Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel (2013)

Title: Man of Steel (2013)

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Antje Traue, Laurence Fishburne


Without a doubt Man of Steel is the hottest ticket in town; the quintessential ‘movie of the summer’, it’s the “gotta see” of the summer season; so of course I was excited as hell to see it. I had my ticket a whole week before it was released, nothing was gonna stop me from seeing this one! The anticipation was a turn on as they say. The last cinematic incarnation of Superman was Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006). Those of you who saw it know it was disappointing in the sense that we rarely saw Superman doing anything very super; unless you count being a super stalker, a super power. He spent too much of his time brooding over Louis Lane rather than kicking some ass. So naturally, the big question on everyone’s mind is will this new Superman finally kick some ass? The answer to that question is a resounding yes! There’s so much ass kicking on this movie that you won’t know if Superman is saving or destroying Metropolis!

Since this is the first film in a new chapter of Superman films, Man of Steel has to go through the rite of passage of telling, once again, Superman’s origin story which we’d already seen in Superman (1978) and Superman Returns. But don’t worry, the good thing is that Man of Steel does it through a series of flashbacks, we don’t really dwell too much in Superman’s teenage years. Like the story of Jesus in the bible, Clark goes from being a child to being 33 years old in the blink of an eye, which by the way is also Jesus’s age in the bible. Same as Jesus; Kal-El is sent by his father to earth to “save them all”, so the parallels with Jesus Christ are pretty blunt on this one, actually there's more of them: Clark ends up being a fisherman, just like Jesus was a fisherman. Hell, Superman’s father tells him “you’ll be a God to them”, so yeah, there’s tons of biblical references on Man of Steel. Superman is even portrayed as having Catholic beliefs, which for me is one of the weak points in the film because this was never a part of who Superman is, its one of the reason why I lowered the score a bit. But unfortunately, according to this film, Clark is brought up in a Christian family. Clarks earth mother Martha Kent (played by Diane Lane) even wears a crucifix on her neck throughout the movie, so yeah, Superman’s a catholic on this one. Why did the filmmakers choose to go this route with the character?  

The thing about Superman is that he is supposed to represent the best in humanity, our best qualities, our highest morals, so I’m guessing this is why they gave him a Christian background, because Christianity portrays itself as a belief system with high moral values, never mind the pedophilia and the mass murders they’ve committed throughout history, Catholicism is supposed to be wholesome, keywords here being “supposed to be”. So then we have Clark sort of trying to hide the fact that he’s Superman because his earthly father, Jonathan Kent tells him the people of earth simply wouldn’t be able to deal with it, one lady who witnesses Superman’s strength starts saying that he is a God send. So Clark is always walking that dubious line between maintaining his secret, or coming out to the world as a super powered alien being. I enjoyed how they explored that angle of Superman changing people’s perceptions of why we are here. They go a bit into how Superman’s existence finally answers the question “are we alone in the universe?” I wish they’d gone a bit deeper into that, I personally think a whole new religion would pop up that would worship Superman, but they don’t go that far into it. So as you can see, this Superman movie gets quite existential. 

"We going to church today mom?"

Superman has always been portrayed as an American icon. His very suit is made up of two of the colors of the American flag. In the old television shows he was portrayed as a character who stood up for “truth, justice and the American way”. So I guess that’s why there’s so much product placement on this film! I counted Sears, 7-Eleven and IHOP amongst the companies that paid moola for their name to appear on this movie. I personally hate that whole “American Way” aspect of Superman, because really, a guy that powerful would be a citizen of the world, not of the United States. If Superman is that noble, that wholesome, he would see past borders and nationalities, he wouldn’t be “as American as they come”. But that’s the way they want to portray Superman on this film and with this movie they’ve really gone all the way with that whole idea. I mean, right before the movie started, they gave a commercial for the U.S. Army in which they compare the American military to Superman as if saying that American soldiers are real life heroes, never mind that most of them die in the line of battle for their countries egotistical reasons, sometimes for reasons that the soldiers themselves don’t even understand. Never mind that the American military is used to invade and conquer other countries simply because they have lots of oil, never mind all the atrocities they’ve committed, like bombing schools and hospitals, never mind that they are the nation that has killed the most people in one single swoop; they are heroes! So, this is a movie that takes Superman, the most powerful being on earth and puts a ‘Made in America’ stamp on it. The most powerful being on the planet is an American, and he’s working side by side with the U.S. Army! Barf. Personally, I hated that about this movie, but no worries, this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this massive summer movie blockbuster.

And when I say massive, I mean massive! When Supes and General Zod go at each other it is a dangerous affair which puts the citizens of Metropolis in true peril. On this one you won’t get people eating Ice Cream and talking on the phone as Gods are fighting each other destroying the city like in Superman II (1980). Nope, on this one the citizens of Metropolis have to run for their lives or get killed in Zod’s wake! Buildings are toppled, cars fly up in the air and massive amounts of concrete is destroyed when these guys go at each other. The battles are epic and certainly surpass the fight between General Zod and Superman in Superman II; a film which I still enjoy very much. Before this whole superhero revival thing that started with X-Men (2000), Superman II was the best of the superhero movies for me. But of course, it was quickly surpassed by many of the superhero films that are so common today, like say for example The Avengers (2012), which set a new standard for superhero films. And there’s no denying that this new Superman movie is influenced immensely by The Avengers, we get dimensional portals, an alien invasion in a major city and superheroes dueling in the skies; sound familiar? It’s because that’s exactly what The Avengers was all about too. But don’t fret, this isn’t a Xerox copy of The Avengers, yet there’s no denying the influence that film has over this one. I would go on to say that it’s the first official film to be influenced by The Avengers in that it’s trying to reach the same levels of destruction and epic scope.

Yet, the film goes its own way offering us many original elements. For example ‘Krypton ‘, Superman’s home world is a wonder to behold; I loved how they portrayed the different levels of political hierarchy. The technology of the planet mixes the organic with the technological in a really interesting way. The whole deal with Superman’s father, and who he was on his planet, loved that whole bit. We get to see why the suit, why the ‘S’, why the super powers, basically, all the ‘why’s’ about superman are answered. This film simply explains things better. But what we really wanted to see with this new film is Superman kicking ass right? So don’t worry my friends, there’s tons of that! This movie delivers on the spectacle arena, you won’t be disappointed. As a summer blockbuster, this movie functions to perfection, without a hitch. Casting wise the film is perfect, Henry Cavill as Kal-El was perfect casting, he looks the part. There was a moment where I thought I saw Christopher Reeves face, but it could have been my nostalgia goggles messing with me. Amy Adams as Louis was great, she isn’t bitchy or cartoony, she’s just a smart reporter, though I do feel that Louis and Clark’s love on this movie comes out of left field because there’s nothing to really validate it or spark it, it simply happens, it feels like they fall for each other simply because that’s what happens between Louis and Clark, not because they genuinely fell in love. Michael Shannon is great as Zod, but I was expecting a more intense portrayal of the character coming from Shannon, who is used to playing intensely nutty characters. Still, he doesn’t mess things up, it’s just that I thought he’d do something just a little more over the top.

Bottom line is this movie didn’t disappoint with its spectacle and massive amounts of destruction, the only reason why the film looses a couple of points for me is for using Superman to spread patriotism (which to me is simply another form of fanatism) and for making him a catholic, which just sucks, Catholicism was never a part of the equation; but the rest of the movie? Freaking awesome! A great summer blockbuster that won’t disappoint in terms of constantly showing you cool stuff. I mean, how cool was it that Superman finally used his heat vision and his super speed? Trust me on this one you’ll see Superman doing stuff you’ve never seen him do on any other movie, like for example, seeking the council of a Catholic priest. After the film finished, the audience stayed behind expecting one of those cliffhanger endings that the Marvel and Fast and the Furious films have popularized so much, but don’t waste your time, you’re not going to get it here. The filmmakers opted not to give us a cliffhanger as if saying: "this is a DC movie not a Marvel movie and don’t you forget it!" I'm positive that this movie will make obscene amounts of money, and I'm sure a sequel is certain, actually, both David Goyer the films writer, and Zack Snyder, the films director are signed to return. The success of Man of Steal will determine if we will ever see a Justice League movie, so if you want to see that movie happen, go on and see Man of Steel. If Man of Steel is any indication, we should be in for something  special, DC style. 
Rating: 4 out of 5  


Antonio said...

Dude, loved your analysis of the movie. Everything is right on!!! But why do they put all of the American stuff here, with the soldiers...Well, because Superman is from the USA! They didn't go anywhere else because that's where he's from...and about the fight in Metropolis, well, you are right on also about being kinda like the Avengers movie, but it had to be in Metropolis if we wanted to see the heroics of Perry White, and actually it was kind of cool to see the fight there. And for the Catholic stuff you are right again..It shows he's from a small American catholic town, humble catholic origins!!! But, don't let your experience with religion fuck this up!!! LOL...I see it so different than you...I didn't think it was a minus...I thought it was more real...Clark IS from a small town...Actually at the end when he says something like "Don't you worry about me, I'm just a boy from Kansas"...That is what he is...That little by little in all of his next experiences he will maybe be more eclectic in his beliefs, I don't doubt it...Anyway, I know every chance you get to criticize harshly religion, you will, but I understand why...truth is, in the Catholic Church there are as many hypocrites as anywhere's just a shame that it is under the philosophy of LOVE...But again, loved your analysis...and LOVED THE NEW SUPERMAN!!!

Unknown said...


What he said.

Franco Macabro said...

I agree with you Antonio, it's just that normally Hollywood avoids hitting the subject of religion, precisely because films are something so general, so many different people see them that they try and avoid touching both religion and politics, but with this one, they went right to catholicism and patriotism, it feels like they are trying to push those ideals on others, thats what rubs me the wrong way.

But yeah, of course I loved this new superman, it rocked.

I see your point too, he's from Kansas, a small town, yeah, that's how I took it too. I just saw it as if they were equating being American with being catholic and going to the Army ,LOL. Also, I don't remember catholicism ever being a part of the Superman mythology, this is also why it kind of bothered me to see it here.

But hey man, I LOVED this new Superman as well! The movie rocks, and I'm looking forward to the next films for sure!

Thanks for commenting dude!

SFF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SFF said...

I always appreciate your honesty toward politics and religion Fran even if I dont always agree.

Remember, all Muslims are not evil simply because some are fanatics. You have taken that stance before. The same should hold true here. Not every person without is eager to better their future. These are not absolutes. I know you have strong feelings towards these things, but let's be fair here.

Hollywood is more than happy to push less than traditional ideals and if Snyder and buyer deliver a story with something of an old-fashioned appeal I should think it refreshing on some levels. I look forward to out for myself.

I liked Antonios honest input here as well. Tristons remark was funny as well.

Nevertheless I loved reading your review of superman
here and I have no doubt I will agree with you that Snyder delivers yet again. I look forwRd to this one in a big way.

Nice to see you on the forefront of this one Fran. You always deliver timely reviews and appreciate so much of what makes going into a cinema fun.

SFF said...

Btw were friends and you know the spirit of our debates.

So francisco, given this discussion, I guess I can reapply the one point and make this a 5 star film. : )


Franco Macabro said...

Of course SFF, I appreciate your honesty too, Antonio is my friend as well, we've always had discussions about the nature of religion, he knows me pretty well, we actually made a zombie film together, he's a pretty philosophical dude himself, which is why I appreciate his honest reply!

I understand religion works for some, while others don't require it to continue with their lives. I personally choose to control my destiny,I want to take my life where I want it to go and I don't have troubles with expressing my way of thinking because those who believe in religions have no troubles speaking about their Gods. This is the reason why I'm honest about my anti religious views, it's just another way of seeing the world, some people find it shocking, but lighten up my friends, this is just another world view amongst many on this planet.

There's a scene where Superman asks his father if God gave him these special powers, with that simple scene, right there, they've made Superman a believer. So of course it's going to spark debate, and I love that it does that. I'm just seeing things from the point of view of someone who believes that the true origins of man are unknown to us, I don't know what you call that, but that's what I believe.

I also like to believe we live in a world where we can all agree about the different ways of seeing the world.

I welcome debates always, it's a way to put ideas out there, i will always take a humanitarian stance towards things, cause thats who I am, but hey, it's all about co-existance. So, religious or not, you're all cool in my book cause this is one mixed up complex world we live in, we'll be lucky if we ever actually get to make sense of it.

Franco Macabro said...

And SFF, my friend, it was the religious ideas and the patriotism that got me to lower ithis films rating, so if you dont mind these things much in your movies, then go ahead and give the movie a five, cause it's pure unadulterated summer blockbuster fun, so far one of the best of the summer along with Star Trek Into Darkness.

SFF said...

It sounds like faith.

There are clearly different forms of it.

I loved your response as well Francisco. It's good to share these ideas. Discussion and open exchange is what is missing. Tku my friend.

steve prefontaine said...

I dont really understand why they bother to put any supposedly strong characters or storys into these kinds of movies at all, all the audience for these films want to see is literally 2-and-a-half hours of incredible fights and unbelievable action sequences ! ! !.

B.A James said...

I went to see the film today
and it was great!

Franco Macabro said...

the sci-fi fanatic: your comments are always welcome dude!

Steve: the as kicking part of the movie is awesome, once it starts, it never stops!

B.S. James: I saw it today a second time, loved again.

Jack Thursby said...

Hey Franco, just writing up my review at the moment. Will have it up on my blog soon.

Liked your review. You make some interesting points about the religious aspects of the film. There were a lot of parallels between Jesus and Clark (didn't think about the fishing one until you mentioned it).

I'm an atheist myself but it didn't really bother me much that they made some parallels to Jesus. To be honest the original comic book story borrows so much from ancient biblical stories like Moses and Jesus I don't think the makers could have avoided them. I mean looking at the Jesus "story" objectively, it's a pretty cool story. It's just not something I choose to believe or worship.

If anything, doesn't the existence of Krypton negate Earth's religions?

I know what you mean about the seemingly pro-military agenda too but I think that angle was somewhat dictated by the story. It was essentially an alien invasion. The military were bound to join in the fighting alongside Superman.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, the parallels with Jesus have always been there from the early years of Superman, it's only now, in the newer films that they are emphasizing it more heavily. I don't mind the parallels with Jesus and his story, I agree, many of the bible tales are interesting and even entertaining! But same as you I can't take them as real. This is why I'll enjoy a movie like The Passion of Christ or Aronofsky's upcoming Noah movie...but I enjoy these movies from a different perspective than a christian will, to me it's just a cool story.

That point you make about Krypton negating earth's religion is one I also thought about while watching the movie. Supermans existense would change so many things here on earth, I wonder if they'll go into that on the sequels?

Agree about the story requiring the participation of the military, I just hated that US Army commercial before the movie, the one that equates U.S. military with Superman. I hate to see them use Superman (a character I love) to make kids think it's cool to be cannon fodder.

I will be checkint out your review as of right now Jack! Thanks for commenting.

Jack Thursby said...

What? They had a commercial for the army before the movie? That's just wrong. You shouldn't be advertising the army before (what's seen as) a kids film. The army is a decision people should make when they are 18.

Hopefully, the sequel won't have so much army stuff.


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