Sunday, 8 December 2013


This movie has had a mixed reception so I'll get to the point.

I liked it. A lot.

Much of the criticism springs from the fact the writer and director attempted to d something a little different. Not a lot, but enough to upset some people. Me, I like different. I particularly like recent tv series which have taken something traditional and made it new again. Examples: Elementary -ex-substance abuser Sherlock Holmes in modern New York with Dr Joan Watson, Dracula -see recent post, Sleepy Hollow- ditto.

Man of Steel isn't as remotely daring which is hardly surprising as there are certain basics regarding the Superman mythos that you do not fuck with. And they haven't. Just tweaked it a little.

Krypton is very much front and centre here. Just as Jor-El (an excellent Russell Crowe, and rather than repeat an adjective from this point on every time I mention an actor's name imagine it prefaced with excellent) is telling the wrinklies of the council that Krypton is about to blow up, General Zod (Michael Shannon who is even better than excellent) announces he's taking over the government from these wrinklies who've let a great society decline. They get cross with each other. Jor-El hurries home to launch baby Kal to Earth and gets killed by Zod. Krypton blows up. This takes about 20 minutes and is very exciting.

You know what happens next. Kindly couple etc. Then lots of flashbacks. Young Clark has problems controlling and hiding his powers. Young adult Clark leaves home to explore the world, takes on a variety of labouring/menial jobs and is well on his to becoming an urban legend as a result of helping people in unexpected ways. He's 33 by the time he meets Lois Lane up in Canada's Arctic Circle where an alien craft has been found buried in 18,000 year old ice. It's a Kryptonian deep space probe. Clark accesses it by means of a Kryptonian key which contains a copy of his father and all is revealed about his origin. Lois...

Okay, okay, enough spoilers. Let's just say that after fully accessing his powers, Zod and his cohorts arrive in search of Kal-El and wanting to terraform Earth into Krypton. Too bad about the original inhabitants (us). Lots of fighting happens. Spectacular fighting. Really really amazingly spectacular fighting. Your eyeballs will explode.

I think you get the idea.

But while it's an enormous spectacle of a movie, it's also a very human one. Jor-El is a more compassionate and humane figure than he's been portrayed in the past. Zod is not a psychopath but someone who is unable to transcend the role he was genetically created to occupy. Kal is the first natural (and secret) birth on Krypton in centuries, all other babies are created in exo-wombs and designed to fit into a particular niche. So Zod is not a villain in the sense that Terrence Stamp's Zod was but someone who can only see one way. Michael Shannon, an actor I'm unfamiliar with, is terrific in the role, imbuing it with an intensity which makes the word "intensity" seem completely inadequate. 

And in Henry Cavill we have a Superman for the new century -dignified, charismatic, compassionate- who has the physique to make the character believable. In this first film, there is no difference between Clark Kent and Superman, the latter not appearing until some time into the film. And at this point I really ought to mention the laudable performances of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark's true parents who are responsible for him becoming the man he ends up as. And Amy Adams is a good Lois Lane.

Next up is Superman/Batman with Ben Affleck as you know who. Can't wait.


Ian Ravendale said...

What no mention of the two major critical bones of contention? One,Clark not saving Jonathan's life in case it blows his secret, when he could have done it in a dozen ways without outing himself. Two, snapping Zod's neck in battle Again, at least a dozen different alternatives to remove him but let him live. He's Superman not Dirty Harry!

Dan O. said...

I know the sequels will expand on this universe and make it better, but I’m a bit disappointed with this one right now. Nice review Ian.