Saturday, June 15, 2013

A brief review of "Man of Steel"

Here's my short "Pro/Con" review of the new "Superman" movie, "Man of Steel", which Jeannine and I saw today:


-- Special effects are well done.

-- The explanation for the "S" on Superman's costume is slightly clever.


-- The movie is too long and too loud.

-- It has about one percent of the charm of the first Christopher Reeve "Superman" movie. A lot of that is due to the lack of chemistry among most of the major characters, and the general humorlessness of the script. Kevin Costner gives it his all as Jonathan Kent, Superman's adoptive father, but he isn't provided much to work with, script-wise. (There is one moment near the end of the movie, when in a flashback there is a nicely-lit closeup of Costner, and it struck me that if an "old Superman" movie were to be made in the next few years, he would be well cast in the lead role.)

-- Amy Adams is horribly miscast as Lois Lane. I like Adams as an actress, but she just cannot pull off the worldly, tough-as-nails reporter thing that Margot Kidder did so effortlessly in that aforementioned first Christopher Reeves "Superman" movie. 

-- The storyline is gibberish. This is supposed to be a "realistic" treatment of the Superman mythos, and it fails miserably on almost every count. To pick one supremely ridiculous moment: After people have seen young Clark Kent demonstrate bizarre abilities like extraordinary strength (as in the scene where a whole bus full of his school mates are saved from certain drowning when Clark lifts their bus -- which has plunged into a river -- out of the water, and in other scenes which we don't see but which are referred to in dialogue), Pa Kent -- who is about to be killed in a tornado -- waves Clark off, telling him with the gesture that Clark can't take the risk of revealing his special abilities… even though he already has. So Clark lets his beloved father die when he could have easily saved him, and probably in a way which would be no more outre than any of his other exploits up to that point in his life. It's a hugely stupidly contrived moment.

-- Here's another head-scratching bit: There is something on Krypton called "The Codex", which supposedly contains all of the information for the DNA of every  Kryptonian yet to be born, and before he sends his newborn son off in the little spaceship which will save him from sharing the destruction of Krypton, Jor-El somehow transfers this information into the genetic structure of baby Kal-El's body. So… in this highly advanced, star-faring super-technological society which is Krypton, we are supposed to believe that THEY DIDN'T MAKE MORE COPIES OF THIS CODEX THING??? Its data can be somehow stored inside the body of a baby without taking up any significant space therein, but it can't be copied onto the Kryptonian equivalent of a thumbdrive or DVD?

-- This supposedly "realistic" treatment of the "Superman" mythos couldn't come up with a satisfactory way to explain why at some points Superman can do anything and at others he is too weak to do what needs to be done… relying instead on the audience being expected to believe that all Superman needs to do to overcome occasional weakness is to grit his teeth and put on a pained expression, and somehow he will find the requisite strength.

-- We're expected to believe that the people of Krypton have the ability to construct and operate starships which can fly all over the galaxy… but they still can't find enough natural resources to save their planet? And they can't save anyone when Krypton is in its death throes except for baby Kal-El and the mooks on the "Phantom Zone" prison ship? What -- were all their space-capable vehicles in the shop or something?

-- Superman's red and blue suit looks NOTHING like any other Kryptonian garb we see in the movie, with the exception of the shield-shaped emblems on various chest pieces. And it's just suddenly THERE -- no explanation, no rationale… nothing you might reasonably expect from this much-vaunted "realistic" version of "Superman".

I don't think I'll be going back to see this one again. -- PL


diego said...

there is a scene on krypton where jor-el removes his armor (before diving in the water) and he's wearing a blue bodysuit exactly like the superman costume. the idea is they all wear that regular suit, with a formal armor over it.

but yes, the movie is a mess.

PL said...

"diego said...
there is a scene on krypton where jor-el removes his armor (before diving in the water) and he's wearing a blue bodysuit exactly like the superman costume. the idea is they all wear that regular suit, with a formal armor over it."

I remember the scene where Jor-El goes swimming in the pool of baby pods, but don't remember his bathing suit looking "exactly like the superman costume". Maybe it was the relentless color grading making everything seem like the same limited spectrum of grim grays which kept me from seeing the blues. I am pretty sure that I didn't see Jor-El swimming in a big red cape, though.

But your comment raises an interesting question -- if Jor-El (really his holographic avatar) is somehow providing Kal-El with the requisite "House of El" bodysuit, why doesn't he also give him the formal armor to wear over it which you mention? Kal just gets the underwear, it appears. -- PL

Mark H said...

Hey Pete,
Thanks for the review. While I myself enjoyed the film I can respect your opinion of it. I do want to touch on a couple of your points, if for any reason, to help the movie make a little more sense to you. I do agree that Donner’s film from 1978 had more charm than the Man of Steel. However, I think this new Superman film was pretty good in its own right despite not being as charming. I don’t know if there is an actor today that could bring the charm to Superman that Christopher Reeve brought to the character. I will always believe that Reeve is the best Superman on film. I think Reeve’s Clark Kent was what really made the character so charming. I was disappointed that we did not get to see that kind of Clark Kent in Man of Steel.
I will agree that the movie was a little to long. Personally I think the action sequences could have been a little shorter. The destruction of Smallville and Metropolis was a bit overdone. At first I found the action and destruction to be awesome but, after ten minuets or so it began to get repetitive. I also started thinking, who in this fictional world is going to pay for all this property damage? The Kryptonian battles had to be costing the taxpayers billions. I joked with my wife that it is just Superman’s job program. Let’s put America to work rebuilding all the destruction caused by the Kryptonians.
I also would agree that it was loud especially with the action sequences. I found myself longing for my TV remote so I could turn it down the way I would with loud action sequences on my TV at home.
Now to some of your points;

- I don’t think there was as much charm and humor on purpose. The film makers did state that they wanted a darker film. There where however a couple moments in the film I found to be funny. Like what Clark did to the rude trucker’s vehicle as well as what he did to the spy drone. Costner did a wonderful Jonathan Kent. I swear every scene with Costner had my wife in tears.

- I thought Amy Adams did a decent Lois Lane. Not as good as Margot Kidder but, decent none the less. It is a matter of opinion I suppose.

- The scene with Jonathan Kent putting up his hand to stop young Clark from saving him was up and down for me. I see your point then, on the other hand, I do understand what the film makers where trying to do here. Clark did reveal his special abilities in the past but, never in front of his father. Clark knew his father was very much against him doing anything to reveal his abilities. So in that situation I can almost understand why he held back when his father was telling him not to help. Pa Kent was willing to die before watching his son expose his abilities in front of all those people. Clark had to respect his father’s wishes. Personally, I would have ignored my father’s wishes and rushed in to save him. So I understand where you are coming from. Not to mention Superman can move at speeds that make him almost invincible. So, there could have been some way for Clark to save his Pa. The emotional response from that scene seemed to be effective. My wife was sobbing next to me during that scene. I have to say I too was moved a little.

Mark H said...

- The Kryptonian Codex was a bit of strange science fiction. I did not understand how all that information could be downloaded to one being without any side effects. I think asking why there where no other copies is a fair question. I will have to look into that. Perhaps there is something in the comics I have missed over the years that explains what it is and why there is only one copy. I’m with you on this one. It leaves me scratching my head.

- I chalked up Superman having varying bouts of weakness and strength to the fact that he is still learning his powers and capabilities. I’m hoping in the next film his powers will be a little more consistent. In this film he reminded me of the Superman from the animated series. In the animated series you would have one scene where Superman is struggling to hold up a helicopter. In the next scene he is tossing a meteor into space.

- I think I could answer this one for you. In the comic book Krypton’s high council banned space travel. Resources on Krypton became limited and, it took a lot of energy to break Krypton’s gravity. The Krypton high council did not believe that Krypton was in the last throes of its existence therefore they refused to lift the ban on space travel. When Jor-El, one of only a handful of Kryptonians that knew Krypton was about to be destroyed, shipped his son off into space. He did so illegally.

- In recent comics Superman’s suit is actually a Kryptonian battle suit. When he first puts it on it links to his DNA and forms the House of El symbol on his chest. I think that is what they where going for in the movie. Kal-El found the suit on the Kryptonian ship. That is in line with modern telling of the suits origin. Although, poor Kal-El did not get the whole suit. The complete Kryptonian battle suit has armor with the basic suit underneath. In the original comics Martha Kent made her son his iconic suit from the blankets that he came to Earth with. I think the original origin of the suit is more charming myself.

I know I’m going to give it another viewing. I’m going to wait till it comes out on Blue-ray so I can watch it at home. Then I can lower the volume on the really loud action sequences. I’m sure that nothing I have said will change your view of the movie. I’m hoping some of my points helped it make a little more sense. Like why the suit was just there and, why no one else flew away from Krypton.
Thanks for your Review Pete. I found your take on the movie very interesting and, it did make me ask more questions of the film.
Have a good one!

Dion said...

*Spoilers ahead of course*
I was a little disappointed but I do think I had excessively high hopes.

I was fine with the suit he was provided, if anything it's a nice inside joke that he's running around in Kryptonian underwear (since he lost the red trunks on the outside of the suit). It would have been nice if he was presented with the complete suit and he chooses to reject the armor as it's not the message he wants to send (also it's completely redundant)
The lack of Clark Kent was something that I didn't think I would miss but I did, Amy Adams was an ok Lois (better than the one from 'Superman Returns') but I don't like they dynamic of her knowing his identity. The "Welcome to the 'Planet'" line was nicely cute.
The biggest disappointment for me was the conclusion of the Zod battle, while I'm not overly precious about Superman not killing if the threat is big enough, this seemed to be done to quickly with no real imagination, Superman should be coming up with a better solution.... because he's ... well.. super. I heard a report Mark Waid stood up in the cinema after that scene and shouted "That's it, I'm outta here"

Cracking score from Zimmer though... made quadruplly impressive when you're following up to William's masterpiece.