The following review was published in Images on Sunday, June 30th 2013. This post is the unedited copy, with a different Title.
Level the City! Roll Out the Carpet: A Hottie, Half-God E.T. Cometh!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
We know Superman; how can we not? His iconography of the all-American Boy Scout and his indisputable mantle as the poster child of superheroes is as inescapable as it is, perhaps, cinematically deterring. There’s was once a straight approach to this guy whose powers once limited to jumping tall buildings in a single bound and outracing locomotives. Today, he can do just about anything, including push planets to the exact moment of the beginning of time and universe.
In the Man of Steel though, produced by Christopher Nolan and directed by Zach Snyder, Superman isn’t nearly as omnipotent as his recently beefed up comic self. The limits of making him cinematically apt, especially in Nolan and Snyder’s world, do make him near indestructible (there’s nary a scratch on him when he’s done wrestling super-villains); in their world, Superman is also a somewhat vague wanderer in search of his family tree.
Although not condescending to his ‘humanistic’ development, this origin story is right on the money – if Snyder’s and screenwriter David Goyer’s filmmaking passion were more sympathetic to the story’s execution.
When we meet the adult Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavill – a beefcake of a specimen with a physique borrowed from Adonis and the glint of innocent school boyishness in his eyes –, he is a wandering adult, straying from jobs because he’s yet to find his place in ‘this’ world. As everyone – including Clark – knows, he’s not from our world, a fact his Earthly foster parents Jonathan and Martha Kent – played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane – made clear to him when he was younger.
Clark – or as he was named in his native world, Kal-El – is a survivor of a highly civilized, and doomed, extraterrestrial race called Kryptonians. In their native world, Krypton, a few dozen light years away, the science has reached a point far beyond incredibly smart, smart phones and blazing 4G internet connections. It is a place of ‘calculated’ genetics without will. Structured breeding programs produce people fit for specific employment and social placement. And as everyone is born out of a test-tube of sorts, the concept of a father and mother is lost to them.
Kal though, is different. Born naturally, his parents – Jor-El and Lara, played with grand panache by Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer – see him as the lonesome survivor of a planet that’s set to implode because the Kryptonian’s have crippled it with their science. Flung away to Earth on a space pod, and found by the Kents, Clark learns about life responsibility. As it happens, some of life’s lessons hit him hard way (by say, a brilliant scene of a tornado featuring an emotionally harrowing moment with Costner).
After a virtuoso opening on Krypton, the first act of the Man of Steel turns consciously protracted, as if it was making way for a larger, bombastic climax. A few surviving Kryptonians – and war criminals at that – come to Earth with a timer on place. Led by Zod (Michael Shannon, unattractive and indisposed), their demand is simple: hand over Kal-El or the planet bites the dust, big time.
Once the action starts, one wishes there was a chunk of a radioactive ‘Kryptonite’ (the rock fatal to Superman, not present in the movie), somewhere nearby, so that the viewer can bonk himself on the head and lose consciousness for the next forty five minutes.
Once Kal dons the ‘Superman’ suit – a heritage outfit, with a family symbol we’re told – the action becomes inexorable, big – and at times – incredibly fake, as Kal fends off the other super-powered villains who have been bestowed superhuman abilities thanks to our Sun’s incredible adverse effects on Kryptonian genetics.
Town blocks crumple. Farmlands are plowed by body impact. And a city is leveled by a humongous tripod as Earth is set to be converted into a new Krypton.
The overblown sequencing of the climax is imported out of necessity; Man of Steel is, lest we forget, a gargantuan action flick with a lot of weight on its shoulders (the success of the film means a way for other ‘DC Comic’ superheroes to come on screen, maybe in a joint venture). The pizzazz is obligatory, and it nearly negates the film’s already deliberate footing of the first half.
Cavill, nonetheless, is nearly as appealing as Christopher Reeves. Amy Adams plays Lois Lane, and although she is quite an actress, her Lane is at odds with the spitfire we are accustomed to. There are other negating aspects to the Man of Steel which I am sure matter to avid comic followers, and mean nothing to the average viewer (the one suffering from the throbbing headache, and the high ticket prices).
Still, regardless of how this review makes the movie sound, its pompousness is an ‘almost’ trivial matter.
From a logical point of view, there would be little deviation for this film’s material, no matter who the serious minded filmmaker was behind the camera. Of course a few headaches less by Man of Steel’s end would really make a hell of a difference.
Released by Warner Bros. and Geo Films, ‘Man of Steel’ is rated PG-13. Nothing too offensive here, however take my advice, and have a few aspirins handy.
The published version of the article is at: http://x.dawn.com/2013/06/30/animadversion-up-up-and-away/
And it looks like this: