Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
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.
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.
Best Bit: Michael Shannon as Zod is excellent
Buy, Stream, Avoid: Stream
If You Liked this Try: Superman: The Movie, Superman 2, Batman Begins