Man Of Steel Review – The Story Of A God Like Alien On Earth
Approximately 20 months ago, news broke out that filming had begun for a Superman reboot due for release in June 2013. The movie would mark the 75th anniversary of the global pop culture icon originally conceived by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938. GlobalMasala reported the first stills of the movie with British Star Henry Cavill donning the newly imagined suit which didn’t have the iconic red underwear on the outside. The movie would be directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan who had become extremely well regarded post the success of his Batman Dark Knight Trilogy.
As time went by, more details about the cast and proposed flavor of the movie began to emerge. The Superman reboot would be titled “Man Of Steel”. It would showcase the origin of Superman starting with his birth on Krypton, similar to the 1978 original starring Christopher Reeve. Needless to say the anticipation of the film’s release and the expectations of it repeating the tremendous success of Nolan’s Batman reboot began to take shape. Superman fanatics like us who are named after the newspaper where Clark Kent works looked out for any piece of information regarding the movie. When the release date of June 14, 2013 was announced we counted down the days leading up to the opening.
And then the moment finally arrived. On the night of June 14, 2013 sitting with our Superman tees, we put on our 3D glasses in the hope of being blown away by the first ever Superman reboot in 35 years. How many stars would we give to the Man Of Steel review? A movie featuring our inspiration. We were soon to find out
They say that one should never judge a book by its cover. After watching ‘Man Of Steel’ it can be safely said that one should never judge a film by its trailer, NEVER. The first few trailers of the movie shown 12 and six months before its release truly gave an impression that the film would be remarkable. The trailers indicated that perhaps most of the story would be focused on how Kal-el balances being human in a world where he could play God. They gave a sense that the movie was possibly taking cue from Smallville, the 10 season long television series focused on Clark Kent before he became Superman. As it turns out though this was not the case.
Man Of Steel turns out to be extremely complex tale of a man from Krypton as he struggles to find his place in an imperfect and weaker human society. The director has extracted the canonical account from 75 years of seemingly infinitely layered supermythology about the character, changed it to cater to his whims and fancies and showcased it using non-linear storytelling. This leaves those with a low Superman quotient utterly confused about what’s going on. Those who can make sense of it all are left to wonder as to why the script needed to be so complex in the first place.
The first 30 minutes of the movie are brilliantly done. It gives the audience a feeling that the film will use the huge advances in technology made since the last Superman movie coupled with a darker plot to create something that leaves the viewers asking for more. Similar to the 1978 original, ‘Man Of Steel’ too starts off on Planet Krypton with Russell Crowe playing the role of Superman’s birth father Jor-El. Most of the details around how Krypton gets destroyed and his only son (named Kal-El) gets sent to Earth in a space capsule have been preserved. In what appears to be a pattern consistent throughout the rest of the film, Mr Snyder has taken several cinematic liberties and changed many details. One can thus see Jor-El stealing something called the ‘codex’, dying at the hands of Zod while leaving his wife, Lara-El alone as additional plots in the story.
The next time you see Kal-El after liftoff, he’s all grown up and toiling on a fishing boat off the northwest Canadian coast, a filmic ellipsis that abruptly spans decades. A beat later and he’s also shirtless and holding back a tower wobbling on a burning oil platform. And then, like Hercules who rises from his funeral pyre — having cast off his mortal body and assumed his godly form — Superman, a k a Clark Kent, is engulfed in flames. The rest of the movie before the nonsensical final 45 minutes of lower power coarsegrained action and computer-generated banality is told through flashbacks every-time Clark Kent encounters a deja-vu moment. The much awaited moment when Clark dons the newly-designed Superman suit is not as spine-tingling as one would have liked. Mainly because it lacks the sequential narration about Clark’s difficult journey to discovering the truth about himself and his capabilities.
One of the pleasures of the Christopher Reeve ‘Superman series‘, which took off in 1978 and bottomed out in 1987, was how the movies managed to be both charmingly old-fashioned and of their contemporary moment. The technology of that period didn’t allow for the kind of destruction shown in most Hollywood action movies of today and so, the writers couldn’t deviate much from the original story. As compared to the 1978 original, ‘Man Of Steel’ lacks in humor, symbolism and for the true fan there are too many deviations from the true genesis of the character. After all, how can one accept Lois Lane knowing the truth about Clark Kent so early in the movie.
In the end one realizes that the “Man Of Steel” is not about Superman at all. Its really about a god like alien from the planet Krypton passing off as a human in the guise of Clark Kent. He wears a blue colored suit with an emblem like S to turn into god when the situation demands so. As New York Times movie critic Manhola Dargis notes in his Man Of Steel review
‘Man of Steel’ Depicts a Striving Stranger in a Strange Land
One can imagine that Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan truly battled with the problem of how they would present a Superman reboot without people comparing it to the 1978 version which had the immortal Christopher Reeve playing the superhero. As it turns out their solution was to prevent any reference to the eight letter word with a capital S. ‘Man Of Steel’ has only one reference to the term Superman which is said an haste by an army official for the lack of a better word. The final moments of the movie however suggest that the sequel to Man Of Steel will have a direct reference to Superman. It will most likely also show the mouth-watering transformation of Clark Kent to Superman, a scene which was missing this time as Clark Kent doesn’t join the Daily Planet as a reporter till the very end of the movie.
As far as performances are considered, Henry Cavill does a fine job as do most other cast members. On closer observation Cavill does resemble Christopher Reeve particularly during one scene when he’s being pulverized by a gravity ray from Zod’s Kryptonian spaceship. Amy Adams doesn’t seem very convincing in her portrayal of Lois Lane, perhaps Kristin Kreuk who plays Lana Lang in Smallville would have been a better choice. The best performance however belongs to Michael Shannon who plays Jor-El’s and Kal-El’s arch nemesis Zod.
And finally, to the question of whether you should watch ‘Man Of Steel’, the answer is YES. Even though the movie is not about Superman, the brand is too iconic to miss out on. Hopefully this Man Of Steel review will set your expectations right making your movie experience more enjoyable. It will also prevent you from waiting till the end of the credits in the hope of seeing a hidden post-credits scene because there isn’t one here.
Hardcore Superman and DC Comics fans who enjoyed Man Of Steel can rejoice to the fact that as of June 10, 2013 it was confirmed that there will be a sequel to the movie featuring the same cast and crew. In 2015 and 2016 it is likely that the Man Of Steel sequel and possibly a Justice League movie featuring both Batman and Superman will hit the screens (a satellite with the logo Wayne Enterprises can be spotted briefly in Man Of Steel). Looking back at the Superman I, II and III movies, it can be observed that Superman III was the best of the lot implying that it takes time for a character like Superman to grow and deliver the goodies that everyone wants to see. We therefore continue to live in hope that similar to how the Dark Knight was truly fabulous, the Man Of Steel sequel would follow the same trend and deliver something which can be rated closer to 5 stars.