Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Man of Steel (2013) - FilmReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

Following a classic is the hardest task of all...

In 1978 director Richard Donner gave us the ultimate Superman experience, a perfect delivery of action and adventure, science fiction and character-led emotion. Cast in the role as Kal-El, aka Superman/Clark kent, Christopher Reeve delivered a unique performance, a part that would make him a household name and a hero to children all over the world. There was a haunting quality about Krypton, its inhabitants, and the way in which the world's end came about. The casting was superb, with names like Marlon Brando, Susannah York, Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman attached to a feature film that would forever remain in the hearts of all Superman fans.

Sadly, 35 years later and Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300) produces a typical modern-day mess of a reimagining, where CGI overwhelms a story that could have been far more subtle and rewarding, and action that explodes far too carelessly and not in keeping with what Superman represents. Just how can the Man of Steel fight his enemies so deliberately and with such destruction that the well-being of the innocent is overlooked? Superman should want to protect the people of Earth and yet it is he who causes more carnage than should be allowed - Reeve's Man of Steel would always have been the first to protect a single individual than risk destruction on a greater level. And yet, even though it isn't shown, just how many might have died because of Henry Cavill's quest for justice?

As with many later Hollywood offerings, Man of Steel relies too much on special effects and little anything else, far less interested in storytelling on a deep personal level and leaning more towards those teachings at the George Lucas school. One cannot help but see Krypton as a set piece from one of the Star Wars prequels, with scenes that could have been cut down and simplified, instead allowing for better development of a world close to its final days, its people desperate but accepting of their fate. There was a strange beauty with Donner's imagining of this world, however Snyder's attempt simply leaves this reviewer waiting impatiently for Krypton to end so that the remainder of the film can be told. And that, sadly, is another problem...

Man of Steel is too inconsistent, with not enough attention paid to developing young Clark's life with his new parents. Yes, we are introduced to moments in his life, but the overall flavour leaves a sour taste. Although most of us know his life story by heart, Man of Steel should have been an epic tale of discovery and growth, a boy learning of his unusual gifts and developing them, guided by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). But there is a shift, and we see an older Clark involved in a dramatic oil rig rescue - yes, as Clark, not Superman!

Even his relationship with Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) is rushed and clearly not given time to develop. Underdeveloped characters is a major issue with this feature, no time spent to really get to know anyone or care about them. Overall the casting is good, with Cavill an excellent choice for Superman. But where is the true essence and heart of this comic book character tale? It is simply no where to be found!

One of the delights of the 1978 vision had been the Fortress of Solitude, a gigantic crystalline structure and Superman's Krypton home on Earth, in the Arctic. This was the moment when Clark, via "memory crystals", would learn more about himself, his origins, and his purpose. The interactive holographic "ghosts" of his parents and other members of the Kryptonian race visually impressive. So sad, then, that Man of Steel 2013 fails to resurrect that same magic, instead producing a less visually-pleasing representation of a dead Jor-El (Russell Crowe) as Superman's guide. It was as if Zack Snyder's imagination had been banished to the Phantom Zone (prison dimension).

Final criticism lies with the fight sequences between Superman, General Zod (Michael Shannon) and Sub-Commander Faora (Antje Traue), many of which are overblown and too drawn-out; why do some Hollywood movies look like they have been integrated with computer games these days? Again, there are ways to develop action without overuse of CGI...

Whether a sequel to Superman Returns (2006) would have been the better option, who knows? But Man of Steel serves as just another Hollywood menu of CGI and action that compromises both plot and characterisation.