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.