“Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?”
Somewhere, hidden inside the two and a half hours of Man of Steel, I feel that there is a great film that will never be uncovered. Even with Christopher Nolan’s presence being felt in and around this new Superman reboot the attempts to almost mirror his successful ‘realistic’ Batman francise fall flat by the wayside when it comes to the main character actually being from another planet. This fact alone makes the ideas and themes from Man of Steel very hard to ‘believe’ in the same way we could about the characters in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Rises. This, combined with the fact we are given very little opportunity in terms of content (despite the massive runtime) to actually connect or feel for any of the characters and the ridiculous fight sequences that become unbearable to watch after a certain point make the final effect of Man of Steel a very hard, and anti-climatic watch indeed.
First off, I have never really been a big fan of Superman in the same way that I love Batman, Spidey, X-Men and most other comic book characters as the relation to the main character of Clark Kent is strained from the off as he is not human and a lot of time in the film adaptations this is very evident in his actions. I know he supposed to be alien and have a strong sense of morals but this ends up distancing himself from the audience, this happens yet again in Man of Steel. The motivation of most heroes are driven through human emotion and their characters can be broken by themes of revenge and the very choice of good and evil as explored in X-Men, this is at least attempted in Snyder’s reboot but doesn’t feel right as his character is so very alien to begin with.
The way this really could have worked was if they had made his character human to the extent of the Clark seen in Smallville where he grows with his abilities, now where this could have taken longer to progress with it would have felt better developed but to be honest the only way we’d see that happen is if there was a Smallville film where is actually properly Superman for once and for all but this would be a massive alienation for audiences who haven’t followed the 11 seasons like me.
The best segment of the film may have been that opener set on Krypton that ironically doesn’t include Superman himself but sets up Crowe’s father character and Shannon’s disappointing General Zod. It’s general knowledge now that DC are attempting to copy the success of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble with a Justice League film but if this is anything to go by, I’m not excited. I feel like it needs to let go of the Nolan era of Batman (as wonderful and exciting as it was) and choose a real path to follow. It has to either take a realistic Batman approach and stick with it, or go Marvel but maintain that dark DC edge it can mix with the fantasy. This is especially important as characters like Martian Maneater will become incredibly hard to create in a realistic sense without becoming a joke.
I’ve deterred somewhat from the path of this Man of Steel review but I shall now return to the point in hand. Where I feel the design was pretty much spot on for the characters and settings it was far too stylistic with the flashbacks giving the classic Superman origin story. I feel like where they may have worked for some they didn’t for me as they were shot in a far too decadent way in comparison with the rest of the film. They either needed to be dropped altogether or had their place at the start of his story and Zod could have become the reason he became Superman and moved to Metropolis, his story felt messy and incredibly hard to follow.
Character relationships and I feel the lack of the most important pairing of Clark and Lois Lane was a serious downfall of the film. One minute they had only just met after she (in one of the more interesting small segments of the film) hunted him down using her journalistic skills and the next they apparently loved each other? It felt a bit farcical seeing as they had barely said a word to each other in the film apart from ‘This is gonna hurt’. Henry Cavill offers us a very cold and emotionless Superman, sorry, I mean Kal-El (DC are too cool after TDK to actually name their heroes it would seem) that never makes the audience care for him the way he is supposed to be caring for everyone in the film.
I am pretty sure that he probably killed more people than saved in the film after every ‘fight scene’ reverted back to a kind of ‘super force push’ session between the characters that saw them flung through buildings and mountains and flattening what seemed like the whole of Metropolis. These scenes in particular make Man of Steel chaotic and unfocused… as well as purely ridiculous and frustrating to watch after building after building topples killing what must be hundreds of thousands of innocents… Not so Super now eh.
I feel Zack Snyder and the team were very much on the right track to creating what could have been a fantastic reboot and introduction back into the epic fantasy universe of DC but was allowed to de-volve as it were into a chaotic mess that isolates the audience from remaining concentrated throughout the runtime in the same way audiences were for Nolan’s Batman francise. As much as I was disappointed by this film I do feel the foundations have been built and if another came out before Justice League that was far more linear and focused on a real villain and good vs evil story we could be in for a treat, but for me, there were far too few of the quality elements that would have made this a great film… The Wayne Enterprises Satellite was a smooth move though as was the LexCorp Tank.