As you may have guessed, I went to see Man of Steel today, and I went with the expectation of being thoroughly wowed at seeing a movie that shows what Superman can actually do, which is what those trailers which I can only describe as epic set me up to believe.
Sadly, what I actually got fell a long long way short of the expectations I had from the trailers and TV spots. Yes, there were some excellent scenes in the film, there is no denying that but I left the cinema with a distinct lack of excitement. Compare that to when I went to watch The Dark Knight, I came out and wanted to go straight back in and watch it again because I had cared about what was happening. I know a lot of people slated Superman Returns but I actually quite enjoyed it and again cared about the characters. I can’t say the same for Man of Steel and this makes me quite sad. Superman and Batman have always been my favourite comic book characters followed by Spider-Man and Iron-Man and all of those other 3 superheroes have had films where I have felt a rush of emotion.
Superman the Movie – The ‘If you’ve got me, who’s got you’ moment
Dark Knight – Heath Ledger’s amazing portrayal of The Joker
Spider-Man 2 – The fatally flawed Doc Oc
Iron-Man – The emotional turmoil that leads him to go back and attack The Ten Rings
At no point in Man of Steel did I get this. A couple of times I thought it might build to something like this, but those moments either had nothing to build up to them or when they did arrive just weren’t significant and left me wanting.
*****************POTENTIAL PLOT SPOILERS***************DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET*****************
The best performances in this film come from Diane Lane, who Martha Kent, Kevin Costner who plays Jonathan Kent and also Russel Crowe who play’s Jor-El. Michael Shannon also puts in an excellent performance as General Zod. Henry Cavill is not too shabby as Superman either.
I said there were some excellent scenes, though all of the best scenes come in the form of flashbacks to Clark’s childhood. There’s a lovely scene where Clark as a child starts to hear the world around him in class and then totally freaks out prompting quite a touching dialogue with his mother who’s been called into the school to calm him down and this gets touched on later in the film when Superman has a one on one with Zod.
There are a couple of scenes with a young Clark and Jonathan Kent where you can see the emotional turmoil that both characters are having to go through. Clark as he’s leaning all these things that he can do, but can’t use them, and Jonathan for wanting to keep his son safe knowing he would be something special in the future, but the scene I especially liked was with an overpass in Kansas and a Tornado. This was one of my favourite scenes purely because it’s one of the only ones that really drew any kind of emotion from me.
Henry Cavill as Superman was not a bad choice, he brought the ideas of Superman to the screen in an OK manner. He was a boyscout when needed – there is a bar scene where he gets beer poured on him, but instead of retaliating just walks out and does something slightly funny, however out of character for Clark Kent.
Then there was Russel Crowe’s portrayal of Jor-El, which was a far cry from that of Marlon Brando’s and was not someone to be trifled with lightly. Jor-El featured a fair bit in this film which I was not expecting, from its very good action-packed opening to a good 3/4 of the way through. Each time he was on screen he had a commanding presence. He did feature in once scene which I was massively disappointed with though.
Clark finds a ship and unknowingly uploads his fathers consciousness and learns all about who he is which leads to the revealing of his Superman suit, in what was just a cupboard, and the next thing you see is him walking out of the ship in the suit. This scene should be iconic – they managed in in Superman The Movie in 1978, but in 2013 it seems this was just not to be. This whole sequence felt rushed with no drama, so when you did see him in the suit, I just felt – meh. This should be an awe inspiring moment, but just failed to excite.
Now onto the action – of which there is no shortage. From the word go you are thrust right into the thick of things. A military coo on Krypton, to an exploding Oil Rig to the eventual invasion of Earth by Zod’s Kryptonian forces. This in turn leads to some pretty huge set pieces from Superman having a 2 on 1 fight, to a 1 on 1 with Zod and then seeing Metropolis getting wasted in an insane fight. The scale of it is huge, and this being Superman that’s OK, but the problem is I just wasn’t invested enough to care what was going to happen next. When Metropolis gets wasted, a lot of people die – but I didn’t find myself feeling for those people. Compare that to The Avengers. When New York was getting hammered, you really did care about it – and the Avengers were trying to save people – ala Captain Pussy Pants jumping into a building to take out a bunch of Chitauri and also giving orders to the Police. Man of Steel just makes it seem like when they’re fighting, Superman just doesn’t care about all of the damage that’s being done. Go back to Superman 2, and in the brilliant scene where Zod, Ursa & the big dude who’s name escapes me are fighting Supes, you can see he cares and goes around saving people, and because he cares has that weakness exploited. This is touched on – but only extremely lightly at the end so just didn’t feel right for Superman, the overgrown boyscout that he should be.
Then there’s the score – It’s OK at best. What this film is missing is the classic John Williams theme. This film sorely needs something inspiring and if there is one thing about a Superman movie that’s inspiring it’s that theme. I still get goosebumps every time I hear it, especially when its combines with some of my favourite moments – the best of them all being the ‘Kneel before Zod’ moment at the end of Superman 2. I know why they didn’t use it, as it’s a new origin story and is trying to be different. However in trying to be different it loses something spectacular in this theme. You know when Superman is doing something awesome this music should play, but it never does and that’s a real shame. Zimmer’s score is OK, but it’s a long way from awe inspiring and never really helps to drive the emotion in the way that John Williams managed.
You decide for yourself what you think about this movie, but I think it’s a bit of a wet fish that had the potential to be great but fell short of the hurdle. All they needed to know was make you more emotionally invested in the characters. They could have done this by cutting some of the action sequences of which there are a ton down just a little and give you a chance to digest what is happening to the characters and how it’s affecting them but alas, I cannot change it so I’ll just have to deal with it.
One severely disappointed Superman fan…….