Monday, 17 June 2013

Man Of Steel (2013) Review

This week, I put on my cape and boots and flew down to my local IMAX cinema to check out Man Of Steel (2013) starring Henry Cavill as our brawny-chested hero. The film also stars Amy Adams as intrepid reporter Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as the villainous General Zod. It's directed by Zack Snyder.

Yes, that Zack Snyder. The guy who directed 300 (2006) and Watchmen (2009) and (ugh) Sucker Punch (2011). He of the quick-then-slow-then-quick action shots. Often accused of all glam and no substance.

Take a deep breath, now. It'll be ok. Trust me.

This movie is actually quite good. A lot of this credit will likely go to Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight Trilogy. While I'm sure, as one of 7 or 8 producers on this film, he had his share of input and feedback, the bulk of the credit should go to Snyder.

The movie is laid out a little differently then you might expect. In fact, I've heard some complaints about the narrative style chosen. It was made clear very early on in the production that this would be a reboot with a full origin story intact. The style they chose for the telling of said origin story is a non-linear series of flashbacks from an already grown up Clark Kent. Personally, I think this was a brilliant way to shoot this.

Trying to tell the story of how little Kal-El is shot to Earth in a spaceship from the dying planet of Krypton and found by the Kents in a linear, chronological fashion would be too reminiscent of the original Superman (1978) film. More than that, though, we're talking about the single most well known and celebrated superhero of all time. You'd have to go 10,000 miles to find someone in a deep, dark jungle who didn't know who Superman was or what his story entails. With the story told this way, we get to catch a glimpse of his past struggles, helping us identify with his character, while getting to see him facing the challenges of being the most powerful person on the planet and trying desperately to hide that fact. It also helps with the pacing early on as we get to see different aspects of Clark's personality as they develop.

The opening scenes of the movie take place on Krypton with Jor-El (Russell Crowe) helping to give birth to his son while, at the same time, trying to prevent a military coup by General Zod (Michael Shannon). Krypton is rendered beautifully in these opening sequences. It's a different take on the planet and the technology used from what's been previously shown. Everything is more fluid, rather than crystaline as has been portrayed in other properties. The action on Krypton is fast and furious as Jor-El tries to save his infant son while battling Zod and his followers with the whole planet blowing up around them. It does a great job of setting the tone early for the action to come later in the film.

The middle of the film does a good job introducing us to the supporting cast as well as establishing the major plot points. It's a little clunky, but that's usually due to periods of exposition by characters helping to explain what's going on. While this gets overdone at times, there wasn't a single point in the movie where I had difficulty following the narrative or didn't know what was going on. More importantly, it does something the films, tv series' and even the source material comic books have shied away from; it makes Superman relateable. The second act really focuses on humanizing the Last Son of Krypton in a way that's refreshing and totally unexpected. You don't end up cheering for him just because he's Superman. You end up cheering from him because you kinda fall in love with him a little. You get to a point where you appreciate his struggles and understand what he must go through trying to make his way through life as an outsider.

The third and final act of the movie is all action. And when I say action, I mean action. For those of you who've always wanted to see an all-out slugfest between superheroes and supervillains, you cannot miss this film. The action is incredibly fast pace and utterly relentless, never letting up. When I heard this movie cost the studio $225 million to make, I had to wonder where all that money went. After watching the last 45 minutes of Man of Steel, I wonder no longer. From heat-vision scorching to flying, burning locomotive trains, to mid-air battles between flying Kryptonians, the action is crazy start to finish.

The casting for this movie is pretty spot on. Michael Shannon has a good turn as Zod. Amy Adams is great as Lois Lane. The real star, though, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman. Not since Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Ironman has there been a more inspired casting choice for a role. Cavill IS Superman. His Clark Kent is great as well. He brought weight and gravitas to a role that is one of the most difficult in Hollywood to portray. How do you make a god-like boy scout believable, approachable and relateable? By playing it straight and to the point, earnestly and honestly. Cavill does this and does it so well it's hard to imagine anyone else donning the cape. He's the first actor I've seen in the role that made me think someone other than Christopher Reeves has a spot in the pantheon as the Man of Steel.

Ok, I think I've gushed over Henry enough. Man-crush is getting a little out of hand there.

Are there issues with this film? Of course. As I mentioned, the second act has some long-winded and clunky moments. The third act, while sporting some of the best superhero action ever put on film, does so by sacrificing story and character development. 

Still, this film delivers and it delivers big time. Rumour has it that the success of this film would determine whether or not we'd see movement on a Justice League film in the future. I think we can safely assume we'll be seeing bigger things to come.

4 out of 5 stars.


Man Of Steel (2013)
Reviewed by The Bitter Critic on Jun 17 2013
Rating: 4

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