Man of Steel (2013)

(Video on Demand, November 2013) There’s something both annoying and admirable about the entertainment industry’s insistence at rebooting and shoving down superhero movies down our throats.  DC’s maniacal insistence at reviving Superman after the 2006’s disastrous Superman Returns is understandable: Superman is iconic, the superhero film genre is still going strong, and there’s still some goodwill among genre fans for a good Superman film.  Man of Steel, fortunately enough, is pretty much as good as it gets from a narrative perspective: Screenwriter David S. Goyer (with some assistance from Christopher Nolan) has managed to find a compelling story to tell about a fairly dull character, and it’s more thematically rich than we could have expected.  Man of Steel, in the tradition of Nolan’s Batman films, voluntarily goes gritty: Zack Snyder’s direction favour pseudo-documentary aesthetics, the cinematography is more realistic than glossy, and the final act’s destruction feel more traumatic than purely entertaining.  Much of this grittiness feels wrong for those raised on the squeaky-clean Superman character, causing more discomfort than necessary.  On the other hand, the result is a film that’s reasonably captivating to watch: Superman has an inner conflict to solve, the action sequences aren’t generic and there’s a real effort to ground Superman to an identifiable reality.  Henry Cavill is pretty good in the lead role, while Amy Adams does the most with a somewhat generic character.  Michael Shannon brings some unexpected complexity to the antagonist, while both Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner get small but plum roles as the protagonist’s two fathers.  While Man of Steel is (ironically) a bit too down-to-earth to feel like a blockbuster epic made to be re-watched over and over again, it’s a cut above the usual superhero fare: There’s some real pathos here, an origin story built on well-used flashbacks, sense of personal growth for Superman (something rarely seen) and the solid foundation for further entries.  Recent superhero movie history has shown that it could have been much worse, and if I’ll happily take a glossy Superman movie over an unpleasantly gritty one, it would be churlish to deny the successes of this version of the character.

2 thoughts on “Man of Steel (2013)

  1. Dwight Williams

    As with the comic books themselves, so too the movie and TV interpretations of those characters. For better and for worse.

    In this case, it’s moved a lot of my friends and acquaintances to near-religious schism levels of argument over the merits of the movie. But then, so did the comics’ Flashpoint project back in 2011 where everyone got their backstories rewritten (again). No more backstories connecting to World War II if at all possible, marriages and entire post-marriage families being retconned away due to perceived “aging out” of character marketability…

    Anyway, I found this version for the movies more palatable. Far more so.

    Reply
    1. Christian Sauvé Post author

      There’s never been a better time to be a not-overly-dogmatic fan of comic book characters!

      Reply

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