By Ed Sum
Fans of Christopher Nolan’s revisionist theory in redefining DC’s superheroes for the big screen—to explore the pathos behind the hero—will no doubt love Man of Steel. This movie is a bleaker product. Its post-modernist outlook on life and in who can forge their own destinies is at the heart of this film. This edgier type of storytelling is great, and to add-on top Zack Snyder’s testosterone based action-reaction mode of visual storytelling only reinforces the idea that this tale is a comic book product. This movie is more like something Grant Morrison or Alan Moore would write. But for the two filmmakers, Nolan and Snyder might have squared off a few times in deciding which parts of the film needed the whiz-bang action versus analysis of the life of what Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) aka Superman is meant to become.
Cavill’s performance sells the role of a tormented man unsure of his destiny than that of someone learning how to fly. He even has the facial structure of a young Christopher Reeve that fans of the original series may recognize. A few nuances from the original two movies are kept in this retelling of his home-world’s fate. On the planet Krypton, the civilization is organized into families, if not factions, and half the planet is oblivious to the fact that the world is dying. On one side representing hope and humanity is Kor-El. On another is General Zod (Michael Shannon) for loyalty and revolt. He has two aides, a very attractive Faora (Antje Traue) and a brutish Tor-an (Richard Cetrone) to provide the muscle.
Much of the film teeters between flashbacks of Kal-el’s life on Earth to that of a pending alien threat in the form of Zod. To treat Supes like an invader too may seem unusual at first, but viewers will have to remember what Nolan did to Batman. This reality based look at the Superman mythos is much-needed. No reboot has to be by the book. This Superman reboot can trounce the coming The Amazing Spiderman quadrilogy any day of the week and this re-imagining is just perfect to launch the Man of Steel for a generation who wants an intelligent film to think of, and talk about.
This movie has plenty of moments that will get fans past and present wondering about who this man embodying hope is. What are his strengths, his weaknesses, or rather, what will cause him to cross the line? That is why Lois (Amy Adams) is here. She is out to get to the truth, but along the way, she decides that, much like the audiences, some answers do not have to be revealed. Unfortunately, her role is more like that of a poster child. Even the tale moves along a similar line. Although some of those questions are answered by other methods, this Kryptonian will not fall to the might of rocks from his home world. Instead, it might one day arrive as a liquid-like substance if this mercury laden effects movie is any indication. Most of the digital effects favour steel or iron coloured products versus colourful squander. Even the contrast is evident with Superman wearing the red and blue while fighting with the black armored souless Zod. Good or bad, ever since the updated Battlestar Galactica revised the formula for special effects products, nothing has been the same, camera work included.
These days, the fashion is to use heavily back-lit sets or lens flare to convey a sense of hyper-reality. And if that is not enough, shaky cam is still the favored format to get personal with the story. Although Snyder has recovered from his comatose inducing Sucker Punch, all he has to do is to remember green screen studio work is not required. To see a product centered on reality than massive set pieces can make for a better movie. At times, this film has the look of Chariots of Fire with digital accolades from Prometheus tagging behind to pretty the picture. Some comparisons can not be helped, but at least this film shows that it is trying to move in the right direction. Sooner or later, DC Entertainment is going to get a Flash movie made before it attempts Justice League.