Man of Steel (2013)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 8:31 PM | Posted in


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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 5.6/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

MAN OF STEEL (2013) - Zack Snyder

The thing about Zack Snyder as a director is this: In almost every film that he has made, he offers something that really grabs my attention, usually in the stylistic department. He will put cameras at places that no one's thought of, and he uses CGI in extremely exhilarating ways. But at the same time, Snyder would always take something away from a movie in exchange, usually characterization, storytelling, or he simply abuses his visual technique. Even with Christopher Nolan in the producing chair, Man of Steel surely fell victim to this formula.

Once again, like almost all superhero films these days, Man of Steel is an origin story, telling us about the original tale of Krypton as well as how Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) became the heroic icon Superman, also known as Kal-El in this film. After learning that he holds extraordinary powers and is not from the Earth, Kent goes on struggling to fit in to society while finding out why he was sent to Earth. Surely, for young Kent, the experience is terrifying. It's not everyday where see your teacher's skull through flesh, or hear everyone's voice in your head without self-control. After infiltrating a Kryptonian spaceship in the Arctic, Clark learns of his origins and the extinction of his race, and that he was sent to Earth to bring hope to mankind. Soon, the hero inside him must emerge to save the world from total annihilation, led by General Zod (Michael Shannon).

As a start, the film has an interesting narrative, especially when it tells of Superman when he was a kid. Most of these were told in flashback format. For me, these parts of the film helped reinvent the character, and thus make the need of an origin story justified. In addition, the plot is indeed well-edited and satisfying enough in the writing department. This is definitely the strongest element for Man of Steel, telling the story in a non-linear way, and effectively modernizing Superman for audiences today. On a surprising note, the acting in this film is quite good too, from young Clark to General Zod, from Superman's father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) to even his adoptive father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner).

Cavill plays a very persuasive Clark Kent, and though you still don't know the man well enough, he says enough special dialogue to convince you that he wants to be a good guy and he wants to discover his purpose in life. Though the script itself pulls characterization out, Cavill attempts to fill in the holes with his own offerings, and he accomplished it quite well, even better than Brandon Routh from the previous installment. You can still see some of his humanity in the film, such as the moment when he learns how to fly for the first time. His chemistry with General Zod is an intriguing one, like character foils. Shannon portrays Zod with great malice, evil, and sometimes tackiness. His facial expressions are very over-the-top at times, but then again he does this in every film that I have seen him in. In terms of a villain, Shannon gets the job done, but Zod himself has little to no personality and his evil plan is a formulaic one. In some ways, it did not look like Superman was facing Zod. It looked like Superman facing an angry Michael Shannon with superpowers.

For sure, the visual effects are incredible, all large scale like The Avengers. Once again, Snyder places the camera at places in the sky where we usually won't see them at. The fight scene between Superman and Zod proves my point. The problem though is there is an overabundance of fight scenes, one noisy one after another. Buildings get crushed, the ground shakes, windows break, explosions occur, fire everywhere, the entire movie gets obnoxiously loud. If the storyline efficiently builds up to the climactic fight that way, then that's fine with me. I'm not saying the action sequences themselves are badly put together, in fact I enjoyed them and they were very fascinating to watch. But I am saying that this is the official thing in Man of Steel that Zack Snyder has abused. Slow motion for Watchmen and 300, action sequences for Man of Steel.

At this point, the film already divides the audience into two types, and whether or not you liked the film, it depends on which side you are on. Are you all about wonder, or are you all about spectacle? Are you here to see an origin story with a new depth to characters, or are you here to see a loud sci-fi slugfest? As usual for me, I was caught in the middle. I see why people would enjoy this film and I see why people would not. In many ways, Man of Steel represents everything wrong about Hollywood blockbusters these days. However, in other ways, the film may be certain people's favorite Superman movie, especially when we were given Superman Returns seven years ago (wow, it's already been seven years?!). In the first half, the film soars. In its third act, it crashes into everything, metaphorically as well as literally.

Sadly, if Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan were to switch their roles of director and producer in this film, then Man of Steel would have detoured away from generic blockbuster territory. For sure, you can feel Nolan's grasp in this film through certain cinematography, color scheme, Hans Zimmer's score, and even the tone of the screenplay itself, written by David Goyer who wrote the story for The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. However, when any scene of computer generated imagery takes over, so does Snyder's power as director, and sadly that takes away the powers of Man of Steel.

As entertainment goes, sure, the film is a largely entertaining film that starts with a promising storyline to keep you interested. It's a perfect summer popcorn film. However, for a Superman film that wanted to tell the humanity part of the hero, the film has fallen short of other great examples like the first Iron Man, X-Men: First Class or Spider-Man 2, or for DC Comic examples, Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

In conclusion, Man of Steel is a superhero film with the right direction of telling the story of Clark Kent, the man, instead of Superman, the icon we have known for decades. Unfortunately, with the visual inflictions of Zack Snyder, the film wanders off the road before it can ever spill its full humanity to our hearts. In the end, we are left with an average film that has lots and little to recommend, like a spoiled child of CGI blockbusters. Please, change the director to someone else.


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