Sunday, June 16, 2013

Second Opinion - Man of Steel - Bland of Steel

I'm not one to call myself a Superman expert, but I do have some history with the man of steel. The only other Superman movie I've seen is Superman Returns, though not out of choice, but otherwise my experience with the last son of Krypton comes from various bits of animation, the first handful of issues of the Superman, Action Comics, and Justice League books from DC's New 52 relaunch, and the recent Injustice: Gods Among Us. That being said, I wasn't sure whether I would ever see the latest relaunch, Man of Steel, because, like with The Amazing Spider-Man, the ads made it seem like they were going to turn the character into something more akin to Batman, but I decided I may as well see it to be up to date. Now that I've seen it, I can say that, for a movie trying to retell Superman's origin story, it seems to have a lot of holes in it.

As stated in the introduction, the plot of Man of Steel is yet another re-tread of Superman's origin story, but with a twist. As the planet Krypton is in danger of exploding, Jor-El (Russel Crowe) and his wife Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) have their son, Kal-El, and decide to launch him inside a pod to another planet so that the Kryptonian race can go on. However, General Zod (Michael Shannon) tries to put a stop to those plans, killing Jor-El in the process, but is too late as Lara launches the pod; as a result, Zod and his followers are launched to the Phantom Zone for 300 cycles as punishment for their crime (though why they would bother with this in the midst of planet-wide extinction is unclear). Years later, an older Kal-El, aka Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), is struggling with keeping his powers a secret as General Zod makes his way to Earth.

While the story is somewhat easy to follow, it has...problems. Like The Amazing Spider-Man, there are a lot of holes in the tale Man of Steel is trying to tell, though explaining any of them would require a lot of white text. One thing I can say is that, similarly to The Social Network, everyone comes across as a jerk, mainly towards Clark Kent in particular. As seen in trailers, a young Clark saves a bus from sinking, but everyone, including his father (Kevin Costner), treats it like it's a bad thing, as if Clark should have let everyone inside the bus just drown. There's plenty of situations that are also like this, most, if not all, of which are more likely to make you scratch your head rather than just go along with them. This movie also includes a number of twists, none of which make any sort of sense (again, this would require a good chunk of spoiler tags). There are some laughs here and there, but they alone are not enough to salvage this story.

If I thought this movie was better written, something is wrong.
That said, the acting was pretty decent, with special mention to Michael Shannon for his rather hammy performance as General Zod. For what it is, the actors do a good job with their characters, though that doesn't mean the characters themselves are exactly likable. As for the special effects, I found them to be really well done, especially when it came to the eye lasers and Kryptonian technology (though whether some of it is well thought out in-universe is another story). Still, for the most part it didn't seem like effects for the sake of effects. While Danny Elfman did a good job on the score, it's one of those soundtracks where, while it gets the mood right on-screen, it isn't really all that memorable.

In conclusion, Man of Steel is more like it's made of balsa wood: It has some good points, but otherwise it falls apart rather quickly. Fans that have far more experience with the Superman character are more likely to get something out of this, though I doubt they would get that much enjoyment out of it either. For everyone else, it's at least something to watch until Thor: The Dark World comes out. Though the movie is rated PG-13, it may be best to avoid bringing in small children, as the story deals with some heavy concepts that may require a bit of explaining from an adult. If DC really is planning to use this movie to start their own Marvel Studios-like cinematic universe, it's not exactly off to a great start.

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