Superman, an American symbol of heroism and a completely godly character to the point where he’s often really boring. He’s always been a difficult character to write well. The DCAU (which I will partly review soon in Wot2k) probably did it best in a mainstream adaptation, focusing on what Superman represents and his power being something that would be catastrophic to lose control of, instead of him being strong and fighting opponents weaker than him.
When I first heard about Man of Steel directed by Zack Snyder, I felt nothing short of apathy. “Oh cool, if Sucker Punch is any hint, this is gonna be boring as hell”, an initial sentiment that was not completely untrue. However, when the third trailer came out, I was stunned, and it soon became my most anticipated film of this summer, having action scenes that actually look fitting for a character who is strong enough to carry a battleship (or planet, depending on the writer) and moves like a bullet (or light, also depending on the writer). Additionally, Hans Zimmer making a very heroic sounding and non-cheesy theme song impressed me more than I can say I deserved to be impressed for a film made by Zack Snyder.
Did this movie disappoint me? Well, since I saw the reviews beforehand, not really. With Goyer, a very hit or miss screenwriter, and Snyder, a person who does everything in a film “because it looks cool” (no really, in his commentaries of his films, that tends to be his explanation for everything), the movie I got was about as good as I thought it would get.
So, first, what the hell happens in this film? It’s Superman’s origin story, which was copied by Akira Toriyama when Dragon Ball got to Dragon Ball Z, and this film returns the favor by copying a ton of fight choreography from Dragon Ball Z. Jor-El, father of Kal-El, sends his son to Earth while Krypton is about to asplode, and General Zod tries to start a coup, stuff happens, Krypton goes boom, then the story becomes completely non-linear, and it no longer worth trying to explain, because there’s too much of it, all that’s worth noting is that Superman learns to use his powers for good and Zod invades Earth to rebuild Krypton.
Let’s cycle through the performances. Henry Cavill is a very good Superman, he goes through every emotion he should and most of all feels like Superman. Amy Adams is one of the larger shining beacons of this film. She’s a strong actress and she made Lois into someone who is not a damsel in distress, and smart enough to actually figure out who Superman is, and strong enough to have a scene where she gets to be a badass. Russell Crowe as Jor-El is about as Russell Crowe-y as is always is, as in he doesn’t really feel like emoting, and he just kinda delivers his monologues in British English. Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent is… well, Kevin Costner, as in he’s not very good, but at the very least, it feels like he’s trying harder than normal, which would be not at all. And then Michael Shannon as General Zod. Terrence Stamp had previously defined the character as a really hammy character who likes to make people kneel before him, and the trailers made it seem like it was gonna be the case here too, with his screaming “I WILL FIND HIM!” at the top of his lungs, as demonstrated in this clip below.
He was not what I was expecting. He was actually quite serious and sympathetic, not that it was bad, Shannon is an excellent actor, but it threw me off. All the cartoonish villainy is instead handled by a German Actress as Zod’s consort, who spends most of the movie taunting Superman and being brutal to other characters. As for the other characters, we have Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, who doesn’t do much, and Toby from the West Wing as Dr Emil Hamilton, who also doesn’t do much, and Diane Lane as Marsha Kent, who does only a little bit. This lack of activity and development is justified because adding any more to this film would’ve made it quite convoluted and unfocused.
The film’s visual design is really cool, one of Snyder’s talents. He makes the film look good with a cool design to Krypton technology and armor, as well as a Pandora style dragon that Jor-El rides in the opening scene. Zod’s technology all looks like some kind of deformed cybernetic monster.
The dialogue is really blunt force trauma with exposition. Lois Lane’s first lines to Perry White in the film is the fact that she’s won a Pulitzer Prize, which is to establish that she’s a talented writer, but it comes out as very awkward. The complete non-linearity of the story actually works to the films advantage. It’s clear that after Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder made an effort for this film to not drag, which is almost expected in an origin story film. The film breaks up a lot of the teenage angst scenes with advancements in the main story, though the angst is justified, this kid has the worst luck. Clark is just sitting on the bus, and suddenly a tire pops and it falls into the water. When Clark saves everyone, he’s treated badly for saving everyone, then later, he loses someone important to him because they went back for a dog and told Clark not to use his superpowers to save them, no seriously. Also, a lot of scenes don’t flow into each other. In one scene, Superman is getting his outfit and still has his Wolverine beard, and then in the next scene, he’s suddenly shaven and in the suit in the snow, how did you get from Point A to Point B?
Now, for the film’s real strength, the exhilarating action scenes mixed with Hans Zimmer’s score. If anyone was ever going to direct action scenes in a Dragon Ball film, it should be Zack Snyder. This film lets you see the action pretty clearly and most importantly, the action climax of the film starts right around the time where the film begins to drag. It’s not one of those things where every punch is full of emotion, but its certainly fun to watch, and I would even say the action is better than “The Avengers”. Unlike the scenes with talking, these scenes flow very impressively. All the action is just so spectacular and great to look at, and doesn’t feel as ridiculous as “Iron Man 3″‘s climactic battle. It’s how a Superman film’s action scenes should look like.
Also, Lexcorp appears in the background of this film, most notably in the final battle where a truck labeled “Lexcorp” appears in the background, but it’s even in the trailer. It’s a really big sequel hook.
I’m kind of worried about this sequel that Zack Snyder is already set to direct. There is no way that doing a story of this large scale is going to work again, and it seems likely that Luthor is going to be the villain of the next film (by the way Snyder, if you cast Clancy Brown as Luthor, everyone is going to love you forever and forgive you for Sucker Punch). However, if Luthor is the villain, Zack Snyder will likely ruin it by adding in random action scenes in a film that should deal with moral struggles.
As for the up and coming DCFU, I wish you best of luck Warner Bros, I’m willing to give it a chance after this, and I’ll give you this, Man of Steel is better paced than the first film of Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Iron Man”.