<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Zack Snyder. With Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Antje Traue, Harry J Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Lawrence Fishburne
I used to be a Superman fan a long time ago, but the curse of the Kryptonion never allowed the first four Superman films (with Christopher Reeve; I liked Superman IV, so there!) to be succeeded by any successful reboot (i.e. the failed Superman Returns by Bryan Singer).
At least Christopher Nolan managed to follow up the first Batman films (not all good but still entertainingly cheesy and wondrously kitsch) with The Dark Knight Trilogy that is by far one of the best modern takes of super hero films next to the X-Men movies, in my opinion.
Once again, Man Of Steel is an origins story. I’m quite sick and tired of reboots; the new Spider-Man film took the cake on that. I mean do we really need to know about how they became the superhero again and again and again… True, this generation of teenagers would probably not have seen the old films. I still think it’s a waste of time and proof that there’s no original writing left in Hollywood.
At least the Smallville TV series attempted a different take on Superman with some success.
Sure director Zack Snyder (300) and Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight Rises, Inception) have given it their spin re-imagining the planet Krypton and its culture and the reason for its destruction. And yes the slightly grey and dark look and feel of the new Batman films has crept into this one too. Even Superman’s suit is darker and they’ve made him wear his red undies on the inside, which seems a shame.
You know I heard a lot of people recently comment that they didn’t know Man Of Steel was a Superman film. Strange but true. The filmmakers didn’t want to call it Superman, since they felt a complete reboot was necessary and of course it fits with Nolan’s Dark Knight moniker for Batman.
I’m avoiding getting into the plot of this film aren’t I? Because it’s sooooo boring! The whole first half looks like a different film from the second, which turns into alien invasion and Superman’s nemesis General Zod going ballistic on planet Earth. The only good thing about this part is Zod’s female sidekick Faora (Antje Traue) who kicks some serious ass in style. Loved her!
Another thing that bugs me is that though the film is over two hours in running time, they skip mercilessly through Clark Kent’s metamorphoses into the caped hero, they absolutely forget to create any bonding or moments between him and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) to justify her falling in love with him. He’s big, he’s handsome, he can fly and even without the underwear he looks like he’s packing serious heat! At the end of the film a woman military officer comments to her senior: “I think he’s hot!” thereby totally stereotyping women. In the old films Lois Lane (played by Margot Kidder) was the clumsy reporter but she was also the strong, hotheaded gal who even got to bully Superman around. Here, she just follows him around like a puppy.
The Gladiator, Russell Crowe and Kal El’s (that’s Superman’s Krypton name) earth father Kevin Costner bring suitable amounts of depth and solemnity to the film.
The last half hour is just a CGI generated action mess. Yes Superman and his foes are superhuman so the destruction is usually on a greater scale. But even in the original films, it was a suitably realistic scale. Here, the whole city of Metropolis is levelled in gigantic sweeps of annihilation that inspite of the soul churning score do nothing to sensitise you to the wanton destruction. We’ve seen it all and Hollywood keeps trying to up the levels by destroying the White House (Olympus Has Fallen) and then giving us another movie: White House Down. What will be next in an effort to cause us to writhe in our seats in terror? Unfortunately, life is far scarier than the movies nowadays.
As a film, Man Of Steel is alright. Superman is very one dimensional, even though Henry Cavill (Immortals) looks the part more than any other so far. Once could say he’s come as close to Christopher Reeve in look and demeanour as is possible. And the reason that is so important is that we’ll always associate Superman (and not ‘Man of Steel’) with Christopher Reeve and those first few films lovingly penned by great writers like Mario Puzo, David and Leslie Newman and directed by Richard Donner, music by John Williams… I think I’ll re-watch those thank you very much!
PS: Our generation is probably very lucky because they don’t make ‘em like they used to and just like old friends, the old movies will always be in our memories and we’re happy to meet them again and again till the end of days when movie making will be more special effects than long-term effects…