Saturday, 15 June 2013

"What's the S stand for?"

            SERIOUS it seems. When the first trailers of Man of Steel hit the net, I was a little concerned about it looking too grim. And well, it really really was.



           Man of Steel (2013) takes us back to the origins of the famed son of Krypton (a very accurate description actually), when Jor-El sends his only son Kal-El to Earth as their home planet is on the verge of destruction due to natural factors and the rebellious General Zod. Kal grows up as Clark Kent, raised by human parents who believe that the world isn't ready for his superhuman powers and his extraterrestrial truth. When he departs to look for answers about himself, Clark constantly, though discreetly, helps people around him. This grabs the attention of Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lois Lane who tries to find out who this guardian angel is. When finally Clark finds out the truth, the fact that he is a child of two worlds, he has to make the choice about what kind of man he wants to be. In the midst of all this, an old enemy resurfaces.



              Let me start with what I really loved about Man of Steel, and that are its beginning and its ending. The film starts off in Krypton, but unlike the slightly bland planet shown in the first Superman movie, this is a wondrous alien world with all sorts of structures and creatures. One can understand why it is considered advanced. Here we meet Jor-El, played remarkably well by Javert Russell Crowe, trying to drill some sense into the Kryptonian bureaucrats and then kicking ass once Zod attacks. We see the kind of sacrifices made in order for Kal-El to live. It's a spectacular retelling of a story we're all familiar with. Then there is the ending, which after some two hours of oh so seriousness, shows us another well-known facet of this tale- Superman as Clark Kent, and also gives us much-needed levity and cause for hope. It is interesting to note that in a film all about hope and whatnot, it is this part that succeeds best.



        Now for the really big chunk in the middle. Right before I saw Man of Steel, I revisited Superman (1978) and properly watched for the first time, Superman II (1980), and I really enjoyed myself. I thought it was a good idea to remind myself of the tale and the man before watching the latest installment of this saga. In retrospect, that hasn't worked out for the best as we should really not compare them. If anything, people should now start weighing all superhero movies against Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. And this precisely was my biggest issue with Man of Steel. As much as I loved the trilogy, I hate that all superhero movies now think that they too need to get all deep and serious (except my beloved The Avengers of course). That formula worked with Batman, but it just feels off with something as fun and, well, slightly silly (you can try and make us forget the red underpants as much as you want) as Superman. Now I am not a comic book person so maybe I am getting this all wrong, but I really wish Man of Steel was a little more lighthearted than that.



            I understand that they were trying to make us more familiar with who Superman is, and I appreciate it as well, but it could have been done with a little humour, no? And I felt that the film had the right elements for it too. I really admired what Henry Cavill was doing when he was being slightly condescending to humans. Christopher Reeves's Superman too had that smirky endearing quality to him. Coming to the villain though, I was really saddened by how they made Michael Shannon's Zod kind of dull. Okay, he's bad and he has different motivations than Terrence Stamp's megalomaniacal one, but then? My favourite part of a superhero movie is always the supervillain (unless you are Tony Stark of course), and that's because they are entertaining. He didn't even say "Kneel before Zod" which is an awesome catchphrase! And honestly, where were the catchphrases? He was just evil. Meh. Before watching the movie, I was certain that I would get to see Shannon bring his special brand of zany villainy to the game (see: Premium Rush) but he didn't, and that was really disappointing.

          Next, the love interest. I was most excited for Amy Adams's casting as Lois Lane. I personally like Superman Returns, but even I can't defend Kate Bosworth who was terribly miscast as the feisty lady love of the man of steel. Adams seemed perfect, but alas, she caught the serious bug too. Again, I was intrigued by the film showing Adams's Lois as a proper, determined, intelligent, investigative journalist who is actually able to find out who Superman really was and who does not fall for that completely idiotic glasses on-and-off schtick of his. However, somehow in all of that, all her charm was lost which is insane because when I think of Amy Adams, I picture sunshine and rainbows. Sadly, none of that made it into the movie. Margot Kidder was absolutely adorable as Lois Lane in the original Superman movies and I really believed that they would get this right with Adams.



          And then there was the romance. I think I prefer Superman II a little over Superman except for two sequences in the latter, both of which had to do with Superman's and Lois's relationship. The first was when Superman took Lois on a flight (that's literally what it was) and it is simply one of the most magical scenes in film history. And then when, spoilers for those who haven't watched the film yet, he turns back time to save her. I mean, god that's romantic and where can I find a guy who can do that for me?! But I digress. Of course the ending gives us hope for such things in the definite sequels, but my problem here was that Man of Steel lacked that magic that their relationship brought to the other films. And I didn't understand why, spoilers again, they even had that romantic moment. They had this mutual respect thing going on that I could get behind, but then that happened and I was left very confused.

            My final issue with the film is the fight sequences in the climax. They just went on and on and on. I was completely desensitised by the end of it, and somehow I think so was Superman. The amount of destruction that this film shows possibly surpasses those in any other such films. It just felt really pointless and counter-productive, to be honest. And it was so weird to see Superman really not caring about any of it and just going on fighting and probably destroying more things than the villains would have done themselves. I think if they had cut out one of the three major action sequences at the end, probably the first one in Smallville, it would have been so much more effective and less brain-hammering. The seriousness followed by all the chaos and noise became too much for me at times.



             Even though all this makes it sound like I hated the movie, I assure you I did not. I liked it actually, just not too much. I praise the overall look of the film. Most of the wide shots were absolutely breathtaking, and the effects with Krypton and their very unique-looking technology were really cool. Some of the fight scenes, especially the hand-to-hand ones did look video game-y at times, but that can be ignored.

         As I touched upon earlier, I thought that Henry Cavill was quite commendable as our hero. He fits the role as snugly as the new suit fits him ^^ He was just really believable as this extraordinary man, both physically and emotionally. And as the female soldier says in the end, he's hot and that does not hurt one bit (all the chiseled jaw-ness *sighs*). Again, Russell Crowe did a pretty good job too, even though I laughed the loudest when his character died. Well, no one else actually laughed but that's because their sense of humour sucks. Kevin Costner, who played Papa Kent, was also good, although admittedly I did not like the character a lot till we saw what he did for Clark in a really fantastic scene that resonates with me more than that entire cacophony of a climax. My favourite supporting character in the film however was Martha Kent played by Diane Lane. I absolutely loved her. She was so wonderful and caring and her relationship with Clark was perfect. I have nothing to say about Lawrence Fishburne's Perry White except that he was boring and forgettable.



          Zack Snyder, who directed the film, was an interesting choice for it. It must be noted that he *has* made one of the best superhero movies ever, Watchmen. As I said, even though I liked that he showed us how Superman came to be, properly and in detail, I just wish he had been less heavy-handed with the material. He got the tone so right with Watchmen, it is a shame that he got side-tracked with the Nolanisation in this. Of course Nolan is a producer and though that will bring audiences into the theatre, I don't know how happy it will make them once in there.

             I went to watch this with my little brother and my mother. My brother absolutely enjoyed every second of it and my mother got a headache and therefore hated it (thank god, we didn't go for 3D. I would not have heard the end of it). Though I am more on the side of my twelve-year-old-going-through-a-weirdly-aggressive-preteen-phase sibling, I can understand my mother's viewpoint too.

         If I were to make an equation for Man of Steel it would be Snyder's Superman + Nolan - Charm. If you are up for it, do go and watch it.



12 comments:

  1. Oh, I love this review! It really goes into detail without spoiling. I feel that I got a sense of the film.
    Yeah, I don't think Superman should be dark or Nolan-ized. It fits Batman and Gotham, but Superman? Ah, no. The man wears tights, and nobody knows if he's a goddamn plane or a bird. Also the Lois Lane/Superman romance will stick out like a sore thumb in a darker version.
    And omg, speaking of which. That turning back time moment in the old Superman when Lois was born again from the earth has haunted my mind since my childhood. One of the best movie moments ever.
    Sad to hear that Amy Adams' joie-de-vivre got sucked out in favor of a more gritty tone. Why so serious?
    Still I am excited to see this. It seems in the sequels Snyder just needs to stick with being Snyder and not Nolan. Your review is still very encouraging. It actually made me more excited for this. Thank you, Nik!

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    1. Aww thank you so much! And for the long comment :D

      That Superman-Lois moment really is fantastic, isn't it?

      Well, I'm happy I haven't dissuaded you completely from the movie. I liked it fine.

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  2. awesome review nik. (y) i totally agree with pretty much all of it. i was so relieved to be able to laugh a bit towards the end. its an 8/10 for me.

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    1. Thanks Ally :P
      I'd give it a 7.5.

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  3. Great review. I was very hesitant of seeing this because of the serious tone too. Still your mention of the visuals make this one to see in theatres.

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    1. Thank you. It is very serious but does have its stunning moments.

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  4. Nice review. I loved the look of the film too, and the cast was a lot stronger than I thought it would be. The Kents were one of my favorite parts of the film. Diane Lane was awesome, indeed!

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    1. Thank you :)
      Ah, I loved Lane so much.

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  5. I disagree, Supes wasn't being condescending or arrogant at every point in the movie.
    And there were scenes that are humorous in nature during the film.

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    1. Oh not in a bad way. I really liked it. It was endearing.

      And very few humorous scenes, between huge chunks of super seriousness.

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  6. Very good review. Some things I agree with (the tone was way too serious), some I don't (thought Shannon was an excellent Zod. I actually thought Adams was good as Lois, but written poorly (again too seriously), so I don't lay any blame at her feet. Yes, all that destruction that took up almost the entire final act can be a bit much, but a welcome change from focusing on the shaky plot. I also liked it, but wasn't blown away. In the end, it looks like we grade it roughly the same.

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    1. Thank you. Yeah, Adams needed to be happier and more charming. I don't understand why they didn't let her do that because it seems so natural for her.

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