I finally got to watch Man of Steel, the new Superman reboot by Zack Snyder, last night. It is not a great film, especially given all the hype, but I did find it a fun film and it was actually better than I expected. This is probably because I expected it to be rubbish after reading lots of negative reviews, and it was hyped up so much it was going to have to be something really special to meet that hype.
On the plus side it obviously had great visual and special effects, and looks brilliant. Krypton looked great, I loved the old world silver grey metal and rock look, and there’s no cheap, hammy bluescreen effects like in the original Superman movies of the 1970s. More importantly, for me at least, it had good ideas, and some good acting too. Henry Cavill was good as Superman, playing the role very differently to Christopher Reeve which was good. Russell Crowe is surprisingly good as Jor-El. Michael Shannon hands down gave the best performance as General Zod, the ruthless single-minded villain. He made the film better than average, giving it some meat. As with most superhero movies it’s the villains who make the difference in the quality of the final cut, and he made the film for me.
On the negative side the problem with man of steel was the problem with most modern Hollywood films, especially superhero ones. It was overkill on the action front. Everyone is trying to compete with Michael Bay. There were far too many explosions and buildings blown up, far too much destruction, and far too many fights, which go on for too long, and eventually just get boring. A few short, sharp, intense emotionally charged fights or explosions would have been better. The action covers up what is a film with lot of good ideas and potential. The problem is that these ideas, about identity, inner conflict, power, the class system and how society should be structured, the impact of technology on nature, environmentalism, genetic engineering to name but a few, are fascinating, but none of them are developed enough. Like and the characterisation and plot, they don’t have any space to breathe or develop in a meaningful way as they get interrupted by unnecessarily loud, long and ridiculous action sequences. The style cuts in just when things get interesting. Maybe I am getting old and this is what the smartphone, Facebook, YouTube generation want. For me, the idea of Superman as a conflicted loner, a drifter, an outsider who doesn’t fit in anywhere or doesn’t seem to belong to anything bigger than himself, at least yet, (something that resonates with me personally) struggling to come to terms with his power is a fascinating story, that is engaging enough, and the best bits are when this is explored. I would have liked more film time on his childhood and dysfunctional relationships growing up.
So whilst I do love action and the action starts off great, it gets too much, which is the problem with the film for me. His final fight with General Zod sums up the way the film ended up. It if far too long, but the way they end it was great, and it has a dense emotional undertone. Trying to get under the skin of moral dilemmas when it comes to the subjects of power, especially the power of life over death, is what kept me engaged. I didn’t want to see lots of skyscrapers exploding into dust, as that’s exactly what every other Hollywood movie gives us too much of. The final battle scenes are just like the final battle scenes in Avengers Assemble. I didn’t need to see all that again.
The relationship between Superman and Lois Lane is also not fully explored or developed well enough. It’s fragmented and lacks the subtlety, playfulness and humour of the original Superman films. The lack of humour, subtlety and depth in this film and most modern Hollywood films really disappoints me.
In the and I did enjoy watching the film, and it’s worth watching on the big screen, but it didn’t live up to the hype, and it leaves you feeling that it could have been so much more, had they not wasted so much time blowing things up, which has finally got too predictable to have any lasting impact. The ideas within the film, though covered in a layer of dust from all this overblown action, are what made it worth watching, and I have been left thinking about them 1 day on. Not bad for some nonsense about an alien flying around in a red cape.
EXTRA THOUGHTS (added later):
A few more thoughts on Man Of Steel.
I did enjoy it, yet felt there was more to offer. It was too fast ion places, taking us form A to B in a rush, something modern movies do a lot of now. Going too fast often means we don’t have the time to take ti all in, which si the problem with the Lois/ Superman relationship here. If they had cut down some action sequences, which dragged on, then they could have added more depth and nuances to furthering the characters and their relationships with themselves and each other, or certain plot ideas. The problem with the fight scenes and trying to build tension from action is that we know Superman won’t die, we know Lois won;t die, so why do we care about long action sequences in which they get thrown around? The tension, for me at least, would come from wondering whether or not they would make it “out of there alive”. the scene in the spaceship where Lois meets Superman is quite tense, but she obviously gets saved. So the tension needs to come from somewhere else. that’s what makes TV Shows like the Sopranos or Game of Thrones so good. You really don’t know if someone will be killed or lose a limb!
Also, I did think Kevin Costner was great as Jonathan Kent, adding depth and emotion where it was needed. The only problem is that the way he dies is ridiculous, as was mentioned on other reviews, and confirmed on viewing!
It is worth watching though, as it made me think about a few things, looks great visually and is fun at the end of the day.