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Man of Steel Review: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Another Franchise!
Is it over yet? The Man of Steel buzz? Probably not. When you take Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder together, you can expect a Dark Knight and 300 mash-up, and that’s exactly what Man of Steel is – a noteworthy reboot with one thing missing: a new franchise. That will come soon enough, but for now, here’s what you need to know about the blockbuster Man of Steel:
Production Value: Near Flawless
Aside from a brief moment where my keen video game eye noticed that the scene was entirely CGI, everything else about the production was sweepingly fascinating. From the atmospheric, slowly swelling music to the lightning fast and large scale battles, Man of Steel simply impresses with its production value.
Snyder matched Michael Bay’s most recent decimated city in Transformers: Dark of the Moon with a devastated Metropolis, and frankly I prefer the hand to hand battles of Snyder’s Kryptonians over Bay’s Transformers. Snyder caught the momentum of super-powered individuals very well, translating high-speed, full-power exchanges accurately well for the big screen.
The budget blown over for Man of Steel was money well spent on a film, as the production value undoubtedly proves. From Krypton to Earth, from the World Engine to the fighter jets, and from General Zod to Clark Kent, Man of Steel was near flawless in production.
Plot: Retold, Re-mastered, Re-launched, but Overshadowed
The Superman story is 75 years old, and there is very little possibility of being able to retell it fresh without massively changing what is considered the foundations of one of the best superheroes in comic or Hollywood mythos. Nolan and Snyder decided to tackle Superman’s origins at length, bringing his own people to bear at him as the final climactic factor that makes him decide to be mankind’s symbol for hope. Though as Louis Lane pointed out, “Here it’s an ‘S.’” So they dubbed him Superman instead.
If you watched Nolan’s Batman Begins, Inception, or The Prestige, you’ll instantly recognize his style of breaking down a story and telling it as non-linear as Quentin Tarantino does. In Man of Steel, the same back and forth flashbacks apply, and sometimes, I must admit, it hurt the telling of the current storyline somewhat, where Clark Kent is still running away from his true self, heeding the warnings of his late foster father Jonathan Kent. At one point I started to ponder if I missed the part where Clark successfully shaved his super beard, because, really, that would be interesting. One scene he had his scraggly beard going, and the next, it was gone.
But forget about the beard. This Superman’s plot revolved around Clark’s hard-learned lesson of hiding his abilities from mankind, his search for his true identity, and his eventual decision to ‘f*ck it, I’m Superman.’
Two pivotal points in the story were quite powerful: Clark ruminating on the right course of action to take in a small church, where he consults briefly with a man of the Gospel, and Clark’s father making a satisfied stand to protect his son, even at the cost of his own life. The latter, might I add, is a scene worthy of the film’s title. Now that’s a Man of Steel.
Krypton, and the brief glimpse of its troubles and eventual explanation by Jor El, was well formed. The characters themselves – from Jor El to Jonathan Kent to General Zod – were all believably resolved to their own paths, so we only really get to see Clark’s personal journey. Even Loius Lane already had her independent, tough female journalist thing going. It was all about Clark and the world he wanted to protect.
At the end of it all, though, you might wonder when the climax began and where the build-up ended. This is a fine point of contention that I have against the telling of this side of the plot: there was no build up that you can feel emanating in your bones. You’ll just be surprised that the fights are already starting. The final scenes felt like a new beginning. Of a Superman franchise. And it’s quite welcome.
The Experience: Worth the Money; Might have Been Overhyped
While there is no grand psychological twist or a deeper soul-searching meaning behind this film, it’s well worth your money. It’s classic Superman brought to the modern era, no punches pulled. The similarities to Batman Begins are uncanny: the protagonist’s origins haunt him and threaten the destruction of his home, where he experienced both tragedies and life lessons. It really looks like a franchise-opener. Especially with those Easter Eggs concerning Luthor Tower and Wayne Enterprises (did you notice them?). If Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is the prototype to be followed, then the next film we’ll probably see Lex Luthor, Superman’s Joker.
The journey from the loner Clark Kent to the shining beacon of hope that is Superman might have been the focus, though you might not feel it as much. By the time Kryptonians start punching you’ll probably forget it. The action in this blockbuster was well done, however, and that’s probably another reason why much of anything else that happens before the fighting starts is easily strayed to the peripherals of your memory. Don’t expect the laughs of The Avengers and Iron Man 3, however – you can count the purposefully lighthearted moments in this film with the fingers of your hands. The death toll, however, you can’t.
By the end you’ll understand the entirety of the being that is General Zod, a Kryptonian failed by their own system of class, and a dutiful man turned into a monster. His final showdown against Superman is a superb finale to the drawn out battle between Superman, the outcast Kryptonians, and the Earth’s inferior military forces. The ending was rather dark for classic Superman sensibilities, but it sets the stage for what Clark will do to ensure the safety of Earth.
Man of Steel is the journey of a Kansas farm boy from outcast to hero, but you won’t notice his inner struggles over the flashy fistfights. What you would probably remember, however, are the people who made him the Man of Steel: Jonathan Kent standing in the path of a tornado with a smile on his face, Jor El forsaking the future of his planet for the hope that is his son, even Louis Lane who supported him in his time of trial. And of course, General Zod, the ghost of a failed Krypton who ultimately led him to his definitive choice of becoming Earth’s Superman. [by G Dino]