By Liam Alexander
Here we are, the official start of the new DC Cinematic Universe. Warner Bros realised that Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was going to have to be its own thing. A good move on their behalf, and where better to start their new universe than with the last son of Krypton, Superman. After a failed attempt with Superman Returns (aka a try hard love letter), this was the time to get the character right, to bring superman into the modern world with the help of visionary, Zack Snyder, the man behind Watchmen and 300.
Man of Steel holds a very special place in my heart; it’s actually somewhat nostalgic for me in a way. I am a huge DC comics fan and have been for a while. I love the DC world so, so much, and the trailers for Man of Steel honestly were/and still are some of my favourites ever. I had never been so hyped for a film in my entire life (until Batman v Superman came around) when I was stepping into the cinema to watch Man of Steel. One of the strange ways I judge some films is by goosebumps and chills. If a film can give me a lot of goosebumps, it must be pretty darn good (seriously, I’ll get goosebumps whenever I see moments of great direction, acting, story, music, in any kind of film), and boy did Man of Steel give me goosebumps the first time I watched it. I left the theatre in a state of ecstasy, I just saw a glimpse of the DC universe I know and love put up on screen. I was beyond the moon and also slightly blinded by my sheer love for DC. Each of the over 10 time’s after that, I started to notice some of the flaws in the film, and I do acknowledge and have complaints about some aspects of the film, and I now think I have a pretty good, less unbiased view on it. Lets talk about it!
Man of Steel is the origin story of Kal El (Henry Cavill) or as us humans like to call him, Clark Kent. We follow Clark’s escape from his dying planet Krypton, cutting in and out of his life growing up with Ma (Diane Lane) and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) out on the farm. It’s not until Zod (Michael Shannon) and his followers show up to earth in the hope of turning it into another Krypton, that Clark must become the man he was meant to be…SUPERMAN.
Henry Cavill as Superman was just a damn great casting choice because he, honestly, is without a doubt the best superman we have had since Christopher Reeve, and for me, he might be even better. We’ll have to see how he continues growing into the character, but in thid film he is really great. He pulls off the Clark Kent, the guy who is afraid and trying to find his place in the world, while also playing the Superman part extremely well. He is Superman for me at this point. Russell Crowe as Jor El is one of the first characters we are introduced to and he grabs us right away, his undying love and adoration for his son is seen, and his scenes on Krypton were something we had never seen before. I found them to be fantastic world building. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Ma and Pa Kent are some of the best aspects of the film, as well. They play the caring mother and father of this alien so darn well, Costner being especially great in the flashback scenes involving young, lost, Clark.
Other supporting characters include Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She plays Lois in a new and fresh way, she’s always looking for answers and never afraid to get them. Michael Shannon as General Zod is also a great casting, as he plays the menacing bad guy quite well, but plays the general, who just wants the best for his people, even better. Some of his dialogue can come off a bit expositional at times. There’s a bit too much tell, not enough show, but he does a great job and is quite memorable in the role considering some of the dialogue material he was working with.
The fractured storytelling makes the origin story refreshing and engaging, immediately separating itself from past Superman movies. The sequences of Clark growing up and trying to find himself in the world, his loneliness and isolation are all extremely well done and make Superman a complex and relatable hero. Even though he can do all these amazing feats and has extraordinary powers, he was brought up as human as possible in Smallville, Kansas. He wasn’t treated like a God, he has had humanity imprinted on him from the beginning and therefore he has human flaws and feelings.
One of my favourite moments in the entire film is Superman’s first flight. I think the visuals, its significance to the story and the sound all come together to create a scene that shows off his amazing abilities, while also, again, showing his humanity. He’s laughing and smiling like any other person would be if they just found out they could freaking fly. The sound booms are just awesome to look at as well! However, my hands down favourite scene in the entire film is when Superman blows up the world engine. It is such an incredibly inspiring moment, he’s been beaten down, but he rises to the challenge and as his fellow humans are being wiped out, he lifts himself up, the weight of humanity on his shoulders, and you can see for one frame Christopher Reeves face transition onto Cavill’s as he flies up and destroys the world engine, it is incredibly powerful and is so… Superman.
As always, I have to talk about Hans Zimmer’s music in the film. It has been one of my favourite soundtracks since I saw the film. It’s so inspiring, epic and emotionally charged. It was always going to be hard following up John Williams iconic tune, but Hans brings a new level emotion to the soundtrack and elevates the movie. Some of my favourite tracks are Goodbye My Son, Terraforming, What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World and Flight.
Now, let’s talk about the Zod neck snap. I don’t see any problem whatsoever with it. People complained that Superman would never do such a thing, but if he didn’t, what would that make him? A family killer? Zod put Kal in a terrible situation, and against all of Superman’s pleas for him to stop, Zod continues in his attempt to murder the family, sticking true to his determination to wipe humanity out and leaving Supes no choice. The neck must be snapped. It’s not like Superman liked doing it either, he screams in agony after at his action, not only because he just murdered someone, but because that someone was the last known person of his race. I think it’s a ballsy move by the writers and director and it definitely paid off, adding another dimension all together to the character.
Whilst the final fight between Zod and Supes, I think, is incredibly awesome, powerful and emotional, the over reliance on CGI is apparent and can make it seem very repetitive at times. There in lies one of my major problems with the film, the final fight would be so much more effective if there was more breathing space in the final hour. Man of Steel just needed some moments of slowing down and focusing on characters in the final hour. From the fight in Smallville to the end, it’s just non stop action, and it does get tiresome on the viewer. Although, the final fight is about 10x more awesome now that we know Bruce was watching the entire time. I love it how Batman V Superman is actually making Man of Steel better!
David S Goyer is a bit of a problem with the film as well, as some of his dialogue is just…not great. It’s expositional and very tell with no show. That paired with Zack Snyder’s more visual oriented way of filmmaking is not the best mix, and can lead to some moments of style over substance. Also, this is a bit of a side note WTF rant at Goyer’s writing, but Pa Kent’s death is so fucking stupid, like seriously, why would he run back to this tornado just to save a dog. I love dogs, but come on, no one does that, and Clark just stands there watching it happen. Hmmm. No.
The cinematography can be extremely beautiful at times, and I think Zack Snyder’s directorial vision is superb. He has a great visual eye. But the cinematography in Man of Steel is not justified, I don’t necessarily like the shaky hand held cam and unmotivated quick zooms with the racking of focus. It makes this 200 Million dollar movie seem a bit cheap, to be completely honest, so I am glad that Snyder has gone back to his fluid Watchmen style in Dawn of Justice. It feels much more cinematic if it isn’t shaking and zooming every 5 seconds.
Man of Steel was a movie that I think was unfairly received, and after repeat viewings I, in no way, think it is a bad movie. It is not a perfect movie whatsoever, but it is no 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. The hate I see it receive on social media still, 3 years after the movie has been released, is astonishing and completely unjustified. It has a bit too much action in the final hour with not enough breathing space, but it is a fantastic introduction and start to the DC cinematic universe. The movie is emotionally charged, has great performances and the action can be gripping. The music is beyond great and it brings the character of Superman into the modern world with great clarity and depth. He ain’t no boy scout.
Also, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is just 2 days away! 2 DAYS AWAY. I am so so so excited for the film and am pumped to be bringing to you my thoughts on it and the future of the DCU very soon…such exciting times!!!