Man of Steel

It opened yesterday, the day finally came where I went into my first viewing of a Superman film with confidence that this might actually be good.  That’s the first time in my life, Superman Returns back in 2006 wasn’t awful, it wasn’t great and I think trying to cling onto the story from ’78 and ’80 did not only the film, but Brandon Routh a disservice.  I went into that expecting very little, but this new iteration had my attention.  Big time.  Did it live up to my expectations?  It’s actually a slightly more complicated question than it appears to be, so what I’m going to do if give a brief, spoiler free summary to begin with, so if you’re still deciding whether to part with your hard earned money to go watch it, this might help.  Then I’ll really get into what I think about various aspects of the film, my thoughts and theories and where I think things might head in the future (and what I hope they do in the future).  That will be packed full of spoilers, so be warned!

So, as a stand alone film, ignoring the fact that this is based off a comic that has been running for 75 years, it’s bloody fantastic.  The cinematography is sublime, everything looked nice and crisp and sharp, fast motion was nice and smooth but felt incredibly fast.  The 3D element didn’t feel tacked on for the sake of it, I felt it was used to smart effect, emphasising certain aspects of shots and in some cases providing really nice, deep backgrounds.  The sound was absolutely spot on, the score from Hans Zimmer is phenomenal, it captures all of the action and emotion and layers it over every scene so well.  This particular point is driven home during one particular scene where all the music stops completely and there is almost complete silence.  It’s almost uncomfortable.

In terms of casting, again, I felt they got this pretty much dead on.  Henry Cavill was born for this role, his various displays of emotion (particularly during two scenes I will discuss shortly) were gut-wrenchingly believable.  Amy Adams as Lois Lane, honestly, was a casting choice I was a little unsure of.  I’m unaware of a film she has been in prior to this where her character had the kind of attitude Ms Lane tends to have.  She also doesn’t really look like Lois Lane.  That thought was knocked out pretty quickly with her strong presence, quick wit and well delivered lines and I’m glad she proved the skeptic in me wrong.  Russel Crowe is a bit of a show stealer if I’m being honest here, whenever scenes featuring Jor-El came to a close, I felt a little disappointment, Russel Crowe knew exactly what was needed of him for this part and he truly brought his A game.  Michael Shannon as General Zod was utterly convincing as a man who knew only how to protect the future of his race, a man who genuinely believed what he was doing was right in the eyes of Krypton and saw no other alternative than the path he took. 

On the whole I think it’s a film that many will find great entertainment in.  The length may put some off a bit, being only seven minutes shy of two and a half hours, but there’s no filler that has you sitting there waiting for the next interesting bit to pop up.  Anyone that has been and seen Iron Man 3 this year will most likely enjoy it, likewise fans of the Dark Knight trilogy will most likely enjoy it.

Also, scroll right past all of the spoilerific discussion below for a recommended reading list if you’re feeling in a Superman kind of mood.

SPOILERS!  SPOILERS!  SPOILERS!  SPOILERS!  SPOILERS!  SPOILERS!  SPOILERS!

 

So, this is where the spoilers kick in, in case you hadn’t notice. I’ve tried to avoid even minor spoilers so far but I’m going to completely spill my guts for this part so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Firstly, and one of the most important things for me, they didn’t mess about with his mythos all that much at all.  Jor-El makes it known very quickly that he is sending Kal-El to Earth because of the young, yellow star we orbit.  He knows the effect this will have on a Kryptonian, and he is sent there in the hope that he can guide humanity to a more properous age.  This is nothing new, I don’t think any of this can or should be changed.

I also really liked how rather than having a massive sequence at the beginning of the film showing the origins of Supes, it was interspersed throughout the film, every now and then cutting back to part of Clark’s youth in Smallville.  The relationship with Clark and Ma and Pa is really nice, and one of the defining factors in who he becomes is when he witnesses the death of Jonathan to a tornado having just told him he has no right to tell him what to do since he’s not really Clark’s dad.  It’s not something I had expected to come from the mouth of Clark Kent, but it showed that human side he has developed from living on Earth all his life.  It was also considerably more striking when it turned out that was the last thing he said to Pa before he died, a death he could have prevented but, with one final show of trust and respect to Pa Kent, held back using his powers in front of all those people and let him die.  Clark’s distraught reaction was one of the two scenes I mentioned above, it really got to me.

This adaptations presentation of both Krypton and the Phantom Zone were breathtaking to behold, particularly that orbital device that sent the prisoners to the Phantom Zone, I didn’t know where to look with all of those cables that snaked over the ship and sent it through.  I didn’t necessarily wholeheartedly approve of the way Zod and his minions were released from the Phantom Zone, I think the thirty three years would have been sufficient to find one of the backdoors out rather than Krypton’s destruction bringing them back out, but let’s be fair here, that’s a pretty minor gripe.

There were some very minor things that I really liked; Lana Lang is in it, Pete Ross is in it, you see a LexCorp Tanker, you get to see a Wayne Enterprises satellite, there is a visible LexCorp skyscraper at one point.  It all helps it feel like it’s part of a bigger universe without taking much attention away from the main Superman action that is going on.

The scout ship Kal comes across, the one that he accidentally activates the distress beacon on, this got me thinking quite a bit.  It’s that empty pod that keeps scratching at the back of my head, I’ve thought about it more than most other aspect of the film today and I am now absolutely convinced it belongs to Kara Zor-El, also known as Supergirl.  I’m so sure of this, I think we will see her pop up in the next Man of Steel in some capacity, whether it be a main role or a fringe one for the time being, she will be in the next one.

Now, I’d like to touch on a couple of parts of the film that have cause quite a stir amongst the comic book community, and I think while they have reasonable arguments, it needs to be viewed in a slightly different light.  See, the thing that has a lot of people rattled is the almost incomprehensible level of damage and destruction that happens around Superman while he’s fighting.  Cities cannot be evacuated at a moments notice, and Metropolis is a bloody big place, so all of those fight scenes we see in the the city, we are indirectly watching potentially thousands of people die with Superman doing little to prevent this.  Here’s my take on it:  the Superman we have the privilege of reading has grown and evolved over 75 years of publication, this not only gives writers a tonne of background and history to work with, it also gives Kal plenty of time to grow as a person, and a hero.  He is intensely aware of what he has to do, how he can minimise human loss of life and keep structural damage to a minimum.  In this portrayal, he doesn’t actively divert fights away from innocent lives, he gets stuck in.  The way I see it is he has spent almost his entire life trying to find his place, struggling through the mistrust and, in some cases, abuse of others until only just before Zod arrives, he discovers the scout ship holding his suit and understands it is time for him to step up.  I think we will see a resounding effect played through at least the second M.o.S. film, guilt over all the lives that were lost during his battle, and I think it will be that very event that makes him so acutely aware of the dangers of his battles around regular people, aware of his responsibilities to keep people safe and alive.

And finally, the scene that has easily kicked up the most stink within the comic community, the kill scene.  Superman does not kill.  This is a simple fact, his upbringing by the Kents imbues a deep moral code within the soon to be superhero, he holds great value in life and won’t kill even the most dangerous, vicious and murderous of criminals.  He believes in second chances, redemption and mercy.  And yet, right at the end of the film, he thunderously snaps the neck of General Zod as he is trying to use his heat vision on nearby innocents.  He shows the signs of his belief in the sanctity of life here, desperately trying to hold Zods head away from the family cowering in the corner until he eventually does the deed.  I saw it coming, I knew he was going to kill Zod, I absolutely knew it but I was still shocked to the core by it.  As it happened I had my hand up to my mouth, partly because I wanted to prevent myself from making some weird noise, partly because I didn’t really know what to do with myself.

He could have found another way.  More to the point, he should have found another way.  Once again, Henry Cavill went a long way to remedying what I had seen with the roar of heart breaking agony, not only had he himself just killed, but having just sent all of Zod’s forces back into the Phantom Zone (seemingly more permanently this time) he had also just killed the last free, living member of his race.  That he knows of anyway.  And the pain was both visible and audible.  It hurt.  As I said above it genuinely shocked me, I’m still sort of getting my head around it now, Superman killing is such an alien concept to me, and to be perfectly honest with you I hope I never have to witness it again.

Oh, and that last scene with Clark starting his new job at the Daily Planet, wearing the geeky glasses and looking generally uncomfortable had me leaving the cinema grinning from ear to ear.  I hope the sequel gets significantly more Clark Kent time, Clark Kent as we know him, making a fool of himself with his clumsiness and apparent ineptitude.

What I’d like to see come from this now is a solid recasting of Batman, and a World’s Finest movie, a good old Superman Batman team up, maybe even before they bring the whole Justice League along.  We know that Man of Steel 2 has been given the green light, and as far as I’m aware the talk at the moment is that production will begin early next year.  As said above, I think Supergirl will be showing up and it would be nice to see her get her own film.  When Justice League does roll round (it’s almost certain to at this point) I’d like to see Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman all appear in some capacity.  I think it would be really cool if the could also tie it into Arrow on TV, maybe even get Stephen Amell to make an appearance in the Justice League film.

And that’s where I’m at right now, I think I need at least a second viewing so I can potentially reassess certain aspects of the film, but as a pretty big fan of not just Superman, but the whole “Super family” I came out from this film very happy, a few minor gripes but on the whole it blew me away.  Easily my favourite superhero film of the last five years or so, easily.

 

End of Spoilers

Quick last bit for you before I go, a few Superman books you should absolutely go and check out, whether you want something to get you in the mood for the film, or you’ve seen the film and need to find some good Supes stories.  Check these out, you will not be disappointed:

Superman: The Last Son of Krypton
All Star Superman
Superman Birthright
Superman Earth One
Superman Brainiac
Superman Red Son

They should keep you busy for a bit!  Anyway, thanks for reading, I’m quite tired now so I’m going to skip the proof read, hopefully I’ve not missed a glaring error.  Until next time, good night all.

@NickLayland88

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