Man of Steel (2013)

It seems to me that Man of Steel is two movies. Its ironic, as Hollywood has a habit of maximising profit potential by stretching things out- Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions   bloating a story that could have been told in one sequel just fine, or stretching out The Hobbit into not just two films but three. Man of Steel seems to me to be a film that needed a Part One and a Part Two. As it is it just rushes along without hardly any pause, incident upon incident, action set-piece upon action set-piece until it just threatens to fall apart. Which is not to suggest it has no quiet moments but it lacks, well, room to breathe.

Part of this seems to stem from a mantra that runs throughout the film to correct all the perceived mistakes of Superman Returns. Post-release that film was widely considered both a critical and financial failure. I don’t believe it was either, but the filmmakers and studio were obviously hellbent on rebooting the franchise as a Anti-Superman Returns. So gone was any reverence to Richard Donner’s film. This is a new Superman. Even if it essentially retells the story of Superman:The Movie and its sequel, the two films squeezed into one. Gone is the slow pace of Superman Returns and its nod back to what came before. This is new. This is loud.

A prologue Krypton sequence attempts to lay the groundwork of the film but this is undermined by not being given time enough. We are thrown into the story without everything being established properly, had this been two films an hour spent with Jor-El and Zod and the dying Krypton would have served both characters better. Heightened the tragedy, because after all, that’s what it is. Krypton ultimately fails, but Earth offers both Zod and Jor-El (through his son) redemption, albeit of opposing ways. This is rather lost when everything collapses into a senseless blitzkrieg of CGI explosions and battles and references to a codex. It just feels silly. There’s no drama to the noise and spectacle. No real involvement.

I wish this had been two movies, the first ending with Clark Kent established as Superman, the second starting with Zod arriving to wreak havoc trying to bring Krypton back, representing the very opposite of what our hero does. I think over the spread of two films it might have meant more. It’s not a terrible film by any means, it just lacks substance somehow. Zod’s Kryptonian cohorts are mere cyphers, Zod himself lacking the gravitas that he promises. We see Superman but none of the innocent Clark Kent reporting for The Daily Planet. That is left for a sequel we won’t likely get anyway, derailed by a desperate-sounding attempt to mimic Marvel’s film franchises by making Superman versus Batman instead. Spinning up a DC universe of superheroes on the silver screen.

Still, my viewpoint is inevitable really, as I much prefer the first two Christopher Reeve films. They had more charm, more heart.

6 thoughts on “Man of Steel (2013)

  1. Yes, you’re absolutely right. But then you’d just have ‘Superman The Movie: The Handlheld Version’, and ‘Superman II: With More Destruction”. And that simply wouldn’t do, because Nolan & Goyer & Snyder seem hellbent on not just, as you say, being the Anti-‘Returns’, but also not going anywhere near Donner’s straight-up, literal/chronological, character-building, slow-burn approach. It’s as though these film-makers set themselves the challenge of not doing ANY of the things that worked so well first time round. What a miserable experience ‘Man Of Steel’ was to watch.

    Oddly enough, I was just watching the ‘amnesia kiss’ scene from ‘Superman II’ this evening [following a train of thought through YouTube during an idle half-hour]. It’s the best scene in the film, better than anything in Donner’s version, ironically: it’s totally real and heartbreaking***, and there will never be anything in Snyder’s Superman universe to match it, just because of the stupid, contrary choices they’ve irrevocably made.

    In response to your other post about Zod’s suit, I think it actually would be more cost-effective to CG the whole thing: to build a real suit to look convincing costs a lot [the Jar Jar suit built before ILM decided to go full CG for the character cost $100,000 in 1997, if I remember right] and is always clunky and fragile and high-maintenance. And since the FX team would have to build and fully render a CGI suit for all the big fight scenes etc, you can actually re-use that for the character scenes as well, so it probably works better that way. Crazy, but true. Believe me, if there’s one thing Warners wouldn’t do, it’s spend money they don’t have to.

    And, no, you’re not so crazy to buy the Blu-ray: I’m still tempted by the ‘Prometheus’ package, as I want to see the three-hour documentary in there!

    ***’Superman Returns’ also has quite moving moments, and though I think it’s a bit dull in the third act [too much seaplane!], its heart is totally in the right place. And the score is lovely.

  2. Thanks for another very interesting comment!

    I wonder if you are right regards Zods costume. Crazy world!

    Agree absolutely regards Superman Returns lovely score, like the rest of the film, it had nods back to the original Donner film with its sublime use of Williams themes. That flight between Superman and Lois gives me chills in how it uses that love theme from the 1978 film. Okay, maybe the film as a whole was perhaps a little too fawning and rosy-eyed towards the original, but… Well, I really have an urge to watch Returns again having seen Man of Steel and I expect I shall enjoy it more.

    Regards the score, its very telling, the difference between the score of Returns and its classic themes and the score for MOS and, well, its lack of any themes other than the one that Zimmer insists on bashing us over the head with over and over. Its sadly typical of so many scores these days.

    Actually, I think I’ll play Donner’s two films first and then Returns. I haven’t tried watching them as a trilogy even though its obvious really.

  3. I finally got round to this a couple of days ago, and obviously I’ll share my thoughts in a full review at some point (by Monday, if an already busy weekend permits), but… I didn’t hate it. But nor did I love it.

    I think perhaps where it falls down is that Snyder & co have tried to do something new with the character and scenario, finding a way to make it seem plausible to our world, but at the same time fallen back on well-worn superhero tropes and comic book action sequences. I haven’t looked this up yet to check, but I bet the whole thing was shot on digital and then had that bleached grain-y look applied in post to make it seem more like a Gritty Realistic Movie shot on film in the ’70s.

    1. Matthew McKinnon

      Shot on 35mm, apparently.
      But it did annoy me how every single shot was handheld and in & out of focus. Very contemporary zzzz.

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