With the release of 2013′s Man Of Steel Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) re-imagines the origin of America’s and indeed Western societies most iconic, and first ever Super-Hero; Superman – the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created ‘Man Of Steel’ who came to life over 70 years ago in 1938′s Action Comics #1.
And in line with this radical reboot Snyder’s Christopher (The Dark Knight) Nolan produced film seems to be doing it’s utmost to distance itself from it’s central characters former incarnations in order to bring Superman, a title that Clark/Kal is tellingly barely referred to as during the film, into the 21st century.
The question is; does the latest attempt to reinvent an icon succeed, or is this ‘try hard’ effort one step too far in distancing the fans from a Superman they know and love in a gamble to hook the next generation?
We look at the Good and Bad of the biggest Superhero film of 2013 below. Needless to say SPOILERS:
8. The Characters
From the get go Man Of Steel was sporting a very attractive cast spearheaded by Henry Cavill. And on watching him in action, Cavill is for all intents and purposes this generations Superman. He has that quintessential look that we can instantly identify, not far off the most iconic Supes so far Christopher Reeve, but with a new age handsome and youth that sets him apart. The fact that he can act like hell and is built like a brick sh*t house doesn’t hurt either.
Amy Adam’s is a suitably stoic/imperiled Lois Lane and it’s nice to see Larry Fishburne making Perry White come off ‘cool’ with his designer stubble and diamond stud earring. But the real acting chops and superior casting in this movie goes to the elder statesmen. Russell Crowe is a scene stealer as Clarks Kryptonian dad Jor-El, and Crowe authenticates and electrifies any scene that he’s in as a philosophizing, no nonsense bad-ass. Kevin Costner holds up his end admirably as Clark’s earth bound pop’s Jonathan Kent, dispensing an earthly sagacity and adding weight to an otherwise outlandish scenario with humility. And between these two some of the most impacting scenes in the movie are divided.
The third big gun in MOS’ acting arsenal is the ‘character’ powerhouse that is Michael Shannon. Currently lighting up Hollywood as the next Bob DeNiro, Shannon embodies bad guy Zod with a realistic purpose and patriotism that makes him seem almost reasonable until he enacts his methods of getting it. He’s a well rounded patriot, idealist and at the same time a magnificent howling melodramatic bastard. He can go from serene to snarling madness at the drop of a hat and is backed nicely by his ethically defunct lieutenant Faora (Antje Traue), who frankly seems to enjoy her work (fucking people up) a touch too much.
7. CGI Heavy
By necessity MOS was going to rely on CGI to achieve it’s scope. Snyder to his credit tries to understate what at times is some suffocating CG. Krypton in particular suffers from overt CGI as an entirely manufactured world, and while Snyder tries to balance this with practical effects and fight scenes, the balance is often smothered on one side by some heavy handed computer generated effects.
Snyder confirmed this himself when he said:
“Let me just say one thing about Superman – he can’t do anything that’s not a visual effect. He can walk around and talk, but if he’s going to do something physical, that’s a visual effect, because he’s Superman.”
It’s a fair that this movie could not have achieved it’s target of a massive sci-fi superhero origin story were it not for the CG, but at times it feels like the blue screen took prevalence where it might have benefited from something a touch more practical.
6. The Kryptonians
One of the boldest moves Snyder makes in Man Of Steel is to revamp Krypton. Not only does the city sport a radically different look from the crystalline metropolis of the comics and former movie incarnations, but it’s technologies are bolder, darker, more organic and most importantly more alien. Let’s not forget that while these creatures look like us, they are in fact aliens.
The impressive concept art brought to life by production Designer Alex McDowell gives a bold new look for a bold new take on what is a very well worn mythology. It’s fresh and interesting, and most importantly in helping us digest this crazy tale, it seems to serve a practical purpose.
Michael Wilkinson and James Acheson’s work on the costumes also adds an element to MOS that turns what was formerly ridiculous ‘outside pants’ wearing hokum into practical and aesthetically pleasing ‘genius’. Zod’s commando armour in particular is so alien, yet practical it adds a militaristic realism where could have as easily been a spandex nightmare.
Another interesting aspect of ‘New’ Krypton is it’s mirroring of Greek philosophical granddaddy Socrates’ ideal philosopher state. Every person is harvested as a worker, soldier or leader much in the same way the ancient Greek philosopher imagined selective breeding in order to enact perfect societal harmony. The idea that Kal-El’s home planet mirrors an ancient ideal at the apex of it’s stagnation is interesting and plays on a sort of advanced democracy that our own ancients dreamed of, but failed to ever enact.
Clark reading Plato’s Symposium later in the film confirms that this reference isn’t accidental and clearly scripter David S. Goyer used the Socratic ideals as a template for his version of Krypton.Tags: amy adams, general zod, henry cavill, kevin costner, man of steel, michael shannon, russell crowe, superman, zack snyder