Monday, June 17, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel is Warner Bros.' most recent attempt to reboot the Superman movie franchise after 2006's rather disappointing Superman Returns. The film, which is directed by Zack Snyder and written by David S. Goyer, retells the tale of how Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) becomes the titular Man of Steel and saves the world from a genocidal General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his band of equally evil Kryptonians.

To be perfectly honest, my expectations for Man of Steel have been rather mixed from the very beginning. When I saw the first few trailers, my expectations were rather low based on the director's previous works and I felt the "dark and gritty" tone they seemed to be going for wasn't a good fit for the character. However, as more extensive trailers were released, my hopes slowly began to rise and hoped this film might breathe some new life back into the Superman franchise like Batman Begins did for the Dark Knight.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

Man of Steel, like its predecessor Superman Returns, had an incredible amount of potential to be the definitive Superman film for the current generation of movie-goers. However, it squanders this potential by letting it be consumed by a laundry list of problems.

First, the movie suffers from a number of story structure and pacing issues. The first half of the film, with the exception of the opening scenes on Krypton, feel like a collection of little vignettes that have very little connective tissue between them and go by so quickly that we see very little development for our main character. At times, it feels like we've even missed a scene or two (How did Clark know there was an ancient Kryptonian ship in the Arctic buried under the mountains of ice?). The regular flashbacks don't help with this, disrupting the flow even more. Once Zod and the other Kryptonians show up, the movie picks up a little bit before the second half is consumed by supercharged fight scenes that just drag on and on. While they were occasionally nice to look at, I started to grow bored with them and just wanted them to be over so we could get to the end of the film.

Man of Steel also offers very little in the character development department. Most of the scenes taking place in the present focus more on what Clark can do instead of who he is. In theory, the flashbacks are supposed to handle that like they did in Batman Begins. However, the majority of them just have Jonathan Kent repeating the same speech about keeping his powers secret because humanity won't accept him over and over again.

Speaking of Clark's adoptive father, this has to be the single worse interpretation of Jonathan Kent I have ever seen in my life. Jonathan Kent is supposed to be the man who instills a moral compass into Clark, showing him that he has a responsibility to use his powers for the betterment of mankind and to always find a way to save someone. However, this movie turns him into an asshole who actually suggests that Clark should have let an entire bus full of children die and prevents him from saving his life from a tornado to keep his powers a secret. I really wish he would have just been a one-note and bland like the rest of the characters. At least I wouldn't be as pissed off as I am about him.

Now, my next objection is more subjective than the rest and some people will most likely disagree with me on this. However, I can't give my honest opinion of this film without saying this: the protagonist in this movie doesn't feel like Superman to me. While there are spots in the movie where I see the Superman that I know and love shine through, those moments are few and far between. Instead, we have this rather bland character who doesn't care about the thousands of lives that he is putting in danger due to the massive amounts of property damage he is causing. Superman is a character who will go out of his way to save a human life and takes it rather personally when he causes someone to lose their life. I understand its fun to see two godlike entities beating the crap out of each other and seeing the carnage they leave in their wake, but when one of the characters in that fight is supposed to care deeply for humanity and is supposed to be willing to do whatever it takes to protect them, you'd think he'd try his hardest to not level entire blocks of a majority city fighting a single villain.

While Man of Steel does have a large number of faults, there are a few diamonds buried in the ruff. For example, the cast is easily the best part of this movie. While they have very little to work with character and script-wise, the majority of the actors (especially Amy Addams, Henry Cavill, and Michael Shannon) try their hardest to give a good performance and be entertaining.

The music by Hans Zimmer is decent as well. His compositions really do fit the tone and mood of the movie and never overpowered the scenes they accompanied. While I wished they could have brought back John William's score from the original and re-worked it to fit the movie, Zimmer's music still works.

Man of Steel is a movie that had a lot of potential to be something great, but squandered it with a poorly constructed story, bad pacing, and a serious lack of character development. However, if you just want to see a movie where two super-powered titans beat the crap out of each other, then you'll probably find some enjoyment out of Man of Steel.

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