Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MAN OF STEEL (2013)

Written by David S. Goyer


Directed by Zack Snyder


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA  June 18, 2013 5:00PM


Superman, the patriotic comic-book hero who has been soaring the skies combating evil, fighting crime and protecting good American values for the last seventy-five years, has been resurrected once again for the big screen in "Man Of Steel". Last seen in the underwhelming 2006 film, "Superman Returns", writer David S. Goyer ("Blade", "Batman Begins") and director Zack Snyder ("300", "Watchmen") have taken a page from Christopher Nolan (who executive produced this film)as he achieved great success with his very dark revision of Batman. They decided a fresh spin was required and did this by giving the invincible super-hero a little edge, a few flaws and some anxiety. This veteran do-gooder seems to have been brought down to Earth as a way to make him appear more hip and appealing to modern audiences. While the idea has some merit but this 21st century version of Superman is burdened with a dark heaviness that never really feels like a good fit. All these changes hasn't made this Superman more intriging, it's actually made him blend in even more within the very crowded cinematic super-hero universe.

Since this reboot is starting from the beginning, it might seem necessary to retell the overly familiar story of how the baby, Kal-El ended up on Earth from his doomed planet, Krypton. However, this time we get a more detailed look in to the dire situations that lead up to this event. His father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), a top scientist predicts his planet will soon come to an end due to the extensive overuse of Krypton's natural resources. The military leader, General Zod (Michael Shannon) violently rises up against the ruling party and wants Jor-El to join him but refuses. The men rage a deadly battle with Jor-El losing his life but not before sending his new-born infant off to Earth with the genetic code of the Kryptonian race with him. Zod and his fellow rebels are captured and banished to the Phantom Zone as punishment

From here, the film wisely veers from narrative tradition and we next see the adult Kal-El, now called Clark Kent, and played by the chiseled and almost unbearably handsome, Henry Cavill. Clark has been drifting, traveling across the country and picking up a variety of odd jobs along the way. It appears he's hoping to find meaning to his life and place on this planet. We learn more about Clark's past through a series of flashbacks; he was brought up in Kansas by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who found his spacecraft and raised him as their own. The Earth's gravity has given Clark the power of x-ray and heat-omitting vision, allows him to fly and has made his body structure so strong that he's now virtually indestructible. After discovering his amazing abilities and fearful of what could happen if others found out, his parents strongly advise their young son to never use his special powers publicly which leaves him confused and frustrated.

Clark lands a job as part of a scientific crew who find an alien spaceship buried in the Antarctic. Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is sent by her paper, The Daily Planet to cover the story. While sneaking out to get a closer look at the object, Lois discovers Clark, who is also investigating the vesicle. Originating from Krypton, the craft connects Clark to his history and past. Lois manages to become seriously injured while on board which forces Clark to reveal his secret to save her life.

When she returns to work, Lois has written a article about this "super-human" mystery man but her editor, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) refuses to run this seemingly crazy story. Meanwhile, the activated spacecraft has inadvertently lead General Zod and his crew to Earth. They had been set free from their prison after their planet's destruction and been searching for Kal-El ever since. He hold the key to Zod's plan of creating a new Krypton by altering the atmosphere on Earth but it would also mean the end of all human life. Clark, now outfitted in a Kryptonian warrior uniform, has finally been given a very good reason to display his super-powers to the world as he has to try and save his adopted home.

Mr Synder began his career making commercials, so he knows how to tell a complete story with visual impact in less than sixty seconds. But "Man of Steel" is over two hours long and while the film impresses with some brilliantly, dazzling images, it's far less successful at keeping the story and pacing up to the same level. This has been a common problem I've had with most of the director's films as they tend to be highly stylised but emotionally artificial. The advancement of special effects has indeed made this film look incredibly realistic but as the numerous battles for dominance between the man of steel and General Zod mount and the city of Metropolis crumbles in the process, these scenes soon grow tiresome and more uneventful as they plod on. "Man of Steel" seems determined to put some distance from the Superman we've grown accustomed with, to the extent that the "S" word is never even uttered throughout. Lois Lane nearly gives the hero his name after questioning the large letter on his massive chest (which is cleverly not what you think it is) but this film is still unable to erase the memory of the charming 1978 film that featured Christopher Reeve in the red and blue costume that first made us believe a man could truly fly. While that "Superman" featured visuals that might be considered primitive by today's standards but it also had a sense of fun that is completely lacking in "Man of Steel" and desperately needed.

While the British Mr. Cavill (who nearly won the role in the 2006 film) certainly fills out the spandex quite nicely but his take on this all-American bred hero is pretty much a zero as far as making a persuasive impression or igniting any sparks between himself and his future long-term love interest. It's not entirely the actor's fault as the screenplay gives him no real distinctive personality or that Lois Lane displays more of a steely exterior than our Kryptonian. Ms. Adams plays an up-to-date version of the intrepid reporter who is tough, fearless and serious-minded but never comes across convincingly as a person that would ever allow somebody to sweep her off her feet. Mr Shannon is reliably good as the pathologically driven Zod and Mr. Crowe is fine in what should have been a glorified cameo but he pops up later in the film to meet his son and give him a history lesson in the form of an overly interactive hologram..

As far as these flicks go, "Man Of Steel" falls somewhere down the middle as it certainly delivers all the thrills and excitement you would expect but doesn't offer much that makes you feel like you haven't seen it many times before.. By the conclusion of "Man of Steel", Clark Kent has put on his glasses and begins his new job at The Daily Planet but now what? The whole world is well aware of his true identity including Lois Lane so there doesn't appear to be any logical reason for him to even go through these motions. A follow-up looks like a high probability but if "Man of Steel" is any indication of what to expect in the future, there might be a string of uninspired, disappointing sequels on the horizon.