Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review of Man of Steel

The much anticipated "Man of Steel" is the reboot of Superman. After the slightly disappointing "Superman Returns" in 2006 with Brandon Routh as Superman, I cannot fault Warner Bros. for rebooting the franchise. Whether "Man of Steel" works or not however is another question.

"Man of Steel" is directed by Zack Snyder (director of 300), produced by Christopher Nolan (director of The Dark Knight Trilogy), and written by David S.Goyer. It stars Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Laurence Fishurne as Perry White, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El. That's a laundry list of some of the best acting, directing and writing talent in Hollywood with Oscars, Emmys and everything in between everywhere.

So it no surprise that for most of the film, the talent shows.

The film starts on the planet Krypton where General Zod and Jor-El both tried in their own ways to save the planet. Both failed and they became enemies in the process. As the planet  faced imminent destruction, Jor-El and his wife Lara (played by Ayelet Zurer) sent their newborn so Kal-El to safety on a spacecraft to Earth. After Zod killed Jor-El, he and his followers were captured by Kryptonian soldiers and banished to the Phamtom Zone

Kal-El was raised as the adopted son of Jonathan and Martha Kent, who named him Clark Kent. Clark's Kryptonian heritage gave him superhuman abilities and after the death of Jonathan, he wandered around the world. He eventually discovered that an alien object was found buried in the ice of the Arctic and after infiltrating a military science project, he found that the alien object was a Kryptonian spaceship. Clark enters the alien ship and communicates with the consciousness of Jor-El via an alien chip left to him by his parents. Lois Lane, a journalist from the Daily Planet sneaked into the ship while following Clark but had to be rescued by him when she triggered and was injured by the ship's automated defenses system.

After rescuing Lois, Clarke piloted the ship away further into the Arctic, away from human eyes.  He learned from Jor-El the history of Krypton and why he was sent away to Earth. Following Jor-El's tutorage, he gradually learned how to harness his powers to its full potential.  Meanwhile Lois's editor Perry White rejected Lois' story of the alien ship, forcing her to start tracking Clark. She managed to trace him back to Kansas where Clarke confronted her with his story. After hearing it, she decided not to reveal his secret.

Soon after, Earth got paid a visit by General Zod who had been freed from the Phantom Zone when Krypton exploded. With their world and all their people dead, Zod and his men seek to terraform Earth into a new Krypton. The process however would  eradicated the human population, and Clark (now known as Superman) battled Zod to stop him.

Now despite my misgivings stated earlier, I found "Man of Steel" to be a good film. The action scenes within the film were great and CGI guys were working overtime on this film. The film was also packed with strong performances from the cast. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams are very competent professionals and despite the less than convincing tacked-on love-story, their abilities shone in this film. Even actors in supporting roles like Russell Crowe, Diane Lane and Christopher Meloni (as Colonel Hardy) were extremely good.

However special praise need to be given to Michael Shannon. His General Zod was easily the best Zod I had ever seen on screen. A warrior who was trying to save the last slim hope of his people, his desperation was such that you can't help but sympathized with him. It says a lot of his performance when some people do realized that from the Kryptonian point-of-view, Superman is a traitor to his people!

Despite the strong performance of the cast however, the film never went from good to great. There were parts of the story that never set well for me. Remember what I said about the love story between Superman and Lois? To me, their kiss just did not make sense. Okay, they just had a life-or-death situation and survived it but where did their love and that kiss came from? I mean this is going to be a franchise right? What? Can't Hollywood wait for the sequel before getting them to kiss?

Also I hate the ending. Not because of what Superman did, but because after destroying at least half of Metropolis, with skyscrapers dropping like tin cans left, right and centre, suddenly Superman felt conflicted when a family was in danger from Zod? That was just so stupid it almost ruined the whole film for me!

Luckily, it didn't. The film on the whole did a competent job of rebooting the Superman franchise and with the box-office on fire, a sequel is already in the works.  "Man of Steel" is a good film and while I'm disappointed it never became great despite its promise, it is good enough that I'll be there for the sequel. Ultimately, for fans and Hollywood, that's good enough. 

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