So, I am not a master of properly putting my ‘reviews’ (I use the term advisedly) into prose form; the write ups usually turn into a muddle of random thoughts and ramblings about a given cinematic experience. I say this as a means of forewarning you that this post, my ‘review’ of Man of Steel will probably meet this threshold.
Immediately after the screening I attended yesterday and going into today, there are an overabundance of thoughts, feelings and words, plenty of words circling my brain as I search for a way to coherently describe all that I feel about Man of Steel. Without further ado, I am going to jump right into it. Again bear with me as this is not going to have the most logical of flows.
So Much Story, So Little Time
There were a lot of things going on in this film and maybe they could have pared it down a bit, but who I am to judge? It feels like a case of one (or many) set pieces too many. I particularly felt that the “battle royale” between Superman and his nemeses dragged on a bit.
But it is likely that I am over critiquing this aspect because as we all know Nolan and Goyer are masters at creating cinematic puzzles. We are barely at the assembly stage – with Man of Steel the puzzle box has been opened and all the pieces dumped on the table. How it all comes together is something that we will have the pleasure of watching over the next several years.
Tying into what I mentioned above, between the allusions to immigration, Jesus Christ, eugenics and fate/destiny (to name a few), my senses were on symbolism overload. Just wanted to put that out there.
The Darkness and the Light
From the outset, the lasting impression from Man of Steel was the weightiness of the material. This most certainly was not the Superman tale of my youth. At times I was worried that the gravity with which the material was presented would was going to really drag the movie down. One especially dark turn took place during a shocking, unexpected denouement, at least by Superman standards. Yet in the end I felt there were enough moments of levity to balance this out.
Getting to Know You
This is a theme that you will notice I stick with throughout this post but I think that it is worth mentioning that Man of Steel, if nothing else focused heavily on character development. Of course at the center of it is Clark Kent/ Kal El/ Superman and his struggle for identity, understanding who he is and his purpose. The search easily parallels that struggle we all face in our own lives, but it clearly takes on a different tone in a universe where Krypton and Metropolis exist. One aspect of the character and relationship development that did not work for me as well was the relationship between Clark and Lois Lane. After some long thought on this subject I have come up with the following theory – that story-wise, the relationship is such because the filmmakers were attempting to solve the age-old “inside joke” concerning people’s knowledge/ignorance of our superhero’s true identity.
Which Leads Me to the Acting …
In particular, I think that Cavill did a very good job in his portrayal; he was able to convey someone who was both foreign and still in touch with an earthly humanity (a stranger in a strange land).
Bye, bye camp villain – Michael Shannon is so menacing as a screen presence; I found myself equally exhilarated and frightened his portrayal as General Zod.
I do not know what it is about the Lois Lane character, but it seems as equally difficult to cast as Superman himself. You need someone who can hold their own with the Man of Steel as a believably spunky, rebel of a reporter. Amy Adams does not knock it out of the park but hers is such an affable screen presence that I can go with it.
Equal props to Russell Crowe and a sagacious Kevin Costner as Clark’s / Kal’s two dads – very good performances, gentlemen. Heck, solid performances all around. I suspect that in future installments a couple of characters (looking to you Perry White) will be a little more fleshed out.
But I Feel for Those Folks Who Were Less Than Enthusiastic About MoS, Too
I can totally empathize with the detractors and those who were a bit disappointed by the film. I do not think there is any denying that this is a very well made film. But what it boils down to in my opinion, is expectation. As I have chronicled on this blog since the first teasers for this film were released, my anticipation for the film has gone from zero to a moderate level of excitement. Even with that growing eagerness to see the film, my expectations were still managed so that in the end, I think I could be no less that satisfied with what I would eventually see. I know that for many fans of Superman and the overall comic genre, a lot was riding on this film to deliver in a way that some other superhero predecessors have done. As I have learned, the game of expectation comes is high stakes for the moviegoer. Go back almost 12 months to the day to see what I mean.
Another mark against the film that I have heard or read about is that many people were looking for a little more balance in the portrayal of Clark and his alter ego. My response to that is: Man of Steel is CLEARLY the opening act in a three part story, so there is no need to introduce all aspects of the character(s) just yet. Think of this first installment as Superman 101. In other words, do not fret dear viewer, let’s just wait and see what is to come. On a side note: one does not have to be a complete dork to be a mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper; trust me, it can work.
In the End …
I could go on, but I won’t. Let me finish by saying the more I think about Man of Steel, the more I like it and what its creators were setting out to accomplish. It was an ambitious exercise to set about doing – taking a well loved set of characters and altering their universe in a way that may not be to everyone’s liking. Yes, there are pieces of the story and its delivery that work better than others, but in the end I can do nothing but recommend you see this film and judge for yourself.
Have you seen it? What do you think? Hit the comments section below.