Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Man of Steel

This movie was one of those I was apprehensive about seeing because the track record with Superman movies has been less than stellar. The first two films with Christopher Reeve were good even if they were campy as hell. After that, it's crap. Even Superman Returns was a bit of a miss although it was a slight return to the level of the first two movies. 

What first piqued my interest in this movie was Christopher Nolan's and David Goyer's involvement in the writing process. What almost killed my interest in the movie entirely was when I found out Zack Snyder was the director. I had previously only ever seen one Zack Snyder film and that was 300 and that movie left me feeling quite unimpressed. So I was tempering my expectations as I walked into the theater (not that I really had high expectations in the first place).

I was blown away. Almost literally. There are explosions galore in this movie. Even from the opening segments on Krypton there are explosions and epic fight scenes between Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and General Zod (Michael Shannon). Can you imagine Marlon Brando in a fight scene as Jor-El???? I sure as hell can't. 

At the center of this story though is Superman, played brilliantly by Henry Cavill. Honestly, I had to Google who he was when I got home, but Henry Cavill is by far the best Superman I've seen portrayed on film and I've made a mental note to keep an eye out for anything else he'll do. Cavill plays a Superman struggling to fit in in a world that is not his own. He struggles to find his purpose and his reason for being on earth and the allusions to Jesus Christ are fairly obvious. But not so much that you should be put off by that unless you are just really uptight. 

This is very much a somber (although action-packed) movie. You can easily see it as a descendant of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Even the music is similar. 

There are two things that might irk some fans here or there, though. There is no campy humor to be had in this movie and the romance between Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane is not the same. Personally, I preferred the changes because campiness gets old very quick and the "she can't tell who I am with glasses on" thing was always the dumbest excuse for a disguise ever. In this movie, Lois finds out very quickly Clark's an alien long before she even knows his human name or that he is in fact "Superman." I like that change.

Superman's uniform is different, too. A bit of a modernization also to accompany Batman's armor-suit in the Dark Knight films. Because, let's be honest, if we saw a grown man wearing tights in public we'd laugh our asses off even if he really was a superhero who could travel faster than a speeding bullet. 

Kevin Costner plays Superman's human dad and he does just fine in the limited amount of screen time he has. Russell Crowe gets more screen time even as a dead guy thanks to some handy dandy Krypton technology and he certainly hold our attention well, but I think Costner's down to earth role added an extra layer of warmth to an otherwise somber movie. Costner was a great counterpoint to Crowe. And when both of your dads are Oscar winners you can't really go too wrong, can you?

This movie also made realize just how similar Batman and Superman really are. Both are orphans carrying an overwhelming sense of grief and dissatisfaction with the way things are in the world and if their life. And both of them seek to change it for the better. The difference is how they go about it. And, at least in this movie, I wonder if that difference is really all that much. 

In this film Superman doesn't stop petty thieves on the street or give public announcements about how stealing is wrong or what the benefits of being a stand-up citizen are. This is a more realistic Superman and not the 1950's do-gooder. Cavill is a Superman who is just starting out and trying to be a good leader, but he wants to keep himself in the shadows as well because he understands what would happen if the whole world knew that a super-powered alien was living right under their nose. This has always been a part of the Superman legend, but here it is much more pronounced and it's an integral part of the emotional struggle Superman faces. 

I'm sure there will be a sequel to this movie. I hope Henry Cavill comes back and I hope Lex Luthor isn't in the next one. Lex Luthor has been done into the ground and having Zod in this movie was a welcome relief, but let's refrain from introducing Luthor just yet. Yeah, he's a popular character, but enough with Luthor. Why not give Brainiac or Darkseid a chance to do some damage in the next movie?

As far as the Justice League is concerned... I don't want that to happen unless it retains the same attitude and emotional climate of movies like Man of Steel or The Dark Knight. We need a dark counterpoint to The Avengers or else there's no point in pursuing the Justice League at all. As things stand, I don't see Man of Steel as a prelude to anything other than a possible Man of Steel 2 and I prefer it to stay that way for now. 

At two and a half hours, this film continues in the trend of epic superhero movies but I don't mind the running length at all. I've seen Ben-Hur dozens of times and The Godfather is one of my alltime favorite movies. Two and a half hours is nothing to me. 

I've heard a few folks say that the film stumbles a bit toward the end with all of the epic action upon epic action sequences while there are fewer and fewer moments of characterization, but I don't really mind. I like a good long climax. Hell, everyone should.

Zack Snyder proved me wrong with this movie and I'm glad (although I would have loved for Nolan himself to have directed this). 

Bring on the next Superman movie! 

And go watch this movie! I caught the matinee, but I would have gladly paid full price. It's worth it. 

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