Published on July 12th, 2013 | by Ithika1
Man of Steel: More like, Clark, do you even lift?
I have to admit, I’ve never been much of a fan of Supes, the whole “invulnerable magic man” thing never engaged me as much as the more vulnerable heroes like Bats or Iron Man. “Vulnerable” in the superhero definition of the term, that is.
So it was with several grains of salt that I went to watch this latest Superman offering, Man of Steel, from Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder, and despite my misgivings I found the film pretty enjoyable!
On a scale of Catwoman to Batman Begins, I’d rank Man of Steel a solid… uh, seven. It will not leave you breathless and gasping for more, nor will it depress and disappoint. I felt it was a solid start for a film series, and I did like Henry Cavill’s Superman – he feels human and relatable, qualities I often find lacking in this character. As otherreviewers have noted, he does spend a lot of the film enraged, but is that so surprising? This is an origin story after all, so Superman isn’t used to being in the thick of things, yet. Also, if you’re wondering, yes, yes, you will do all right if you want to gaze upon a built dude.
Major Plot Spoilers Follow!
The film opens with get another screaming-filled birthing scene. Seriously, Hollywood, how many of these does humanity need? It’s no wonder that the Kryptonians gave up the whole disgusting process in favour of babies grown in bubbles attached to mystical umbilical seaweed. Can’t we just have blissful utopian birth scenes? Don’t give me that “it’s not realistic” crap – this is a film about a space man who can fly faster than the speed of sound, shoot lasers from his eyes, survive in space, can see through every actual thing, and yet is both humble and contentious. Stop it with the lady torture birth scenes. Stop it.
Anyway, meet Jor-el and… Lara. Really? Lara? Okay, whatever. They’re the big man’s folks, who have made a baby the old fashioned way, in secret, while their stupid government mines their home planet so furiously that it has begun to implode. (Too greedily and too deep, indeed!)
We get to meet the doomed council of Silly Hats of Office, the Big Bad And His Not So Merry Men, and another poorly cared for loyal beast of burden. One thing leads to another, and the future Superman gets sent spinning off into the black of space bearing the DNA of his entire species and some foggy mission from ma and pa. Then everyone else dies, but not before they sentence the Bad Guy, General Zod, and his entourage to Space Jail.
Did I mention that everyone on the planet at this point knows that it is moments from violent destruction, and they opt to send their criminals safely into space while they all… They all just die.
Really. Who would do this? It’s no wonder Kypton was done for.
The film then takes us through space and time, and we meet Clark Kent, who is goddamn gigantic. He immediately engages in some satisfying Superman heroics, and we move on with the story. It focuses on Clark as a regular old nice guy who tries to both help people, and fly under the radar. There is one deeply unsettling moment where Clark’s Earth-father, Jonathon, pretty much says explicitly that Clark shouldn’t have saved a school bus of kids which crashed into a river (Clark on board) which is… interesting. I get the whole “stay hidden because people are essentially jerks, son” line of thinking, but telling your 9-12 year old son that he shouldn’t have saved a busload of his peers is something pretty different. They also did an excellent job of finding child actors who look like the grown up Superman, which I tend to appreciate.
Lois Lane (portrayed by Amy Adams) features in this film as an accomplished, Pulitzer prize winning reporter, who meets Clark on a chance encounter on a Kryptonian spacecraft in the arctic circle, and then goes on to discover his hometown and identity all on her own, which I thought was pretty great, and better than the traditional ‘Lois knows both Clark Kent and Superman, does not connect the dots’ version of the character. She also shows compassion and doesn’t pursue the story after speaking to young Mr Kent, which confused her boss, Morpheus.
As someone currently watching Battlestar Galactica for the first time, I’d also like to mention that Mr Gaeta appears in a brief cameo, doing a not-too-dissimilar job to the one he handles so competently on the Battlestar.
Not long after this, the Kryptonian baddies appear out of space, and demand the surrender of Kal-el in exchange for the lives of the people of Earth. This is where the plot starts moving, and you get to see a lot of fun, fast paced and exciting action sequences with explosions coming out the wazoo.
The only problem that I had with the action in the movie is that neither Superman nor the Kryptonian Baddies appear to be able to hurt each other. Sure, Superman can’t fight humans because they literally can’t hurt him, but I had assumed that introducing Kryptonian villains was designed to negate Supe’s powers, meaning he could get roughed up and so would they. Instead, what happens is that you have two virtual gods punching each other through skyscrapers, neither party so much as getting a torn shit or bloody nose.
The first time Clark flies General Zod through a straight line of buildings, it’s exhilarating and fun. By the tenth time this happens, it’s beginning to lose its appeal. I found this interesting, particularly since Rusty’s character died so easy.
My favourite villain was actually not General Zod at all (who reminds me uncannily of Joachim Phoenix), but his right-hand-woman, Faora. She’s a relentless badass, ruthlessly jumping in and out of buildings, onto helicopters, and delivering such fun toughie one liners as “A good death is its own reward,” and her fight scenes are some of the best in the movie.
One last thing which stood out to me in this movie is how much unbridled destruction took place in it. The first fight between humanity and the Kryptonians involved the almost immediate destruction of about 8 fighter planes, and that is probably the cheapest fight that took place. Superman does little to try to minimise damage to property – and, indeed, civilians – in one scene he drives Zod through several grain silos, a petrol station and other occupied, civilian movies, and in another he does the same through several skyscrapers in Metropolis. Superman, I would say, does nearly as much damage to the places he’s trying to protect as the invaders, which was interesting.
All in all, it was an enjoyable movie, but it lacks the compelling story telling and character development of better comic hero origin stories, as found in Iron Man or Batman Begins, but there is room for that in the inevitable sequels that Warner Brothers surely have planned. I’m comfortable with Cavill as Superman, he fits the roll well and is a decent actor, bringing more humanity to the role than I was expecting, despite his limited character development. Adams’ Lois Lane is an excellent companion to Cavill’s Kal-el, sharp, bright and capable, and I look forward to seeing how she develops in the sequels as a confidant and compliment to Superman. The film wraps up with Kent donning that perfect disguise – glasses – and joining the Daily Planet, where he immediately joins Lois’ team, because, you know, it’s not like you need a degree or anything to be a reporter.
I’m also very glad to report that the Superman of the new millennium no longer feels the need to don underpants on the outside of his suit.