When I was a kid my favorite super heroes where Spider-man, Superman, the Hulk and the Greatest American Hero. Pretty much anything on TV. Then when I became a teenager I found myself drawn to this short stocky Canadian guy with crazy hair, smoking a cigar and steel claws named Wolverine and for the next 20 years I identified with this social misfit who raged against the bad guys the way I had against the world. He fit my life and he was my number one.
After getting married, being graced with a child and holding a job for some time, I soon found myself drawn to someone else. A few years ago, I decided to pop in the old Christopher Reeve classic one evening and at the end of that movie I came to a realization I never had when I was a kid.
Kal-El was a walking myth who was a product of societies greatest virtues. A great person who always did the right thing but underneath they’re stirred a man who was highly emotional and vulnerable who couldn’t let this emotions overcome him since his job required him not to. I too walk around all day to keeping my inner Logan quelled only using my angst when it’s needed. Now like Clark, I was a person who had to keep a stiff upper lip for the sake of others.
I got finally got Superman! He has since become my favorite hero.
MAN OF STEEL has officially been unleashed into the world and despite general disdain from fanboys and critics alike, the Zack Snyder directed and Nolan/Goyer re-invisioned story of Superman has held on the be the second biggest movie of the summer. Ensuring sequels and ramping up rumor control over the coveted Justice League movie.
Undoubtedly for a character with Superman’s 75 year history any re-telling of his origin story will be met with criticism but the question of upmost interest by Warner Brothers will be wether or not the character will stick with the public at large. And with their current take of $500 million, the answer is certainly a good one.
Still many folks are concerned over the new take on Kal-El and whether or not the movie is too long, too loud and too violent. Yet for me, despite some quibbles, I found the new movie refreshing and fun.
This is officially the third incarnation, what with Christopher Reeves legendary performances in the 80s and most recently the luke warm version in 2006. Despite being successful, what did Superman Returns in, was a little movie, staring a guy in cape and cowl, released a year beforehand. That set a new tone in the DC universe and suddenly Truth, Justice and the American way seemed out of vogue. We wanted our heroes gritty and sullen.
Enter the new era of Superman or rather the MAN OF STEEL! Gone is the beaming optimism, cherubic sentiment, gee golly Smallville and wide-eyed strength. Now Kal-El is a stranger in a strange land. A young misunderstood boy who must hide his gifts and only reluctantly announce his arrival amid an alien threat headed up by the man who killed his father, General Zod himself.
After an opening that is more reminiscent of a pale template Avatar, than that of Kypton, we begin to see Clark Kent’s tale told in flashback as he wanders the Earth in search of clues of his alien ancestry. Before we know it Zod has arrived and it’s off to the races in terms of action set pieces.
I’ll concede that some of the most trying aspects of MoS are the non-stop bombardments of battle and peril. Some fight scenes are creative and fun but after a while it gets tedious. The final showdown, between Zod and Supes, is boring. When after two long engagements in Smallville and later destroying the tera former, it could have been brief and still exciting short showdown between Zod and Kal-El.
Still, I appreciated Snyder’s vision and Goyer’s attention to detail. Between the two, they both crafted a gritty yet subtle take on the 75 year old tale. While the soaring heroism may be gone, it is replaced with a serene vision on good in a more cynical modern world. This Superman is a quiet contemplative hero who does good no matter what even at his own peril or, more importantly, when it’s against his best interest.
And yet I’ve never seen a such a divide between critics, fans and the general audience as this film. I suppose when a character has a 75 year history that is rich as it is popular any re-interpetation will be met with a strong amount of disdain.
Without a doubt Zack Snyder, Chris Nolan and David Goyer used the most tried and true ingredients of current success to ensure the movie would go over well with the masses at large. Many of The Dark Knights’s tools are on full display: realism, intensity, violence and ernest sincerity are the films corner stones.
Many of the older critics have been lamenting the movie has few moments of levity which make the whole movie feel like one big bummer.
I for one don’t agree. Just because Christopher Reeves and Richard Donner injected terrific large portions of humor and sentimentality plus a swirling courageous score by John Williams doesn’t mean Man of Steel has to play by their rules.
Yes, Superman is an old corny superhero who doesn’t have the brooding ennui of Batman or Wolverine but that doesn’t mean his history begins and ends with Reeves and “believing you can fly” stuff. Superman’s identity is righteously stubborn but his attitude and demeanor have historically been all over the place. Grant Morrison has often written him as incredibly pensive mellow and rather sweet. Alan Moore has written his boy scout demeanor as a facade to massive anxiety and guilt. Mark Waid and Alex Ross portrayed him as a kinda grump. His current incarnation is the brooding quite idealist that Snyder taps into. None of which are wrong and often considered classic.
Superman is open to interpretation. Just like Batman, who at one point was go go dancing in the 60s and wearing nipples in the 90s, Superman has the ability to be changed. It’s just that comic nerds have always insisted the Superman be the light to Batman’s dark. While critics, often middle age or older, insist film makers reinvent the Richard Donner wheel.
Which is unfair because then we would have a Superman movie only a small portion of the world would enjoy. Yes, MAN OF STEEL, is using only the most modern template for blockbuster storytelling but it also includes a nostalgic nod to the history of the character and a balls to the wall action scenes to shake the very seat you sit in. All of which I appreciate.
Plus, with the movie’s success, it ensures that the Man of Steel will be flying, very soon, again. And for me, that’s the best news of all.
Yes, I have issues with the new vision of the Man of Steel: it’s gets repetitive at the end of the film, it could have used some stronger doses of humor and the beginning was a bit too Avatar for it’s own good. There were some missed opportunities too; Zod and Jor-El’s relationship could have been played out more sympathetic between them so when the murder happens it had a bigger impact or Quora could have been played even more flamboyantly, laughing and enjoying her manhandling of earthling opponents. Her part could have been even more off the wall fun.
My biggest complaint may be the casting of Amy Adams. She’s no slouch for sure, she was amazing in The Master and the very best part of The Muppets, but she plays Lois Lane with the same temperature and personality as Cavil’s Superman. She should be more acerbic and sarcastic. A jaded seen it at reporter who tries seeing through Kal-el but ultimately is won over by his sheer purity and belief in humanity. Adams was simply miscast.
Now imagine Rashida Jones in the role. Works right!
Yet, dispute my nitpicks, I still enjoyed it. Three whole times! And with each subsequent viewing the subtleties in in the movie became more apparent elevating my enjoyment. I loved the oil rig scene were Clark stops the massive tower from crashing on the helicopter, the Smallville battle and most of all the Kents. Easily the heart and soul of the movie, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner give fantastic performances which not only ground the movie but also add an intense emotional backdrop that helps underscores Superman’s every motive. Easily the best Costner role since JFK and Lane’s relationship with Clark is so natural and real it winds up being the reason we like him so much.
I have grown to love the Superman character like family and knowing there were fundamental changes did worry me. But know this, the changes that were made were done not just to appeal to masses but also allow Superman to have a new unique character that exists outside the comic but also keeps the idea of a moral personality. This new character is truth and justice but just on a more sublime level. A Jesus figure that is more akin to a Buddhist monk than american gothic. So to the naysayers understand that we are in new exciting territories for the character and those territories can bring an amazing new twist the the Man of Steel saga.
So buckle in and have fun.