Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Man of Steel

Based on the comic Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Man of Steel is an origin story in which Kal-El struggles with his identity as a man from another planet while also being known as Clark Kent where he later becomes Superman and fight the enemies from his former planet of Krypton. Directed by Zack Snyder and screenplay by David S. Goyer with a story by Goyer and Christopher Nolan. The film is a reinterpretation of the Superman origin story where it reveals Clark Kent/Kal-El’s struggle with his upbringing and where he really came from before he finally embraces his role. Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Man of Steel is a thrilling yet flawed film from Zack Snyder.

The film is about the young man who would become Superman (Henry Cavill) as he struggles with who he is and what he needed to be as he would eventually find the answers from his late father Jor-El. Yet, Kal-El/Clark Kent also struggles with keeping his powers and identity secret as his late adoptive father Jonathan (Kevin Costner) knows of that struggle as he tries to show him that not everyone can be saved. While a journalist in Lois Lane (Amy Adams) tries to uncover the secrets of Superman through her early encounters, an exiled general and his people from the planet Krypton in Zod (Michael Shannon) tries to find him in the hopes he can create a new Krypton in Earth and exterminate the human race. This would prompt Superman to save Earth and the human race and to see that Zod wouldn’t make the same mistakes his father and the Kryptonians had made many years ago that led to the planet’s destruction.

David S. Goyer’s screenplay does pay true to many of the origins of Superman and where he came from along with the destruction of Krypton. Yet, there’s aspects of the film’s screenplay that isn’t successful as there’s a lot of exposition into an object known as the codex that Jor-El would put into his son as he was the first natural newborn in many centuries for the planet since Jor-El and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) wanted their son to have the choice in being an individual unlike the other people of the planet. Upon meeting the shadow of his late father, Kal-El wouldn’t just learn about what happened to Krypton and who he is as it would play into the struggle that he would have. Some parts of the script has Clark reflect on his childhood with his father and mother Martha (Diane Lane) as he would live a nomadic lifestyle to find himself as an adult before he realizes the role he has to play.

While the Kents, Jor-El, Zod, and Lane are characters that are quite complex, some of the minor characters that is part of Superman’s world get shafted by the wayside once the film’s second half becomes more about Superman dealing with Zod and his army. Especially in how Zod and his army were able to leave the Phantom Zone due to explosion of Krypton as it leads to more exposition which does get tiresome. Yet, the Zod character is a complex antagonist for the fact that he had been born and raised to save the planet and its people but he becomes lost in his desire to create a new planet as he is making the same mistakes that led to Krypton’s demise.

Zack Snyder’s direction is quite interesting in the way he portrays Superman and his struggle with his identity where the scenes set in Smallville when Kent is a child definitely has this Malickian look to the film is quite entrancing. Yet, there’s also a griminess to some of the action scenes where the scenes set in Krypton as it’s collapsing are very big and unsettling. Snyder does know how to slow things down and establish some key aspects to the story yet the two different tones he wanted to present in the film is uneven at times. Especially as the scenes set in Smallville and other worldly locations are beautiful but the scenes filled with the chaotic reminders of Krypton is quite ugly. Even as Snyder would create some scenes of Lois Lane often getting into trouble only to be saved by Superman as it kind of becomes a running gag.

There are some great compositions and set pieces that occur that includes its climax but at times, it gets overwhelming as all of the destruction Superman and the Kryptonians have created. Even as it involves lot of visual effects where some of it isn’t that great as some of the direction gets into overdrive in terms of the action and destruction of buildings. Another aspect of the film that is very annoying is the presence of lens flares that isn’t really necessary and doesn’t say anything for the film on a visual level. Despite the flaws that the film carries, Snyder does manage to create an exciting and engaging film about the Man of Steel.

Cinematographer Amir Mokri does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the evocative look of the scenes set in Smallville with its use of darkened colors along with some of its shadows and lighting for some of the film‘s interior scenes and material set in Krypton. Editor David Brenner does nice work with the editing in some of the montages that is created as well as some of the action scenes though some of it moves a bit too fast at times. Production designer Alex McDowell, with set decorator Anne Kuljian and supervising art director Helen Jarvis, does fantastic work with the look of Krypton and its ships along with the look of Metropolis and Smallville as it‘s the two world that Clark Kent lives in. Costume designers James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson do terrific work with the costumes from the look of Superman‘s suit to the suits and armor of the Kryptonians.

Hair/makeup supervisor Victoria Down does wonderful work with some of the makeup work for Martha Kent as in her aging look. Visual effects supervisors John “D.J.” Des Jardin and Ged Wright do some superb work with the visual effects in the look of Krypton and some of its machines though at times they look wobbly such as the weapons from its ships. Sound designer Eric A. Norris and co-sound editor Scott Hecker do brilliant work with the sound work from the sound of lasers as well as some of the natural moments presented on location. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is pretty good for its bombastic orchestral themes and soaring string pieces to play into the drama and sense of adventure that occurs in the film.

The casting by Kristy Carlson, Lora Kennedy, and Claire Simon is amazing for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Richard Schiff as the scientist Dr. Emil Hamilton, Michael Kelly as Lane’s colleague from the Daily Planet, Christopher Meloni as Col. Hardy, Harry Lennix as Lt. General Swanwick, and Antje Traue as Zod’s sub-commander Faora. Ayelet Zurer is pretty good as Kal-El’s mother Lara while Laurence Fishburne is terrific though somewhat wasted as Lane’s boss Perry White as he doesn’t get more to do other than boss Lane around and save a few employees from the destruction of Metropolis. Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry are solid in their respective roles as the 11 and 13-year old Clark who struggles with his identity and powers. Diane Lane is wonderful as Clark’s mother Martha who brings a great sense of warmth and wisdom to Clark while Kevin Costner is superb as Jonathan Kent as he would help the young Clark deal with his identity and gifts.

Russell Crowe is excellent as Kal’s father Jor-El as a man who is aware of the destruction that Krypton has created for itself as he would later guide his son into discovering his identity. Michael Shannon is great as General Zod as this mad general who is eager to save Krypton at any cost while wanting to rebuild the planet on Earth and hope to bring a new civilization to this new version of Krypton. Amy Adams is brilliant as Lois Lane as a reporter for the Daily Planet who tries to uncover the mystery of Superman as she falls for him as Adams has a lot of energy and charisma to her role despite getting herself into lots of trouble. Finally, there’s Henry Cavill in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as a man struggling with who he is and how he would later accept that role as Cavill has the look and determination to play Superman as well as the humility of Clark Kent.

While it does have its flaws in terms of presentation, Man of Steel is still a worthwhile and fun film from Zack Snyder. With a great leading performance from Henry Cavill along with strong supporting performances from Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Michael Shannon. It’s a film that will satisfy fans of Superman though it pales to the brilliance of the 1978 film that introduced him to cinephiles. In the end, Man of Steel is a pretty good film from Zack Snyder.

Zack Snyder Films: (Dawn of the Dead (2004 film)) - 300 - Watchmen - (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) - Sucker Punch - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -

DC Extended Universe: Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - Aquaman - Shazam! - Birds of Prey - Wonder Woman 1984 - Zack Snyder's Justice League - The Suicide Squad (2021 film) - (Black Adam) – (Shazam! Fury of the Gods) – (Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom) – (The Flash) – (Blue Beetle) – (Batgirl)

Superman Films: (Superman) - (Superman II) - (Superman III) - (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) - (Superman Returns) - (Superman II: The Richard Donner’s Cut)

© thevoid99 2014


Dell said...

Fun, but flawed sums it up pretty well. Nice work.

thevoid99 said...

Yeah, I'm surprised in how much I enjoyed it though its flaws were very noticeable. I'll stick to the Richard Donner films.

Dan said...

I wanted to like this film but found myself feeling a little distant from proceedings. Certainly not a bad film but I think there was a sense that, given the people behind the film, we'd get something approximating the qualities of Watchmen and The Dark Knight. I feel the film was a little short.

thevoid99 said...

@Dan-I agree about those flaws as there was hope for something more but it fell pretty short. I hope the next film will improve those flaws though it's clear that it won't reach the standards that the 1978 film did which is still the quintessential film about Superman.

ruth said...

Hey Steven! So you're gonna review a bunch of superhero films now? That'll be cool by me if you do :D

Ah, Man of Steel... I was sooo looking forward to this for a year before it came out and I have to admit I did love it the first & even 2nd time I saw it but it didn't quite hold up the 3rd time. For some reason, all the things that didn't quite bother me initially became so annoying, primarily the relentless destructive violence and the sound of the alien machine as it keeps pounding at the surface of the Earth becomes almost unbearable.

Interesting to see you say there's a Malickian look to the film in Smallville, I never saw it that way but I guess you're right. I do like the performances, starting with Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent, Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, etc. are all great.

In any case, I still don't think this is a bad film, but I was expecting greatness.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-No, it's just that these films came into my way and I was supposed to see Man of Steel last year but thanks to some fuckwad texting during the movie. I left the theater.

It's kind of strange now as I'm currently working on an essay on the entire Dark Knight trilogy that Christopher Nolan did. I'm not sure if it will come out but it's something that is being worked on right now.

It's an alright film but it's just that when it comes to Superman films. You expect so much more. I knew it wasn't going to be good as the 1978 classic yet I wanted something more.