If you’re not familiar with the story of Superman at this very moment as you read this, then you’re arguments are nullified 🙂 Fact is, Superman is the most iconic figure with the most recognizable symbol (the ‘S’ on his chest) second only to the Christian cross. His cultural relevance, fame and impact cannot be matched by any other fictional character, or superhero regardless of how successful any film adaptation may have been of those characters. Superman stands above them all. Despite that enviable fame and impact, the character has has one major daunting hurdle: translating him to the Big Screen successfully and maintaining that success…
Those familiar with the previous notable reinterpretation of the character onscreen will know that the first two Superman films starring the late Christopher Reeve were the best, before the next two installments still starring Christopher Reeve but under different direction, started giving people a bad taste in the mouth… Fast forward to some two decades later after some failed attempts by directors Tim Burton and J.J. Abrams to get a Superman film flying, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006) was met with some fair amount of love by critics BUT backlash by fans and the intended sequel never saw the light of day and things were quietly swept under the rag until word and rumors of a reboot titled Man of Steel started being seen in the sky…
The visual guru and fanboy at heart Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) was attached to direct, under the supervision of Christopher Nolan (Inception, Batman Trilogy), that alone is a match made in heaven. But did they deliver?
“A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.”
First of all, the creative minds behind Man of Steel had to balance between reintroducing the character, modernizing him without stripping away or diluting the age-old attributes or lore that make Superman what he is while leaving him recognizable to the stable of fans who have known him throughout the years and drawing in a new generation of fans.
The delicate yet necessary balance above, led to an interesting choice of story telling and editing , and this is probably what most people had a problem with; the jumping back and forth between current ongoing events and events in the past of our titular character, Clark Kent who later becomes Superman our Man of Steel. The problem with the employed style of editing and story-telling means there is no direct/obvious linear story build up. You have to pay close attention to what’s happening, connect the dots, and have a functioning memory. In short it’s not a campy superhero story, but at the same time not too complicated.
The term ‘erratic’ has been used by one review site to describe the style used, a style that makes you feel that there is no story being told, and things are all over the place, back and forth, forth and back etc… But there is a story being told. Nevertheless it’s still one of the film’s main flaws but easily dealt with if one pays attention. Apart from the usual loopholes and ‘too much coincidence’ in some areas, the other bone of contention would have to be the sort-of minor roles familiar faces were given to play. There was a lot of buzz about the caliber of supporting cast attached to this film, to the most part they don’t do too much if you look at the significance of the characters they are playing in relation to Superman’s history, but you get the feeling this film wasn’t about them, but more about Superman, and they were given introductory roles with further development coming in the not-so-far-away sequel. It sort of balances out then in that light.
The visual is the selling point of this film. Spot on! Russell Crowe’s casting as Jor-El and how he portrayed the role sets the pace for everything early on in the film when we see a magnificent yet dying Krypton. No Superman film in the past has spent that amount of time detailing Krypton and getting us more attached to Superman’s biological parents than this one does. That was a pleasant surprise. Not only was it a surprise and of visual significance, it lays the foundation giving the viewer the understanding of Superman’s heritage and background, the circumstances of his arrival, making it quite easier to leap ahead in time to when he is fully grown, bearded and a wanderer…
The story being told is pretty simple, built on the notion that a being with such power yet unaware of his origin and purpose at first would feel lost and literally alienated on a planet where everyone else compared to him is a mere mortal. Should he reveal his true abilities and possibly risk rejection? His family being victimized in some way? Or should he conceal them, try to fit in yet never really fit in, inevitably feeling lost and alone… Henry Cavill carries the weight of the character and film quite well on his shoulders. As a lost Clark Kent he plays it perfectly, the concealed struggle of emotions evident on his face; displaying relief and wonder after the knowledge of his birthright as Kal-El; finally as Superman, we see the balance, perfect look of stage-fright mixed with ‘its now or never’ mentality and ‘i won’t give up’ when he has to stand up to Zod.
Speaking of Zod, Michael Shannon was menacing. The threat of Zod wasn’t necessarily in his abilities at first, but in his nature, age and military knowledge. We believe Zod was the perfect choice of a villain, i mean who else is powerful enough to properly introduce Superman? What other villan can cause Superman to come out in all his glory both physically and morally? We’ll tell you; Zod. Faora his second in command quite nearly if not completely stole the show from him! The best actors are those who can successfully convey their roles with body language coupled with the fewest lines, Antje Traue did that! The characters who were given much to do in this film delivered, embracing heir roles and relaying the importance and urgency of the situation.
All in all, it’s a great visual masterpiece with a simple yet effective story that i believe serves it’s main purpose well; reintroduce the character and set the stage for DC Comics shared universe. The epic battle scenes stand way above anything and everything presented by any superhero film of late, yes, even The Avengers doesn’t match up! Your emotions are tugged at, your enthusiasm stoked and most importantly, the seriousness of it all sinks in. Superman is not a hero because of his abilities, but because of what he believes in, his heart and principles, perfectly relayed by the circumstances that compelled him to introduce himself to the world. It was is no cliche way by the way 😉 There’s a burden that comes with wearing that ‘S’ on his chest, there’s a legacy he has to honor and a new one he has to chart, it’s no easy job.
If you’re looking for a serious superhero film where there is actual danger and you get connected and invested this is it! Hans Zimmer’s score goes a long way in matching the mood of every scene. Watch this for yourself, it has its flaws like every other film true, but the biggest crime would be you not experiencing it in Cinema for yourself and for the sake of the EPIC battles between Superman and Faora and Superman and Zod. Superman is back, with a bang!
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
IMDb Rating: 8.2/10
MOVIE JABBER Rating: 3.5/5
Man of Steel opens to the Kenyan public June 21st, Friday.