Movie review: Man of Steel
With actor Henry Cavill putting on the famous red cape, he completes the powerful British superhero triumvirate of late, alongside Christian Bale's Batman and Andrew Garfield's Spiderman. It's certainly a massive achievement for Cavill, who up until this point in his career is probably best known for his role as Charles Brandon in the TV series The Tudors. But can his personal take on one of the world's most famous superheroes fly?
A million miles away, in a different galaxy, the planet Krypton is falling apart. And as if that wasn't bad enough, a rebellion is taking place too, commanded by General Zod (Michael Shannon). Zod is unhappy with the current regime and is bent on destroying it.
In order to save his new born, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is preparing a pod that will hopefully whisk him away to safer pastures. It transpires that his Kal-El is the first natural birth the planet has seen in centuries, meaning that he will have the ability to choose his own destiny. With the planet crumbling, Jor-El just about succeeds in sending his child into deep space.
The pod lands in a field in Ohio, where he is adopted and raised by Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent. It's not long before they realise that the boy, who they name Clark, is different. Special.
With a difficult childhood behind him, Clark (Henry Cavill) tries to blend in with the people of Earth as best he can, but his super power abilities make him tough to ignore. He's also unaware that Zod is still alive and is on his way to find him, as he has something that he wants. And as it's not in Zod's nature just to simply rock up and ask, the entire future of the planet is in Clark's really firm hands.
One of the biggest debates that may spring from this film is this: what's the difference between a remake and a reboot? Although being tagged a reboot, Zack Snyder's film feels nothing more of a remake, or more accurately, a rehash of Superman 1 & 2.
This is now the third time that Clark Kent's origin story has been told on the big screen, and despite a supposedly darker tone – which appears as dark as a Milky bar – it's still the same old, well known story. What director Snyder does however, to make it fresh and original, is to retell this famous story really, really, really slowly; in doing so, he manages to bring a whole new level of tedium to proceedings. It feels like the moon could have revolved around the earth a couple of times during the time it takes Snyder to inform his audience how Kal-El became Superman. It certainly takes up two thirds of the overlong film.
Snyder doesn't help with his choice of using a large number of flashbacks. It may well be a way of him distancing himself technically from previous Superman titles, but all he manages to achieve is by constantly playing with the timeline is breaking up what little rhythm the film has, giving it an awkward flow.
It does pick up a little in the final third however, but sadly it degenerates into a generic Earth-under-attack-from-aliens film, full of super-blurry CGI effects.
Another bold move by the director was to not reference the score of the original films. Hanz Zimmer's score is occasionally stirring, but has no identity of its own and certainly can't match John William's iconic anthemic music. Even JJ Abram's gave the original TV show's theme a nod in his recent Star Trek 'reboot', to make the fan's happy, and you can better your bottom dollar he'll do the same with Episode VII too. But not so 'maverick' Snyder.
But Snyder isn't all to blame. David S Goyer, the man behind the stories for the recent Batman trilogy, has written a script that is devoid of any real humour, memorable set pieces, littered with the flattest of dialogue that is instantly forgettable. And the one thing you would think he wouldn't be able to mess up, the relationship between Clark and Lois Lane (Amy Adams), he does; before you know it, sharing little time on screen, the pair are immediately all loved up, with hardly any interaction whatsoever. Considering the time and energy he put into the back story, there seems an unhealthy amount of assumed knowledge between the love interest.
It's also laughable that Goyer and Christopher Nolan are credited with the film's story; apparently you can get a credit for simply merging to the stories of Superman 1 & 2 together. Now that's creativity for you.
Shannon is highly watchable, as ever, but even his Zod lacks real menace.
Cavill himself does well with what's asked of him, but fails to deliver a performance that makes the role his own. The original film may well be thirty five years old now, but Christopher Reeve still remains the iconic screen superhero to beat.
With the chance to do something truly different with the franchise, Snyder has simply made the same mistakes that Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns made, and will end up being just as forgettable.
The film lacks the charm, fun, and, more importantly, the sense of wonder that the original film had, with its bloated, long-windedness. You'll certainly need a strong mettle of your own if you're to endure this particular re-re-telling of the Man of Steel.
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