Movie Review

Movie Review: Man Of Steel

"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."

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Hollywood loves reboots. If it’s been done before, it’ll be done again (maybe even in the same decade). I found 2006’s Superman Returns to be a very enjoyable superhero romp, but Warner Brothers publicly denounced the film’s performance (apparently $400 million was below expectations) and went back to the drawing board. Although I’m not a fan of origin stories, I was eager to see if Zack Snyder’s unique vision and Christopher Nolan’s Batman touch could usher in a new era for the iconic superhero.

The casting of Henry Cavill in the title role definitely makes more sense than Brandon Routh. The latter didn’t exactly have the most charismatic presence, and he was perhaps the weakest link in Superman Returns. Cavill on the other hand is pretty darn great in Man of Steel, evoking just the right dose of steely confidence and vulnerability. And yet, he’s never too vulnerable (Henry’s massive size obviously helps with that). His performance is a true star-making turn, and I’m excited to see him grow into the role even further in future installments. Cavill’s had a tough road to stardom; he was famously passed over for the role of Bond (a role that would have fit him perfectly) as well as Superman a couple of years back in a reboot attempt that never saw the light of day. Thankfully, it feels like all is now right in the world because as far as I’m concerned, he was born to play this part

Amy Adams was a welcome surprise. I wasn’t fan of this casting choice at first, but Adams does a tremendous job with Lois Lane. She straddles a fine line between being a damsel in distress and a proactive strong-willed reporter. However, while she and Cavill have some charming chemistry, I didn’t feel the script developed their attraction nearly as much as it should have. The two only had a handful of encounters before the film suddenly positioned them as soulmates. The fact that we already know their story helped the film in this regard, but I still would have liked to see more of Lois and Clarke’s budding relationship.

Less successful is Laurence Fishburne who is pretty much wasted as Perry White, Lois’ boss and the editor of The Daily Planet. He’s not given much to do and appropriately finds himself lost in the shuffle. I was also displeased with Russell Crowe who bored me to tears as the lifeless Jor-El. It often felt like he was just there to spout off clunky exposition and not much else. Thankfully, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were outstanding as Clark’s parents; both actors being down to earth and incredibly relatable. The real revelation though is Michael Shannon as General Zod, the antagonist of the story. Shannon completely owns the role, capable of expressing a ton of rage and menace without uttering a single word.

A lot of the criticism leveled at Superman Returns revolved around the belief that the film didn’t have enough action. Thrill-seekers will be pleased to know that Man Of Steel is jam-packed with prolonged fight scenes and explosive set pieces. The CGI is thoroughly awesome although I wasn’t too enamored by the flying sequences (I can’t seem to pinpoint why). Interestingly enough, the action scenes manage to make Superman a viable fighter even in hand-to-hand combat. However, by the end of the film, I found myself a bit numb to all the destruction (and this is coming from the biggest action aficionado). Interestingly enough, Superman seemed indifferent as well, which raises an intriguing issue; shouldn’t our hero care about the zillions perishing in the crossfire? I know we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief as audience members, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it contrasted everything Superman stands for.

Another beef I had with the film was its severe lack of humor. The subject matter is tackled much too seriously, and the numerous cheesy speeches about the greater good definitely didn’t help. There were a couple of humorous moments but they were too few and far between. Joss Whedon managed to infuse some hilarious humor into the sprawling epic that was The Avengers, so there’s no reason Man of Steel couldn’t have implemented a few more laugh-out loud moments to break the tension.

In addition, Man of Steel doesn’t really have a standout moment – that one singularly powerful moment (think Bruce Wayne finally climbing out of the pit in The Dark Knight Rises) that gives you goosebumps and cements a film’s unforgettable quality. The film has several memorable sequences, but it’s missing that one truly transcendent moment of extraordinary filmmaking. Nevertheless, the greatest compliment I can give Man of Steel is that it sets the stage for an engaging franchise; I can’t wait for Snyder and company to jump right into the next chapter of Clarke’s life (the follow-up has just been fast-tracked to production). Here’s hoping Supes’ next adventure follows in the vein of such epic superhero sequels as X2, Spiderman 2, and The Dark Knight.

Special Note: If you have the chance, I strongly recommend experiencing the film in 2D. The 3D conversion greatly dims the proceedings and the film is an already dark affair. If there’s one thing I thought Superman Returns did better, it was its bright, comic-book tone that supplied it with an arguably funner feel. Man of Steel is aesthetically a tad too grim for my taste. Call it the Nolan effect perhaps?

Conclusion
While it’s not the masterpiece I was hoping it would be, Man of Steel is still a terrific blockbuster that’s equal parts thrilling and poignant.

Nad Rating
B+

20 comments

  1. Yay! Glad you liked it, I'm really looking forward to this one! My enthusiasm is probably helped by the movie drought currently in place in Spain (nothing worth watching since Iron Man 3 and Gatsby came out! Star Trek not 'till mid July!).

    Only 10 days to go then we get it too!!!

    Not surprised by your reaction to Jor El, he's always seemed like a stick in the mud to me.

    Useful advice on the 2D vs 3D! I always wonder which to choose…

  2. Still trying to decide if I should see this or not. I keep going back and forth and it bugs me how much time I've spent on a decision that would (worst case scenario) cost me $20 and 3 hours of my life. Not a big fan of superheroes, particularly Superman, but Henry Cavill is just so damn delicious. Disappointed to hear that the comedy was lacking. Funny moments are what make action movies watchable for me.

    What ever happened to Russell Crowe? I swear he used to be a good actor. I think. Right? But after Les Mis and now this…maybe he's been cursed by gypsies.

    Amy Adams was interesting casting. Is it just me or does she seem a little old for the part? Not that I don't love her–I totally do.

  3. You're so right about funny moments enhancing action movies. Check it out sunbunny and report back with your thoughts. I'm very eager to see what you have to say. Just don't go in with high expectations and you'll be pleasantly surprised. I went in expecting a masterpiece and was a tad disappointed (although the film does many things right) .

  4. lol! If you think 10 days is too much… try waiting 2 months for Star Trek!!! I still have another 3-4 weeks before that one hits screens in Spain! :o(

    I'll probably be seeing it in 2D as I usually go with my dad to see these films and he really doesn't like the 3D. :p

  5. Henry Cavill = YUM!!!

    Yeah, Russell Crowe used to be a good actor, before he let it all go to his head. Now he mostly phones it in. Sometimes you can still see a glimmer of what he could do, which makes it all the more frustrating! :o(

  6. Call Vox cinemas in CityCentre. I believe they're the only ones in Lebanon are who are playing it in 2D. If so let me know, I want to watch it again and actually appreciate the colors this time. Seriously, no 3D Bahij!

  7. Allo, Nadim.

    As promised, will share my thoughts on MoS.

    I find the CGIs too much. Though Superm fighting raw was very much felt. The movie theater's surround sound vibrates non-stop. My popcorn almost oozed out of the sack. 🙂

    The fight scenes place The Transformers movies to shame. Well, almost….

    The take on the way the story was told is too serious. I wanna enjoy some dose of laughter and not to cry throughout a film.

    I found a spark-free Lois & Clark here. One of these actors should be re-cast. IMOHO. 🙂

    Russell Crowe could be replaced with a card board.

    Laurence Fishburne is wasted here. (My heartfelt sorry, Morpheus.)

    Kevin Costner and Diane Lane reminded me of Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn in On Golden Pond. (I truly thought of that film while watching them in MoS).

    Michael Shannon (yes, Nadim, i agree with you on this), nailed the role of General Z. The menace and rage of what he felt is being done to his planet as injustice was conveyed with those dagger eyes. 🙂 And I like that way he looks in the S suit. Haha!

    Okay, okay. Henry Cavill. Well, I know that Chris Reeve is The Superman and that I also have to accept that that good man is gone.
    Weeeeeelllll, ooookey. Henry (in my book) can replace him.
    Thought he has to improve his sense of humor as Superm.
    Henry's portrayal is too dry. (IMOHO, pls.)

    Overall – I.was.not.impressed.yet.

    It would take a lot for me to get impressed by a new MoS.

    I have one favorite scene in MoS. Kal El saying that the S stands for hope in his planet. I found this kinda weird since even General Z has that hope thing in his suit. I'm wondering > can't the writers share Kryton's alphabet? I truly want to know how they spell Superman. 😀

    Btw, Superman Returns was for me a cartoon. Har har har.

    Have a good one, Nadim.

  8. “Russell Crowe could be replaced with a card board.”

    Hahah I just laughed out loud! I missed you Platinum! It's been way too long!

    You're right the CGI was TOO much. But I guess when Superman is involved, it's hard to avoid that. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts. I really feel like watching the film again in 2D as 3D really ruined the experience for me!

    And I do wish there was more Clark/Lois banter. I guess they're saving that for the sequel. Thankfully, I think I enjoyed MOS as much as I did Batman Begins, so the second installment should be epic now that everything's set up!

  9. I'm back! Saw it and may I say, with extreme conviction: meh. It was too long with too many explosions and not enough shirtlessness. (Henry Cavill is so handsome, particularly in this). Russell Crowe wasn't as bad as I was expecting. The part didn't leave much room for character.

    I really missed the humor. Any humor. At all. There were tons of opportunities for it and it annoyed me they chose to go the 'serious epic' route. This is a movie about an alien in a cape. Loosen up a bit, people.

    I agree with Platinum that the chemistry between Amy Adams and Henry Cavill was a little off. If one of them is recast, it should definitely be her. She was a suitable Lois Lane but Cavill NAILED it. Have I mentioned how super duper dreamy he is?

  10. Too many explosions and lack of humor – the film's biggest flaws which will hopefully be rectified in the sequel. They've set some intriguing groundwork, and now we can start with the great stuff particularly The Daily Planet material.

  11. I'm not but it's such a funny coincidence that I was reading about it today. That it's not childish and actually very thrilling. Do you think I'll enjoy it? Is it similar to Buffy? TVD?
    And are there long story arcs? I hate standalones…

  12. Story arcs? In one show? Plenty!

    I actually like it better than TVD. Sorry but true.

    Believe me, there are really a lot of bad ass (pardon moi) moments.

    Its both thrilling and fun. It's cool, really.

    Let me know what you think of it when you got to watch it.

    Another fund show is Warehouse 13. Nothing heavy and actiony, but just plain fun. 🙂

  13. Oh, btw, Nadim.
    Forgot to mention that Teen Wolf's beginning credits is way cool.
    Especially in the current season.
    Be that an intro for you to encourage you to watch it, man. 🙂

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