Is Way Too Maleable with Zack Snyder on Speed
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS MAY OCCUR
The worst thing about Man of Steel is that it takes the worst of its filmmakers and imbues it into its infrastructure in every frame possible. Christopher Nolan made a brand for himself with the serious, dark The Dark Knight Trilogy and Zack Snyder became known unfortunately for the train wreck that was Sucker Punch. Man of Steel takes itself so seriously it’s nauseating at times and the action sequences are a prime example of terrible over-indulgence. Superman has had a difficult history in Hollywood and Man of Steel is unabashedly the best effort yet, but that doesn’t mean that it is a great film. It is enjoyable in many aspects, especially the performances and the flashback scenes, but ultimately it asks the audience to truly believe in Clark Kent, even though the film’s script ends up suggesting that he’s responsible for the deaths of 100,000 people in Metropolis, something the film spends about as much time exploring as I do reading an Ann Coulter book. In other words, zero.
The film opens on Krypton, where the planet is collapsing. The entire sequence is gorgeous but one couldn’t help but wonder afterwards why that sequence wasn’t given twice the screen time – it whizzed past. The grounded performances from Ayelet Zurer and Russell Crowe help the overwhelming and terribly paced opening. It’s a really interesting sequence in all honesty, but the lack of proper time devoted to it saps it of the emotional intensity and political commentary it was capable of delivering (Krypton begins to break because of the devouring of its natural resources – an apt political commentary for today if there was one). Then the film spins towards Clark Kent, our titular Man of Steel. Henry Cavill’s Superman is dark and brooding, which is fine and makes sense for someone who feels isolated from the rest of the world. But the problem lies with his story, which relies on flashbacks to tell the narrative. There is nothing wrong with flashbacks and they sequences are done well, but there is a significant problem when the narrative falls apart without the flashback scenes. Kent spends a lot of time wandering about, which is fine, but the audience is never privy as to where he goes and what he does outside of “he’s trying to find himself”. Once again, that’s fine and understandable, but there’s little ground added to that emotional layer. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane and Kent have great chemistry and it shows, but the film’s climax focuses instead on a ton of buildings collapsing upon each other for no reason whatsoever. When Kent and chief villain Zod are fighting in the air, it’s exhilarating. And then the buildings fall again.
Henry Cavill makes a good Clark Kent and even in the most ridiculous moments of the film performs admirably. Ayelet Zurer gives a wonderfully nuanced, if ridiculously brief, performance as his mother Lara and one wishes she had gotten a lot more screentime. Russell Crowe is good as the troubled Jor-El to the very end. Amy Adams is great as a fiery, passionate Lois Lane who can hold her own and plays off Kent really well while keeping her independence intact. She also deserved a lot more screen time. Diane Lewis and Kevin Costner give wonderfully nuanced performances as Kent’s parents, even though Costner got stuck with one of the worst deaths ever in film. In the original comics, Jonathan Kent dies after a heart attack, an instant sort of death that really drives home the point that Superman can’t save everyone and prevent all hardship. In the film, for some inexplicably stupid reason, they take that scenario and replace it with a tornado. Yep, a tornado. Why, I have no idea. Michael Shannon gets the chief villain role with General Zod and he does a fairly decent job, although he’s far too shrill to elicit any understanding from the audience emotionally. Antje Traue, a German actress, plays Zod’s right-hand lieutenant Faora and she steals the show from Michael Shannon. She is a badass fighter and her villainous zeal is scene-stealing.
Ultimately, Man of Steel is an average film that has great performances and a killer soundtrack from the always reliable Hans Zimmer but suffers from poor direction, lack of a coherent script, and wanton destruction that is never properly addressed. It’s as if the film forgot that their protagonist, by the script’s demand, is asking acceptance after causing the destruction of Metropolis and the deaths of over 100,000 plus citizens. Zack Snyder will helm the sequel and one can only hope he gets a better hold on the director’s camera so it doesn’t feel as if the director is high on speed and thus the drugs are responsible for the poor direction. The 3-D effects were significantly poor in the film, second only to Iron Man 3 in inducing nausea and blurriness. It is disappointing, all things considered. But it is still worth a popcorn watch if nothing else and the great actors and actresses deserved a better production. The audience certainly did.
Title: Man of Steel
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Zack Snyder
Producers: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, Deborah Snyder
Screenplay: David S. Goyer
Story: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based On: Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cinematography: Amir Mokri
Editing: David Brenner
Studios: Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, DC Entertainment
Distributers: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 143 minutes
Release Date: June 14th, 2013
Image Courtesy: Warner Bros.