22.6.13

Trying to Bring the Unrealistic to Life ¦ Man of Steel Review


It's hard to come out of a superhero film with my biggest compliment being about the cinematography. Kind of like going to a whorehouse and complementing the interior décor. Regardless, with the otherworldly combination of the Dark Knight writing duo of David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan, the latter also producing, along with Suker Punch creator Zack Snyder, there wasn’t really much room for it to be anything other than a hit right?

I've never been a huge fan of superman. I just missed Louis & Clark and always found Smallville far too much like an American soap opera to take it seriously. When comparing Man of Steel to the Dark Night trilogy, which I'm sure everybody naturally will, Batman seems like the easiest thing in the world to remake. Just a rich guy fighting crazy guys; make it dark, call in Hans Zimmer, job done. Why anyone would even try to reproduce, the ridiculous by comparison, Superman to 21st century audiences is nothing but a blatant, and fat, paycheck.

A line has been drawn in the sand by those who see it a fresh realistic approach to the same old story and those who aren’t fooled by faux realistic camera shake and some nice sun flare when aliens start ripping up a small town or smashing entire skyscrapers in DragonBallZesque fight scenes, indiscriminately killing thousands just to keep your brain distracted. It seems even Superman's morals of not killing are completely unsuited for our modern day blood thirsty audiences. Instead trading in his previously prominent conscience for the sake of a big bang for your buck in the form of the complete destruction of what would be, in real terms, all of Manhattan, followed by some more destruction as if the entire city is the objective cameras playground. A heartless destruction that Snyder has perfected before in 300 and Sucker Punch and an unrealistic approach that Nolan did a great job at avoiding throughout the Dark Knight trilogy.



Even the IMDb description makes it sound more like a sci-fi thriller than a superhero film.
"A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race." 


As someone with the remnants of a childhood imagination still intact, Man of Steel was for me, everything that could have been done to it. All of the critiques must be due to the out-dated source material. The film is impeccably shot. The realistic approach to how everything is lit nails Batman & Robin firming in its grave, while the shaky camera is a sometimes irritating yet necessary approach, even the space/flying scenes are shot like the revamped and 'raw' Battlestar Galactica or how a documentary would do it – zooming in and out, changing focus as if the shooting of it is out of the cameraman's control.


Hans Zimmer is naturally on hand to provide the only thing saving the emotion in the last frantic 40 minutes of the film. Amy Adams makes a strong yet not too cliché damsel in distress Lois Lane and I think Henry Cavil is almost too cool to be superman, but pulls it off well enough to get by on that Robert Downey Jr type protagonist.


The real highlights are in the performance of Russell Crowe, who plays Jor-El, Superman's birth father and Michael Shannon who plays Zod, the bad guy. Crowe somehow manages to invest the audiences' emotions into the lengthy and visually stunning prologue and thankfully remains a key character throughout the film, even getting an unexpected comic relief scene while running around helping Louis Lane on an enemy ship. It was definitely nice to be able to take him seriously again after his awkward part in Les Mis. Shannon is then left to take on a character who isn't given much depth until the very last scene, but as far as crazy villains go, he makes a very memorable one, more than likely with the help of his striking eyes. 


While the pantomime-esque visuals of superhero films is rightfully left in the past and modern superhero films are containing it's efforts in stapled narratives, sex appeal and explosions alone; Man of Steel tries something different. Something a bit more indie in looks but not in content, resulting in a strange mix of humility and Hollywood jawlines. A strange façade that more so confuses your average blockbuster lover rather than making the word 'genuine' ever pop into their head as planned.