Man of Steel Review
Yes, I know that this site is predominantly Marvel and that my argument that DC is subpar is very well known, but that doesn’t mean I won’t treat them fairly. So this weekend, I partook in an IMAX 2D screening of the Man of Steel movie that has just hit theaters and I have a few things to say about it, spoiler free.
First and foremost, this was not a bad movie. I had no preconceived notions that it would be horrible, but the trailers hadn’t really spurred any call to action within my bones. So I went in indifferent. In my honest opinion, this would rank above any pre-Superman film that I have seen, including Superman 1, 2, 3, 4, and Returns. It really outdid itself with building Krypton as an actual society, Zod as a true villain, and Kal-El as a conflicted hero. These are all things films need to succeed, and Man of Steel presented very strong arguments for all of them, making the story that much more enjoyable.
Imagery. This has never been stronger in a Superman film. The icon that he is and has been for years has been very noticeable, however the films failed to show that someone with such power and the restraint did not to become the imminent ruler of the world (See Injustice: Gods Among Us for that one) and use them for evil. At least they didn’t to me. Within the film, multiple flashback sequences occur, revealing the history of Clark Kent and the lessons he learned, which was definitely a breather from most origin stories we see today and the problem with many reboots (Example being Amazing Spider-man). From this, we can see right and wrong and the grey area between them as actions unfolded for the man who would become super. Even from one trailer, we learn that the S on his chest in not in fact an S, but the symbol for the house of El and represents Hope. Strong, strong imagery. Even things from the older movies, Zod’s outfit, become more apparent, with his crest and the Kryptonian suits. The film never failed to use one frame as a visual representation of Superman.
Emotion. This movie is a family film. A movie about family, even if there are multiple ones involved. The ghosts of his fathers, the unconditional love of mothers, and how they come to shape person he become. As Kal/Clark goes through his journeys in life, attempting to blend in and become just a figure in the night, the loneliness of his lifestyle, someone who could destroy the world and end lives upon a whim, becomes apparent. We feel for the confused boy who has to become a man in the film, and all the struggles he goes through. My screenwriting professor in college always encouraged us to “Put our characters through hell” and it will make for a better film, and for this reason, Superman succeeds as an emotional story. Through his hell, we become part of the journey, rooting for him to overcome the challenges stacked against his favor.
Consequence. This is where the film ultimately fails to encapsulate me. I was along for the ride the entire film, until I realized there was little or no consequences upon Metropolis. When Zod attempts to take over the Earth and Superman must use his might in retaliation, there was little to no feeling for the city and its denizens. Buildings were destroyed as if they were a LEGO town, asphalt dented and torn up with each blow, but you never see any wear upon our hero or his antagonist. This is where Marvel films have always gotten to me, to see our hero ultimately bruised and beaten to a point where he can’t possibly win. You see the people of the city caught in the middle of super hero battles and the villains have no remorse for them (Avengers/Iron Man/Spider-man 2). Man of Steel lacked that and ultimately prevented me from making the ultimate connection with the character and film. Perhaps this will be rectified in the inevitable sequel, but it was not apparent this weekend.
Visuals. Upon that note, I have never seen battles, mano y mano, that have ever felt so real. Faora, Zod, Kal-El, all of their blows were very apparent and felt. The Kryptonian’s power on our planet was very apparent as each blow felt so real. It was a real life interpretation of the fights in Injustice: Gods Among Us, as mentioned prior. The subjects were never truly harmed, but I cannot express how I could feel the hard hits and throws throughout the film. It is truly something to behold on an IMAX screen, rather than a tablet, phone, etc. Krypton has never felt so fully alive either. Zack Snyder and his creative team really made Kypton come alive in the movie, which I’ve never felt in any Superman movie before either. Yes, it was mostly computer generated, but it felt authentic. It was unique, beautiful, and mysterious at the same time. Their technology and way of life felt truly alien, but not too far fetched that no one could relate to the differences, something Green Lantern failed to do as well.
At the end of the day, this movie really is a huge step forward for the DC comic franchise on the big screen. My favorite character, Green Lantern, had his chance and it was blown. Batman has succeeded, but nothing as challenging as this. Reinventing the very first Superhero onto the silver screen has been done well, and Justice has been served. Heres to hoping we see a sequel that rights the wrongs of this film and takes the franchise to new heights. (so many Superman puns!)