There was a time, not too long ago, that superhero movies were the gutter trash of the silver screen. Thanks to the efforts of people like Bryan Singer, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, and Sam Raimi, that has dramatically changed. If you were born in 1998, then your earliest memories of superhero movies would be film greats such as Spider-Man and X-Men. While there were big critically acclaimed blockbuster hits, there have been a buttload of misses, too. *cough Ghost Rider cough* Man of Steel, quite fortunately, upholds the golden quality standard that superhero movies such as Batman Begins have proudly followed.
During the Philippine Independence Day holiday, many people lined up to see the Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill who plays Superman, the man who stands for truth, justice and the American way. Cavill, by the way, is British. Some are claiming it to be the best superhero movie of 2013, while others say it's the best one they've ever seen. Me, personally, I wouldn't go so far as to call it the best superhero movie, but it's definitely in the top 10.
Man of Steel, according to Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch, Watchmen), is a true reboot. It shows the origin of Superman, one we're all familiar with, but with a few twists that really add to the mythology. Man, if DC handled their New 52 like this, it'd be an entirely different ball game for their comic book line.
The movie, as I see it, is really about two things - 1. Clark Kent finding himself, seeking a place in humanity and dealing with his situation and 2. high flying, super punching ass kickery. This is the Superman movie we have all been waiting for. This is the Superman we've been getting in animated films and cartoons and comics, but never got in a live action movie until Man of Steel. This is the Superman who is flawed and emotionally vulnerable and can (and does very often) punch opponents into walls causing massive collateral damage.
Oh shit, did I do that? Er... send me the bill. My real name is Bruce Wayne.
I'm very happy Superman was given a proper villain to fight this time around, someone he could really punch with all the power that made Supes famous. And we got that in spades! Zack Snyder is a master at fight scenes, and along with Ryan Watson (fight choreography guy), they brought the pain. I'm all for emotional discovery and character growth, but goddamn those fight scenes were bananas! Contrary to Snyder's cinematographic past, Man of Steel didn't have about 30 minutes of slow motion that, when sped up, can cut the movie to like half an hour.
Speaking of character development, I think Superman's journey was told very well, and most supporting characters were fleshed out nicely. I think, of all the main supporting cast, Lois was the one person who just randomly did shit that didn't necessarily make sense. But all in all, character development was cool beans. At the start, though, I wasn't so thrilled with how emo Supes was. Superman is not Batman. He kinda got over it eventually as the story progressed. Is that considered spoilery? Sorry.
I didn't really need an army, but I can't be this awesome all the time and not have an audience, am I right?
Graphically, Man of Steel was mindblowing. As often as the transition between real person and CG person was utlized, very little if any at all was obvious on the big screen. Maybe when you get it on Blu-Ray and see it on a 32" screen, then it'll become a little more apparent, but as far as the movie is concerned, it was flawless. Respect, Weta, Scanline VFX, and everyone else. Respect! When it comes to composition and color, you know that Snyder brings it all day, every day. Like 300, Sucker Punch and Watchmen, the movie's color palette was treated with a weird muted saturation at key moments. Yes, I am obviously spouting horseshit here. The colors are all weirdly awesome, okay? That's all I'm saying.
Henry Cavill, while a little on the stoic side, did a pretty good Superman. This is especially true for the scenes that required him to be shirtless and intense. Seeing Superman bust out a shout of determination before doing anything is just plain bad ass, and Cavill pulled it off quite nicely. It looks weird when he smiles, though. Like creepy weird. So, as Clark Kent, he wasn't as good a fit.
Special props go to Russel Crowe as Jor El and Kevin Costner as Pa Kent; they didn't put out Oscar performances mainly because of the limitations of their roles but I feel like they did the characters justice. One thing that I should note is that in the movie, Jonathan Kent's morality wasn't as cut and dry as the comic book Jonathan Kent, who pretty much taught Clark that goodness and evil are as different as black and white. Morpheu... I mean Laurence Fishburne did a pretty solid Perry White. Amy Adams did alright, but I just still couldn't see her as a Lois Lane type character. Plus Henry Cavill and Amy Adams didn't seem to have a lot of chemistry, so the love that was supposed to be blooming between Lane and Kent seemed way too forced.
Good morning, Perry! So, who am I supposed to awkwardly seduce today?
Michael Shannon as General Zod and Antje Traue as Faora-Ul, in my opinion, stole the show. Michael Shannon is to Superman as Heath Ledger was to Batman. A hero can only be measured by the quality of his adversaries, and I am thankful for Shannon's portrayal of General Zod. He was intense and driven and passionate and clinically insane and it was threatening and genuinely frightening. Essentially, everything you want in a villain, General Zod brought it. KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!
There is an obscene lack of kneeling going on around here. This must be remedied.
With all these elements combined, the movie has a very heavy tone. It isn't as uplifting as a Superman movie ought to be, you know? It was as depressing and draining as The Dark Knight Rises. Is it because Nolan and Goyer wrote it? Eh, maybe. It just isn't a summer blockbuster-type movie that you can see again and again, shouting "BOOYAH!" at your favorite parts. It takes a more cerebral and emotionally taxing approach to good ole' Supes. Plus, all the Jesus-y overtones were way too obvious.
All that said, there is a lot to like about Man of Steel - the fights, the emotional turmoil, the progression of Superman, the revelations and the growth of the mythology. While, to me, it isn't the best superhero movie ever, it is likely to be the best Superman movie since Christopher Reeves' version from 1978. I give it a 4 out of 5, and you should all go out and see it in the theaters.
Images are from Yahoo Movies.