Sunday, June 16, 2013

REVIEW: Man Of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel 
Director: Zack Snyder
Rated: PG-13
135 minutes

You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders. 

For theatrical releases on Naptown Nerd, I strive to keep things spoiler free.  This will be no different.  Though if this review seems off balance or the end result doesn't quite fit the billing, know that some of the things I take issue with in Man of Steel center around spoiler territory.  Thanks.

Man of Steel is an absolutely ambitious film.  It wants to be the biggest superhero film of them all.  It strives for absolute greatness.  The film delivers this in scale and the action department, but while spending so much time in that arena, it forgets to bring any sort of weight to what is being blown up or destructed in between action scenes leaving the film feeling a bit hollow.  There's a lot of great work and pushing the envelope being done here but it needed that effort to be just as good in other areas.  Once again, I say they managed to make the 3rd best Superman movie and topped the previous entry, but that really shouldn't be taken as high praise or complimentary.
We are given a new, fresh take on the age-old origin story of Kal-El, the last son of Krypton.  This time with more details surrounding Krypton and his importance to them.  Once again General Zod and his minions are sent off the Phantom Zone as Kal-El is shipped way to Earth with Krypton blowing up.  On Earth Kal-El is taken to the Kents and must learn to keep his identity in anonymity until the day comes when the world will accept and need him.  That day arrives when General Zod, fresh from escaping the Phantom Zone arrives to reclaim Kal-El and terraform Earth into a new Krypton.

This new version on the classic origin of Superman is much more amped up and overblown with action anywhere it can be squeezed it.  In never takes time to breath.  And if it actually does, the minute you realize it, something blows up or a tornado randomly appears.  The action sequences in this film are VERY good, don't get me wrong.  There's some really cool and innovative stuff going on here.  Snyder takes what he did in Sucker Punch (which, hate the movie all you want, the action sequences were absolutely stellar) and brings it on to a whole new level and brings more realism to it.  However, its just too much.  Many of the sequences are highly unnecessary and feel completely shoehorned in.  It got tired and the movie just really needed to settle down at some point and let the actors and some dialogue carry this thing for a while.  There's a great movie that could have been here between this action, but instead they want it to be the next home theater demo at Best Buy when it comes to blu-ray.  The action is massive and expertly crafted, but there's just too much of it.
Also, with the action comes no sense of life.  There is A LOT of destruction in this film.  A-LOT.  But it seems nowhere throughout is there any care for civilian life or saving any random citizen keeping them from harm.  I understand Zod and the Kryptonians wouldn't care, but Superman himself is absolutely reckless and brings just as much damage himself.  He's too carefree.  There's sense of trying to keep buildings, homes, business out of jeopardy instead using them as a means to do battle and beat his opponent.  A couple instances and maybe I'm a little more forgiving but this is a pretty prominent staple in the film.

Henry Cavill does make for a wonderful Superman.  He's come a long way since my sister's favorite Hellraiser movie, Hellraiser: Hellworld.  I'm definitely down with this casting choice as he feels like absolutely the real deal.  Especially when he finally takes on his Superman persona.  Cavill absolutely gets it right.  I'm eager to see him in a more character-based Superman film.  Amy Adams makes for a great  Lois Lane.  And it also helps that this is possibly the best written Lois Lane in the history of Lois Lane's.  She's given a ton of importance and is able to hold her own.  Lois is a factor and never feels forced.  This story backs up everything they always told us about the character but never could quite get there.  Adams is terrific in the role and is one of the few characters that gets a lot of dialogue and character scenes throughout.  The Kents (Diane Lane, Kevin Costner) are fine, but are paper thin and given only what you'd expect from their respected roles and nothing else.  Russell Crowe proves solid if not a bit too monotone.  Maybe his accent helps his services, but he's by and large no Marlon Brando.
Michael Shannon as General Zod is a big deal you want to see going in.  He's good enough, but he's nothing great.  He's just a too "screamy" with the part.  They needed him to be more in tone with the creepy tv broadcast Zod than what is given the rest of the film.  He's too angry the whole time, coming off as too raging when he's actually a really smart and devious villain.  Not just muscle with a anger problem.  The real scene stealer here is Antje Traue as Faora-Ul.  This henchwoman type character is an absolute badass.  She's the real deal.  I almost want an entire spin-off movie dedicated to her.  She was my favorite character out of the whole thing.  She had a really cool fighting style that absolutely takes the action scenes up 5 notches.  As a character she played a very vile wild card.  Every time she took screen you felt a sense of danger and couldn't predict what she would do or if she would harm anyone.  Plus she looked cool too without trying to put and sort of overt sexism in her outfit.

Another praise I have for Man of Steel is its design work.  There is some fantastic sets and costuming going on.  Kryptonian things (ships, architecture, etc) look like an incredible mix of HR Giger and Dune inspired works.  The movie felt very very sci fi.  None of the Superman movies have had any of this.  They all feel fish out of water.  Here its even keel.  There are ships, outfits, blasters, space, you name it.  Its a big departure from what the theatrical and television world of Superman has seen, but it doesn't feel out of place or far from home either.

The script is definitely the weakest point of the film, in that, i don't know if there were many pages that weren't "something blows up, Superman fights".  Its a very very plot heavy story.  There is a lot of exposition.  Hell, we view the opening scene and destruction of Krypton and all the events surround.  Then at two points later in the film two different characters explain those exact same events to us again with no real extra detail.  It also seems bound and determined to keep the audience from feeling any sort of disbelief.  We're going to see a Superman movie, I think we're going to go along with a lot of things, guys.  They even go as far as to overexplain Kryptonian technology and try convince us things can happen because of A & B.  I dunno about you but if something happens with alien sci fi comic book technology from a far off planet i've never been to and am sure it doesn't exist, I'll probably take the film's word for it.  The script focuses too much on plot and doesn't give us the meat we need added to our characters.  It almost feels as if they were like "Well, they already know who Lois, Clark and Zod are" and just brush upon the typical bases thinking everything will be ok.  This distinction keeps the film from adding more weight and sense of urgency to any of the battles later on.  And the scale of these battles could have been even greater with much more coming to the table.

Man of Steel is not a total waste, but it strove for greatness and forgot it had to work to get there.  Its a film full of incredible action (too much, to be honest) and not incredibly too much else.  It feels like one giant action sequence that keeps going on.  You're never allowed to relax in your seat and at times you are kind of worn out (its 2hrs 35 minutes of this, mind you).  But there's some good performances and that action is astounding.  It just needed more behind it.  I liked the performers and there is stuff to like here.  I think this movie will play greatly with general audiences.  Its going to be a big hit and massively popular.  They don't really think with a lot of the criticisms and looking past some of the things onscreen like us critics do.  With critics and film aficionados I think its going to be pretty hit or miss.  I think some will think the action and craft will be enough, others it simply won't.  I am eager to see this again, and look forward to a second venture with this collective, hopefully improving upon and fixing some of the key issues this film had.  Once again, the 3rd best Superman movie is here.

Grade : B
(close to a B-)

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