Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: Man Of Steel

Time constraints allow only 1 entry so far this month, and I'm going to dedicate it to the first film of 2013 to leave me in complete awe.

I realize reviews have been mixed, so take this as a personal opinion, and form your own if or when you see it.

My verdict: Man Of Steel is INCREDIBLE.

***Beware of spoilers ahead. Apologies, but I can't do it justice without going in depth.***

Let's start at the beginning - not this reboot, but the original movies which starred Christopher Reeve.
I saw Superman when I was in kindergarten, and the experience was nothing less than life-changing. Not only was I formally introduced to my first superhero, it's also my earliest memory of eye-popping special effects ( before I saw Star Wars ), and believe it or not, my first crush on an actor. :)
Superman II made an even bigger impression - that's the one with Zod - and remains my favourite of the Reeve franchise.

Bryan Singer's 2006 update was a massive letdown despite the presence of my all-time fave actor, Kevin Spacey. Aside from an awkward script and lacklustre directing, they made a huge mistake in casting Brandon Routh who, though physically appropriate for the role, is a terrible actor.

To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for Zack Snyder's reboot. I enjoyed some of his earlier work - 300, Sucker Punch - but didn't connect with Watchmen or Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. And while his films are known for being visual adventures, they suffer in the script and acting departments.

Man Of Steel also has its flaws - a few clunky scenes and lines, a less-than-stellar villain - but these are totally obliterated by the brilliant parts.

You're welcome to disagree, of course, but the first scene that practically tore my heart out of my chest involves a school bus careening off a bridge. Young Clark Kent defies his adoptive father's repeated warnings to keep his powers hidden, lifting the vehicle to safety, then diving into the river to rescue a bully who tormented him moments before the crash.

This sequence moved me immensely, and no other superhero movie has ever had the same effect.

There's another scene, also featuring young Clark as he's cornered by a group of bullies who taunt him to fight back. Somehow, he manages to restrain himself, and only after someone helps him up (the same boy he saved from the river ) do you see his hand release its hold on a pipe that is deformed as a result of his superhuman strength.

Another major tissue moment for me. :)

These two scenes really stand out for the following reasons:
1) We know Clark has superpowers, and so does he.
2) However, he chooses not to use them even when he has good reason to.
3) He is invincible, yet becomes the target of bullies.
4) His obedience to adoptive father, Jonathan, is truly remarkable.
5) In spite of his tender age, his unwavering sense of morality is already established.

The original films never explored Clark's youth in detail. I think it's much harder for a child / teenager to control his primal urges, especially when he's fully aware of his abilities. Making a conscious decision to do the opposite is almost impossible for someone in his position. Hence the poignance of these scenarios.

These insightful snippets are utilized to great effect in the form of strategically placed flashbacks - another format not employed in the earlier movies.

Adult Clark also has his fair share of turmoil - i.e. leaves home, spends time working on a fishing boat and a diner - before discovering his origin and true purpose.

The parallels with Jesus Christ are glaringly obvious, especially when taken together with Jonathan Kent's cautionary words about the world not being able to accept Clark's powers, and Jor-El's intonation about Kal-El becoming human so he can be a bridge between two worlds. There's also the number 33 being tossed around - Superman's current age in Man Of Steel, also Christ's age when he was crucified.

David S Goyer and Christopher Nolan co-wrote the script, and I definitely would like to know why they chose to tell Superman's story from this particular angle. Maybe when I have time, I'll do an exhaustive Google search and solve the mystery.

Henry Cavill does a splendid job as Clark / Superman. I watched all 4 seasons of The Tudors and he featured prominently in the series, so I'm no stranger to this handsome young man who narrowly missed snagging leading roles in Casino Royale and Twilight. Christopher Reeve is a very tough act to follow, but Cavill is a very worthy successor.

Empire magazine mentions the lack of humour in Man Of Steel, but I don't mind it at all. It's a welcome change from the formulaic blockbuster with its snarky one-liners and gimmicks. MOS doesn't match The Dark Knight's foreboding gloom, but its somber tone fits the storyline and adds a nice touch of maturity.

Amy Adams is lovely as Lois Lane. I've never been a big fan of Margot Kidder's clownish portrayal, and Kate Bosworth lacked fire. Adams may not have that much to do here, but she exudes a classy intelligence and demonstrates good chemistry with Cavill. Their single kiss was a tad forced, but hopefully things will improve in the sequel ( already announced, woohoo! ).

Michael Shannon as General Zod was quite disappointing - unfortunate, considering his impressive body of work thus far. After the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch ( Star Trek Into Darkness ) and Guy Pearce ( Iron Man 3 ), Zod comes across as a bit of a wimp. This is not helped by redundant lines like "This can only end one way - either you die, or I do." Huh???

Russell Crowe does an admirable job as Jor-El, rising above the campy armour costume, winged creatures and strange names. But it is Kevin Costner who is the beating heart of this film. No other superhero mentor comes close to Jon Kent, who nurtures an extraordinary child and transforms him into an exceptional adult.

Oh yes, the visual effects are also quite spectacular. I wasn't paying as much attention to those though. :)

I'll probably watch this many more times when it's released on DVD. Suffice to say, it's my favourite superhero movie to date, regardless of its commercial performance.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for reading. :)