and watch him grow into the man he's quite literally always been destined to be. I loved both actors in these roles, they did excellent. Henry Cavill as Superman was also a stroke of genius. The best since Christopher Reeves, and quite possibly the best, period. He embodies Superman physically, and emotionally. We feel his struggle, see his pain, and can't help but cheer when he becomes the hero we all know he is. Amy Adams as Lois is also great. She's fiesty, bold, and most importantly smart. I won't say much except, it would've been an insult to think a simple pair of glasses would fool an investigative reporter like her. Thank goodness they didn't roll with that. Laurence Fishburne is all potential as Perry White. Unfortunately... he's given no memorable scenes and negligible screentime. We all know he's already nailed the character. He just wasn't given time to show it.

  Also, it'd be a crime to not mention the wonderfully villainous Michael Shannon as Zod. He played the part with such fiery gusto and enthusiasm, I can't imagine anyone else playing it better. Or even anywhere near as good. He was one of the most memorable things in the movie. I loved his performance here, eclipsing even that of the classic Terrance Stamp. Accompanying all these heroics and villainry is an amazing music score by Hans Zimmer. One of his best I think. Avoiding the trailer stock brand of percussion in favor of a more sweeping and emotional brand of music, he made the right choice. Superman had big shoes to fill in the department of music. I'm thrilled to say, they have been properly and adequately filled.

  So all in all, this is the Superman modern audiences need to see, and this is the movie we've deserved for so long. I can't imagine a better onscreen representation of Superman. This was fantastic. Go see it, show your support. With the overwhelming wave of misplaced negativity from the critics, this shining example of pitch perfect "Superman" certainly needs all the support it can get.


  1. It is always entertaining and fun to watch, it just isn’t as epic or dramatic as I thought it was going to be. Good review Joseph.

    1. I'm curious as to how you think it could've been any more dramatic or epic? Regardless, at least you liked it. With all the negativity abound for this movie, we need more people who simply like it. Thanks man.