Monday, June 17, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel (2013)


Henry Cavill Man of Steel movie review 2013

The movie combines the plots of Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman 2 (1980). The opening prologue of Man of Steel shows Krypton's destruction and Kal-El being sent to Earth. Similar to Superman 2, General Zod travels to Earth. Throw in some parts of Batman Begins and hey presto, you get Man of Steel.

I am not going to the plot details as there is not much to write about there. The plot has a number of holes though, which I will avoid to keep this review spoiler free.

The movie, if nothing else, shows the power of marketing. The marketing campaign for this movie has been nothing short of brilliant. The trailers and TV spots did an amazing job of presenting the movie as a must watch summer movie event. Unfortunately, the movie fails to live up to its hype. And I mean failure on an epic scale.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El on Krypton in Man of Steel (2013)

Kryptonians are supposed to be an advanced civilization but fly on dragon like flying beasts. There are flying spacecrafts too. The movie cannot decide whether it is belongs to the science fiction genre or the fantasy genre. Oh wait, it is a superhero movie, featuring Supes.

The acting is surprisingly weak, considering the star cast. Characterizations are either non-existent or just wrong.

Diane Lane as Martha Kent in Man of Steel (2013)

Take the example of Martha Kent. Diane Lane's performance is limited to her wardrobe and her only effective scene is the one where she gets to counsel a very young Clark (Cooper Timberline) who is terrified after a manifestation of his x-ray vision.

Ditto for Amy Adams' Lois Lane. One of the main appeals of Clark-Lois dynamics is the fact that Lois is unaware of Supes' secret identity. 

Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White in Man of Steel (2013)

As silly as Supes' secret identity is, it is still one of the benchmarks of the Supes mythology. Man of Steel gets rid of this aspect and this pretty much removes any scope for the classic Supes-Lois romance.

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent Kal-El Supes in Man of Steel (2013)

On the other end of the writing spectrum are the characters of Supes himself and Jor-El. Henry's version of Supes/Clark Kent is a dullard. Moping around like Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne does not a Clark Kent make. Neither does Henry Cavill's school of acting that alternates between 2 expressions: blank faced or constipated.

Dylan Sprayberry and Cooper Timberline as a younger Clark Kent in Man of Steel (2013)

To put Henry's performance in perspective, I would say that both Dylan Sprayberry and Cooper Timberline make a better impression as younger versions of Clark, even though they have a fraction of the screen time compared to Cavill.

Henry is quite a handsome looking chap and looks brawny when he goes shirtless. In my humble opinion, his is the most boring version of Supes and possibly the worst as well. Without giving anything away, I will direct the readers to the movie climax to drive home this point.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El in Man of Steel (2013)

Equally nonsensical is Jor-El's characterization. To the best of my knowledge, Jor-El has been a scientist on Krypton. Marlon Brando's version captured that aspect. Russell Crowe plays Jor-El as a scientist version of Maximus Decimus Meridius from Gladiator. Russell's Jor-El kicks, punches, shoots, dives and jumps on the back of flying dragons. Quite an all-rounder indeed. The less said about Jor-El's later appearances the better. Still, Russell delivers a watchable performance.

Michael Shannon as General Zod in Man of Steel (2013)

Michael Shannon is on auto-pilot mode and gives a one-note performance as General Zod. His is a glare-stare-shout performance and nothing else. The actors, especially Michael Shannon and Ayelet Zurer seem to be at line reading sessions. Perhaps, performing going against green screens did not inspire them to do anything beyond simple line reading exercises. Interestingly, Henry Cavill and even Amy Adams resort to such antics in their scenes together and it is quite a stretch to believe their romance subplot.

Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel (2013)


The best performances are by Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent and Antje Traue as Faora Ul. Kevin gives a believable performance as Jonathan Kent, who wants the best for Clark. He consistently advises Clark to hide his powers (another red flag as far as the comics is concerned). Still, Kevin's performance is one of the best ones.

Click on the link below to buy your copy of the movie:



Antje Traue as Faora-Ul in Man of Steel (2013)

But the true scene stealer is Antje Traue. As Sub-Commander Faora-Ul, Zod's right hand, she exudes arrogance and pure evil. Hers is a fun performance and the movie comes alive when she is onscreen. The casting department definitely made the right choice (atleast) for this role.

The same cannot be said for the special effects department. It is painfully obvious that we are watching a computer generated special effect flying around, when it is supposed to be Henry Cavill as Supes. This happens a number of times in the movie and makes one wonder where did all the (supposedly) 200 million dollar plus budget went into.

I suppose a significant amount was spent on the Krypton sequence. For my money, I would have skipped that sequence and instead spent the budget on getting the Supes flight/fight scenes executed in a believable way. After all, this is the 21st century and Man of Steel should have more believable flight/fight sequences than the Chris Reeve movies. Between a Chris Reeve on wires scene vs weak CGI superman shots, I would gladly choose the former.

Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel (2013)
The special effects in Man of Steel are not always this good
Hans Zimmer's nonstop bombastic score is one of his least effective works in recent times. I could make out only one theme being repeated aloud or quietly, depending on the scene in question.

One way to get through the movie is to play the "Spot the Product placements" game. I spotted Nikon, IHOP, 7-Eleven and Sears. There are some more and I encourage the readers to look out for these.

This is lazy movie-making at its best. Warner Bros. must be desperate for a new franchise (now that The Dark Knight Trilogy and the Harry Potter series are over). Marvel's continuous success probably did not help either.

Marvel Studios did the right thing in getting directors who delivered adaptations with appropriate tone for each comic book character. For a fun character like Iron Man, they brought Jon Favreau on board. For a mythological character like Thor, they hired respected Shakespearean actor/director, Kenneth Branagh.

Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder on Man of Steel (2013)
Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder
Warner Bros does not seem to care about these basic but crucial points. The critical and commercial success of The Dark Knight Trilogy seems to have become the Kryptonite of Man of Steel. The similarities between Man of Steel and Batman Begins are quite obvious. The back and forth narrative structure that worked so well in Batman Begins, results in an uneven tone for Man of Steel. No surprise there, as Zack Snyder is no Chris Nolan. The movie is all about (unimaginative) visual spectacle and (badly executed) special effects.

The horror story is set to continue as Warner Bros. has already signed up Snyder and writer David S. Goyer for the sequel.

DC Comics has been the major player on the animated scene. Its dominance in Hollywood has been eclipsed in the recent past by Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I am sure Warner Bros/DC Comics wanted to challenge Marvel Studios' lucrative MCU movies with a new franchise that was supposed to be kicked off by Man of Steel and presumably lead to a Justice League movie. MCU fans can relax. Man of Steel may be a commercial success, but is no match from a critical perspective. This is just a boring movie with no humor, weak script/characterizations and very poorly executed special effects.

I have been a lifelong fan of Supes and Bats. As surprised I am to write this, I will be lying if I put it in any other way: Skip Man of Steel and watch the classic 
Christopher Reeve movies or Smallville or Superman/Batman: Public Enemies or Superman vs. The Elite or All-Star Superman instead. One of these even features Bats. And of course, there is the always enjoyable and far superior The Dark Knight Trilogy. 

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Image Sources: Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, Syncopy

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27 comments:

  1. While I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, I have disliked much more than my initial reaction that I wrote in my review.
    I can't disagree with you on the flaws. The movie is flawed and the trailer made it look so much better than it actually was. In a way, this is just a half-cocked response to Marvel's fantastic films.

    -James

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    Replies
    1. Thanks James. In a way, the movie is more of a tribute to the power of marketing than Superman himself.

      B2B.

      Delete
    2. I liked the movie but yeah...the Batman movies by Nolan are ten times superior. And the Marvel movies are TWENTY times better. Good point how different directors were hired for each movie, based on character. Kenneth Branagh was the perfect choice to direct Thor.

      Delete
    3. Thanks Kris.

      I agree with you about the superior quality of Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy and Marvel's choice of directors.

      B2B.

      Delete
  2. So. . . I'm getting this feeling . . . .you didn't enjoy it.. . . . . .

    ReplyDelete
  3. While the film looked visually amazing and the story was decent, it felt like the final product was a mix of the best scenes from other
    known sci-fi films such as Star Wars (the new trilogy, specially Episode III)
    and Avatar mixed with the obvious Nolan
    Batman feel and photography.

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    Replies
    1. You are right in comparing this movie to Star Wars movies and Avatar. The TDK Trilogy effect is just too obvious, even in the trailers.

      B2B.

      Delete
  4. That's to bad about Amy's role, I love her in just about everything she does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I too have enjoyed Amy's performances in Catch Me If You Can and The Fighter.

      But to be fair to Amy, she probably did her best with the underwritten role that was handed to her.

      B2B.

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  5. I enjoyed it more than you did but I also found the acting pretty weak all around, Shannon being the biggest surprise since I expected him to really knock it out of the park.

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    1. Agree with you about Shannon. I too was looking forward to his performance, after watching him in Revolutionary Road and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

      I guess like Amy, he too could not handle the one dimensional character of Zod, as written by Goyer and Nolan.

      B2B.

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  6. Actually, my only disagreement is on Shannon, but perhaps my respect for him blinds me.

    On all other points, you are absolutely correct. I found the worst aspect was to remove the 'mild-mannered reporter' aspect and turn Clark into a nicer version of Bruce Banner, forever wandering to find peace within.

    A very disappointing film, but better than Quest for Peace (if that's saying anything).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rick.

      I think Quest for Peace is a better Supes movie, just because of Chris Reeve's presence.

      B2B.

      Delete
  7. Sorry to hear you weren't a fan of this one. I did enjoy this one, though I will agree it doesn't rise to the heights of Nolan's Batman trilogy. I also think Marvel has done a better job overall of getting their superheroes to the big screen.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Ashley. I agree with both of your points.

      B2B.

      Delete
  8. Tried to post a comment but I think something went wrong with my computer, so I'll try again. ;) Sorry to hear you weren't a fan of this one, but I understand where you're coming from. I did enjoy this one, though I will agree it doesn't rise to the heights of Nolan's Batman trilogy. I also agree that overall, Marvel has been more successful in bringing their superheroes to the big screen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I enabled comment moderation in the recent past. That is why your previous comment did not appear right away.

      Thank you for the patience to repost the comment :)

      B2B.

      Delete
  9. Wow you deconstructed this movie brilliantly. Some issues I was able to overlook more so than others, but the characterization of Superman did not hit the spot for me.

    Thanks for complimenting and commenting on my Man of Steel review (with spoilers).

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks sidekickreviews. I think they missed the mark by a wide margin with Man of Steel.

      With all the huge budget and the quality of cast and crew involved, this was a golden opportunity to deliver a spectacular adaptation of Supes.

      Well, there are always the Chris Reeve movies :)

      B2B.

      Delete
  10. Yeah, the movie wasn't the worst I'd ever seen, but definitely not the best. (I'm not much of a Superman fan, but still...) I did enjoy Faora, and I had to chuckle at whenever the product placement got damaged... Though one of the "plot points" bugged me though... (I'm trying not to spoil, here...)

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    1. Thanks Loveable Freak. Long time no see :)

      I am curious about the plot point. Please feel free to share your thoughts - it is almost a month since the movie got released and I am sure it is quite late to spoil anyone's fun.

      B2B.

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    2. ^_^ Yeah, I know! Feels good to be back!

      The whole blood with the codex to create more Kryptonians thing bugged me. When Zod was all: "We'll kill Superman to get the blood!" The whole time I thought: "YOU ALREADY HAVE A BLOOD SAMPLE! COULDN'T YOU AND YOUR ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY JUST USE THAT INSTEAD!?" It just bugged me...

      Delete
  11. ^_^ Good to be back!

    The thing about Zod wanting to kill Superman for the Codex in his blood thing. The whole time I thought "Dude, you ALREADY have that blood sample you took, you've got advanced technology, can't you just work from that!?" It just bugged me as I was watching...

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    1. Agree with you. The movie had many plot holes and was a major letdown.

      B2B.

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