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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Seven years after he last graced the big screen, Superman returns with a new film, produced by Christopher Nolan (the Dark Knight trilogy) and directed by Zack Snyder (Watchmen), that reboots DC comic's’ signature hero.  The overall story remains the same:  With the planet Krypton on the verge of destruction, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his new born son Kal-El to the planet Earth, where he is raised by John and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane).  Many years later, the grown up Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is desperate to know why he was sent to Earth and what his purpose in life is, during which he attracts the attention of reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams).  Clark also attracts Kryptonian exile General Zod (Michael Shannon) to Earth, who decides that the planet will be the perfect place to rebuild his race.

It is hard to believe that it is now eight years since the release of Batman Begins, which was successful in rebooting a Dark Knight franchise thought to be long dead.  It is obvious that Warner Bros is hoping that lightning will strike twice with Man of Steel, especially since 2006’s Superman Returns was not as successful in reinvigorating the hero.  Christopher Nolan’s name is being heavily used in association with the film, even though it’s unknown how much direct involvement he has with the film, other than a producer and story credit.  However, the film is written by David Goyer, who was the screenwriter for Batman Begins.  In fact, I probably have to say that Man of Steel follows many of the same beats as Batman Begins, especially in how much of the first half of the film focuses on Clark Kent, rather than Superman.  The first half is dominated by multiple flashback’s to Clark’s childhood, as well as many exposition filled scenes, and I can’t say that the film was as successful as Batman Begins in this regard.

It is obvious that, like Batman Begins, they are trying the best that they can to ground Superman’s origin story in reality.  However, this can be difficult to do with a character that flies, has x-ray vision, and can shoot lasers from his eyes.  One thing I did like is how Clark Kent’s secret identity isn’t really that much a secret.  Long before he started donning the cape, Clark wasn’t really afraid of saving people in the open, even if it meant them finding out he has super powers.  This includes Lois Lane, who knows right from the start that Clark Kent is Superman.  It sort of makes sense, since despite being an in-joke of the series (that’s still referenced in the film), it was somewhat illogical that Superman was able to hide his true identity by merely putting on a pair of glasses.  Speaking of which, the Daily Planet is well represented in the film, with Laurence Fishburne playing editor Perry White.

While the traditional archenemy of Superman is considered to be Lex Luther, the film opted to go with General Zod, who was last seen played by Terence Stamp in Superman II.  Since Zod was arguably the most iconic villain of the Superman film franchise, I’m sure there are some that would have preferred that that producers went in a more original direction and used a villain not yet seen in a Superman film (Brainiac perhaps?).  However, I thought that Michael Shannon did a good job with the role, even if it is essentially the same type of performance Shannon gives in every film he is in.  Also, Zod’s arrival in the second half of the film marks the point where it becomes much more action packed and enjoyable.  The film also spares no expense in showing that super-powered beings fighting results in A LOT of collateral damage.

I also have to make note of Man of Steel’s muted colour-palate, which doesn’t look as bright and colourful as you would expect a Superman film to be.  I suppose this is part of the effort to make the film look more grounded in reality, even though it also makes the film look a lot like a Terrence Malick film.  Also, while Han Zimmer’s score for film isn’t bad, I do really missed John Williams’ main theme, which has become synonymous with Superman.

Overall I would say that I enjoyed Man of Steel.  It probably isn’t as well-done a reboot as Batman Begins, but I thought it did a good job of bring Superman to a new era and I’d looking forward to revisiting this world in the years to come.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).