23 Jun 2013

My "Man of Steel" Overview

 First off, I'll just say this isn't an in-depth review of the the movie but rather an overview of how I felt about DC & Warner Bro's new take on Superman. I watched it last night on my birthday as sort of a grand finale for my special day. I'll just go out and say that I didn't really enjoy the movie unfortunately, I was waiting for something that never happened. Perhaps I elevated my expectations a bit too much. *Cough* Nolan! *Cough Cough*
Even in watching it as a popcorn movie devoid of a serious plot, I was taken out of the movie by a few things which I thought were unnecessary. If you haven't watched the movie yet, you don't need to watch it in 3D because it does nothing for the movie. There was also a lot of shakey-cam which was probably what they were going for but it didn't lend well to 3D conversion. Also, I should say, I loved Henry Cavill as Superman. How can you not love Henry?
Now anything beyond this point will count as a spoiler so you may leave and return after watching the flick.

Weeks back I read a blog that said according to reliable sources, "Man of Steel" isn't going to be a good movie but I brushed it aside because I thought "What does he know? He hasn't even seen the movie."
The movie was released and there was so much hype on my friends' Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages as they anticipated its awesomeness. After they all watched the movie there was dead silence and this is usually the worst sign. A friend of mine only commented about how he was going to the gym for the rest of his life, but that was about it. When people give opinions about a movie after watching it, you can weigh the merits and demerits but the overall silence was a sign of collective disappointment. Needless to say, I was now skeptical of the flick. A week ago I then had a conversation with a friend of mine who said that audiences were put-off by the excessive amount of action in the film. That didn't make sense to me so I pointed out that the "Avengers" movie had an insane amount of action. He then told me that Avengers had a humour balance that "Man of Steel" completely lacked. Now that I have watched the film, I can say that wasn't it. It wasn't so much the humour as it was a lack of humanity in the film.

Aliens are hotter than humans.
As the movie began, I got the impression that the pacing of the movie was off somewhat. I knew it was going to be lengthy but it eventually felt like a short film, which was strange. I realized that I was waiting for a really long time for character development to take place but it didn't happen, hence affecting my perception of the movie length. The overall problem with "Man of Steel" was overcompensation for the faults of Brandon Routh's "Superman Returns." Everyone and their cousin complained that "Superman Returns" was long, boring and devoid of any action whatsoever so this version flipped the script entirely and went ballistic with the action. The problem with this is they completely ignored even what went right in "Superman Returns." If you ask me, I'd say "Man of Steel" could have used some "Superman Returns." The two movies illustrated the problem of excess as they both took their strengths to the extreme thereby creating several faults. "Superman Returns" invested a lot in the way of the plot and character which eventually harmed the fun factor while "Man of Steel" went all out with the visual entertainment.

Loki Anyone?
I'll do a quick paragraph about the "petty" issues I had then get into the major ones. Clark Kent had made himself a vigilante of sorts rescuing people from all sorts of disasters. He did this with beard, clean shaven, with hat, without hat, with long hair, short hair, every possible way you could see him basically. This then gave me a problem accepting the end of the movie where he begins a career at The Daily Planet and only Lois Lane could recognize that he was Superman. Another minor issue was that the military couldn't find him despite the fact that he discloses to them that he grew up in Kansas and is as American as it gets. With the ease it took Lois Lane to track down Superman from the heroics of his youth, how was the military and anyone else for that matter unable to find out who he was? Leave alone the fact that General Zod and his cronies landed a ship at the Kent Farm and tore it apart looking for Clark's ship. All Clark's childhood friends also decided to keep his freakish acts a secret, even after the "aliens" showed up to claim Kal-El who has been hiding on Earth, else they would destroy everything.

Beyond that, a friend of mine pointed out on the ride back from the cinema that Jor-El really kicked General Zod's ass back in Krypton despite the fact that they were all bred with pre-determined purpose. It was therefore interesting that a man bred for science was able to THOROUGHLY BEAT DOWN a man bred for combat. This is in respect to the movie's logic, because sci-fi operates outside the realm of reality so it should abide by its own rules. That scene was really funny though watching Zod's ass get handed to him.

The thing that really took me out of the film was the play on words and scenes depicting Superman as a sci-fi Jesus. I know, if you didn't notice this, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about.
This is really what completely took me out of it and I was struggling to get back in afterwards. The religious undertones weren't that subtle and quite frankly offended me while in the cinema. Later on I decided to give it some thought and gauge their intentions which I am yet to figure out. I can only speculate. I'm not sure what the intention was but Superman, a fictional character being portrayed with Messianic undertones felt like a mockery of Christianity, though they may have been exploring a different interpretation. Jor-El was basically playing God who would send his only son Kal-El to save the world. It was chock-full of "You can save them all" statements that became a bit too much. The point that really caught my attention initially was when Superman was "captured" by the military and he said that he meant them no harm as he's been on earth for 33 years. That number was waaay too specific as it was the number of years Jesus spent on Earth with his disciples. I started wondering whether all his actions were the miracles of Jesus on Earth. Jonathan Kent would then fit the description of Joseph the carpenter who was Jesus Earthly father. If that was the original concept of Superman, I probably didn't want to see it before.
 In another scene as Kal-El was dropping from space to rescue Lois and "everyone" as he was told to do by his father, he fell back with his arms stretched out as if to portray crucifixion then flew down to Earth. Before Superman decided to engage Zod (Which was like his crucifiction?) He went to a church to seek counsel on what to do about his situation. The choice to save humanity at whatever cost was weighing down on him just as it did Jesus who sought God's counsel before his impending arrest. My other problem with this scene was that the pastor just believed him at his word. He could have been a crazy/delusional person but the pastor took him at his word. This bothered me as to whether the same situation would play out in reality.
Later on he and Faora (Who was well cast and really attractive and more bad-ass than Zod himself. On the subject, I was really disappointed in Lois Lane. They blundered with her casting once again) were engaged in battle and Faora decided to point out to Superman that evolution would always triumph in reference to their conflicting points of view. Another religion versus evolution debate? You be the judge. Either way, whether the intention was innocent or not, I was forced into a mental debate on what these subtle themes meant and this took me out of it. I mean, I'm not against portraying religion in film but this really took me out of the Superman movie I was expecting to see. My favorite Marvel movies all have moral themes because, what's a movie without a lesson? We're all supposed to learn something at the end of it all aren't we? I just didn't expect to draw parallels between Superman and Jesus.

As far as the ending is concerned, I know Superman isn't supposed to kill but I'm not a Superman fan so I don't really care about those liberties as opposed to when they are taken on Spider-Man. What I will say about that though is that the circumstances surrounding the murder were suspect. The battle through the city felt like a deliberate attempt to destroy everything like they are accustomed to doing in the cartoon. Superman could have moved the battle out of the city to minimize casualties but chose to do it there. I don't see how he could have avoided killing civilians unintentionally while smashing into buildings and throwing Zod all over the place. It was then strange that he took interest in saving the family that Zod was about to murder even though he must have killed a few in battle.

Kneel Before Zod!
That battle also showed that humanity was of no consequence, it didn't matter how many people died. The most developed character was probably Martha Kent. Everybody else was expendable. When Perry White and his staff-mates were about to die towards the end of the movie, I was least concerned because nobody had really struck an emotional bond with me. All in all, I'll say that DC are trying to play catch-up to Marvel and failing. Marvel Studio movies (And the Batman trilogy) have all succeeded because of the humanity of their characters. Anyone can wear an Iron Man suit but why do we love Tony Stark so much? Thor's journey to humility, Captain America's transformation, The Hulk battle with his inner beast, the allure of these heroes is found in characterization and development of not only them but their supporting cast. Let's be honest, Superman is a very boring character on his own, Clark Kent provides the balance that makes him interesting in trying to protect his identity and his loved ones. Without Clark, you can't really identify with Superman because he's about as human as Mariah Carey is the girl next door. This is not to say, however, that Henry Cavill failed as Superman. He did an awesome job and is probably my favorite Superman yet. He embodies the hero perfectly and was able to do his job and carry the film. I just found the timing of the back and forth in respect to his origin slightly off. I blame the direction and editing.

I know there are other themes that they sought to explore with this movie such as a man on a quest to greatness but being held back by his foster father who is afraid of how the world will perceive him and such. I'm sure there is a lot more to be said for Superman's confusion on the path to his destiny and his choice to sacrifice his morals for the sake of saving humanity and all that, but what I've discussed was what stood-out as I was watching. I think the execution could have been better.
 Let me know what you thought of the movie though and we can chat about it in the comments section below.