FILM REVIEW: Man of Steel

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The ultimate Boy Scout is back but can Man of Steel live up to the hype and expectations that have been surrounding it for the last year?

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Costner

Director: Zack Snyder

“In the pantheon of superheroes, Superman is the most recognized and revered character of all time. Clark Kent/Kal-El (Cavill) is a young twenty something journalist who feels alienated by powers beyond anyone’s imagination. Transported to Earth years ago from Krypton, an advanced alien planet, Clark struggles with the ultimate question – Why am I here? Shaped by the values of his adoptive parents Martha (Lane) and Jonathan Kent (Costner), Clark soon discovers that having super abilities means making very difficult decisions. But when the world needs stability the most, it comes under attack. Will his abilities be used to maintain peace or ultimately used to divide and conquer? Clark must become the hero known as “Superman,” not only to shine as the world’s last beacon of hope but to protect the ones he loves.”

First up a confession, I am a huge Marvel fan and have never been into DC. I have enjoyed on the odd story arc/graphic novel here and there but most of these had nothing to do with Superman as I could never relate to him. I enjoyed the original movie and sequel but the rest and Returns can stay away as far as I am concerned, which was why I held my breathe walking into this film as the trailers actually made it look epic. Could they have actually made Superman cool for today’s audience?

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The plot is an origin story but told in a fresh way that includes various time jumps back and forth through Clark’s life on Earth. This may confuse some people but please just go with it. The first part of the movie is set on Krypton and this is unlike any version you have seen on screen before and gave me a kind of John Carter feel that actually made me want to see a whole movie set on the planet with its technology, culture and ultimate downfall. Here we see Zod and Jor-El go head to head with a hugely expanded role for Superman’s biological father. This first part of the film gives more history than we have ever really seen before on film which all play huge plot points later in the story. Yes we get to see Kal-El launched into space in his ship on his way to Earth.

This is where it gets into a shifting timeline with a fully grown Clark discovering himself in the world while we get flashbacks of his childhood. The good news is that the pace moves swiftly along so we don’t have to wait long to see him in the suit or Lois looking for her scoop on the Man of Steel. It is also  not long before we get to see General Zod and his soldiers arrive and start to cause havoc. This helps with the length of the movie which clocks in at nearly 2 ½ hours long.

The cast of the film work well and feel comfortable in these iconic roles. Amy Adams, who I am not a great fan of, does a decent job as Lois Lane. Cavill is charming, yet determined as the last son of Krypton ,Shannon as Zod is powerful as the villain of the piece and gives Russell Crowe is understated but accomplished performance as Jor-El. Kevin Costner brings a solemnness to Pa Kent that stays with you. Laurence Fishburne seems to be creating a new Perry White for a new generation.

The direction by Snyder is  solid but ironically his frequent use of the slo mo effect in his other films is not on show here which is a shame because at times things are moving a little too fast. The super speed is one of those blink and you miss it parts and some of the fight scenes are shot way to close up. Although Snyder has created a deep and thoughtful approach to the mythos of Superman he also is joins the J.J. Abrams school of lens flare, which is a shame.

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Hans Zimmer score was a big highlight, while not nearly as memorable as John Williams it brings something new and bigger in scope  that perfectly matches the tone of the film. A special nod to the special effects which are well produced especially as they give half of the film the feel of a sci-fi film. A fair amount of the scenes are either not on earth or are filled with a legion of spaceships. This is the film that Green Lantern wanted to be but missed the mark.

Now for a few cons. Some of the CGI was still a bit cheap and you could tell it was not a real man. At this level of budget I wanted more. A  lengthy final act sees Superman crashing into and destroying numerous buildings in the city but seems to have no concern whatsoever for the people who are trapped or dying from the debris but gets upset when one person dies. . Hopefully he will show a little more concern for the collateral damage he’s causing in future outings. There were also nods and winks for fans but they were too few to make an impact.

The finale ties up a few loose ends well and gives us hope for the already confirmed sequel.

Man of Steel is a sci-fi comic book film of epic proportions that sows the seeds of a new mythology for the last son of Krypton that will entertain fans both new and old.

GS RATING: 4/5
Reporter: Montoya

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One comment

  1. My take on Man Of Steel:

    Man Of Steel is an enigma of a film. It’s was far removed from Richard Donner’s Superman The Movie as Batman Begins is from Batman & Robin. Yet unlike Batman Begins (from director Christopher Nolan, whose grubby finger prints are all over this film), Man Of Steel isn’t an unqualified success. It has too many issues, too many imperfections to rate up against that archetypal reboot/remake/re-imagining. However it’s also not the Sucker Punch flop that many expected from Mr Marmite, Zack Snyder.

    A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. After the death of his adopted father, the now grown up Clark Kent journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.

    Let’s get this out the way first: I have a real love hate relationship with Zack Snyder I loved The Dawn Of The Dead reboot. Loved it. Almost better than the original, one of my favourite horror films ever made. 300 was okay. But after that Watchman left me cold and very bored and Sucker Punch represented everything that was wrong with modern cinema. It’s leery, lusty teenage boy camera, trying to poke a look up every short skirt and down every loose blouse, it’s incessant use of CGI at every turn, it’s “fuck the story, here’s another CGI bang” attitude… everything. It’s probably one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Couple this with a distinct hate for Russell Crowe & Kevin Costner (Jor-El and Jonathan Kent) and my only previous experience of Henry Cavill being his Worst Film Of The Year winning ‘The Cold Light of Day’ and to say my expectations were set to ‘low’ is a mild understatement. Oh add a health love for Donner’s original and this movie didn’t stand a chance in my eyes.

    But do you know what? At times Man Of Steel is the greatest superhero film I’ve ever seen. Seriously. It’s the Superman movie I always wanted but never got from Donner (or from the lesser sequels), yet never realised I hadn’t gotten it until I’d seen Man Of Steel. Watching Superman punch General Zod through buildings in the crumbling Metropolis is one of the biggest “Fuck Yeah” moments in a film ever. What’s more it shows Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns to be even more of a bloated, dull retreat. But for every moment of “Fuck Yeah” fist bumping brilliance, comes another piss poor CGI thing doing something to another CGI thing. Yup that unrestrained, immature, childish Sucker Punch DNA is never more that a few frames away from Snyder’s mind and when it does slip into it, it drags the film own to a level where you just don’t care any more. It’s fair to say even I’m getting bored of SGI things hitting CGI things, and in honesty Synder has all the subtly of General Zod swinging a metal beam in the face of Superman, those lesser moments of reflection and calm regally ending with more CGI.

    Another issue I had with Man Of Steel was for all it’s nods to 9/11 that exist it’s it’s closing smack down’s you can’t help but feel those moments (which at times look identical to that now iconic news footage) felt a little too soon for a director as tactless and lacking in subtly as Snyder to deliver. Once again the metal beam is swung in the face of the audience.

    But again for every moment like this, there’s a touching moment with Jonathan or Lois. An action sequence that get’s thrilling and fun. Or some look into another world that is just phenomenal (the extended look at Krypton is simply break taking, a real highlight). Then comes another crash zoom, CGI vomiting and the film is runnier once again.

    A few more positives: whilst he’s no Christopher Reeve, Cavill is really good as Clark/Kal/Superman. Like really good. You care about him. You can see his pain. You like him (Brandon Routh take note!). Amy Adam’s is simply adorable as Lois. Whilst in the film them falling in love makes little sense, watching the film I certainly did. And as I alluded to previous, the world setting on Krypton is truly alongside some of Snyder’s best work. The music score is some of the best music in a film ever and I never once missed the iconic Superman theme.

    And oddly this is a film that demands a longer run time. A just under 2hrs 30mins it’s obvious that plenty was cut out, a fact even Snyder has admitted to ( a 3 hour cut is in existence). It’s the only film I can ever think of that could do with 20 mins cut out (CGI wankery) to put in at least another 40 mins of story which should help address the moments that feel rushed (Lios visiting Ma Kent), the kiss. Oh and yup finally I have a film with Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner that I both like AND think they are good in.

    I’ve never watched a film that I have loved and loathed in equal measure, like I have with Man Of Steel. It has far too much CGI, the story makes no sense at times and things happen without reason or thought. Lois needs to fall in love with Clark? Easy. We’ll have them just kiss. No actual reason. They just do, because that’s what they have to do. Oh here’s a suit from your home planet for you. The fact it has NOTHING to do with anything we have seen from your home world so far is okay, because you know, he has to get the suit right? It’s moments like these that remind you whose directing the film.

    So can I recommend it? For sure. It’s a film that cries out to be seen on the big screen. Will I watch it again? Hell yeah. It’s breathtaking action, it’ s gorgeous visual style, it’s spot on casting. Did I love it as much as Batman Begins or Iron Man? Urm. No. It’s far too floored, too rushed yet too long and relies far too much on CGI.

    So there you have it. Mostly not the disaster most feared and at times as epic and specular as any film I have ever seen. Until Synder forgets himself and fucks it up. Like I said at the start… A true enigma.

    Rating: 3/5 (an average of 2/5 and 4/10)

    PS: Damn read this back and realised I never even mentioned Michael Shannon as Zod. Genius casting. He’s wide eyed nutty ness makes you honestly believe he could kill everyone and everything. Just by looking at you. He’s as good as you expect him to be and whilst very different from Terrance Stamp, equally as good. But it’s Michael Shannon whose quite frankly is great in everything. Even having a shower in the morning no doubt.

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