Analyzing 2013 CBMs - MAN OF STEEL
The second of five editorials looking back at the CBMs of 2013. Wonder Woman and The Flash now appear to be joining Batman and Lex in the sequel to Man Of Steel, but how good was the original?
Hey guys, Minty here. After last week’s editorial seemed to have gone down pretty well with you guys, I’ve decided to continue with my plan to review all five big CBMs of 2013 (Translation: thanks guys for not all ignoring/hating me). Thanks to all of your comments as well – reading through them all was really encouraging.
Anyway, now I’ve stopped the ass-kissing I can move onto this week’s film – one that is probably even more divisive than last week’s: Man Of Steel. Once again I’ll try to focus my editorial on this film individually, and will aim to avoid making endless comparisons against other films. Once again, there will be SPOILERS. Please read/skim and comment!
Man Of Steel
Studio: DC/Warner Bros>
Release Date (US): June 14, 2013
Director: Zack Snyder
Box Office (Global): $662 million
- The Human Element: In my opinion, this film’s greatest strengths lie in its attempts to ‘humanise’ Kal-El, through his emotional back story with his adoptive parents and his struggle to fit in with society. Snyder’s usage of flashbacks throughout the movie gave Superman some much needed character development, and added a deeper, more introspective angle to the film. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner’s performances as Martha and Jonathon Kent were the movie’s best parts, while Henry Cavill was at his best when he was portraying the lost and confused Clark Kent. I even enjoyed Superman’s conversation with the priest (despite its religious overtones), as it still showed Clark as a man, conflicted and in need of guidance, despite his immense power. The movie succeeds where Superman Returns failed in making the dramatic side relevant, and does not overdo it. This makes Man Of Steel undoubtedly the most dramatic comic book movie of the year - whether that’s for better or for worse is up to the individual viewer, but for my part I really enjoyed it.>
- Clark's Abilities: Linked to Clark’s growth as a human and hero is his development of powers, explored really well here (as opposed to just breezing over it like in the original movie). Clark’s abilities play an integral part in making him feel alienated from his peers, and Jonathon and Martha Kent do an excellent job of supporting and guiding him (“You are my son”). I also like that they held back a few powers for sequels, avoiding an overload and making him seem too much like a god.>
- (Some) Supporting Characters: One of the film’s breakout characters was Antje Traue’s Faora, whose formidable onscreen presence was a joy to watch. Equally impressive was Laurence Fisburne as Perry White, who thoroughly justified his bold casting in the movie. Additionally, Richard Schiff (best known as the amazing Toby on ‘The West Wing’) was great as Emil Hamilton. My one criticism of these characters is their lack of screen time – particularly Perry White, who was left to just run around with the rest of Metropolis’s headless chicken population for the last third of the movie.>
- The Cinematography & Score: Visually, Zack Snyder is one of the best directors in the business – a trait he continued with this movie. Cinematographer Amir Mokri created a very real but powerful setting for Supes’ latest adventure, while Hans Zimmer’s intimate yet sometimes thunderous score gave the film its emotional weight. The imagery was a large part of the success of Clark’s emotional back story, with that last scene featuring a young Clark and his ‘cape’ feeling truly iconic. Additionally, their (unfairly criticised) work in the impressive flying scenes captured the raw power of Superman’s most famous ability, and made for a very climatic final fight with Zod. Zimmer’s departure from the iconic original Williams’ theme was much needed, and reflected the change in tone of this particular Superman movie.>
- Continuity: Though this is also in light of more recent revelations following the movie, the work Man Of Steel has done in kick-starting a new DCU franchise is great. Through various Easter Eggs and hints, the creative team has teased the creation of a shared universe without giving too much away (though the latter part could be that WB don’t actually know what they want to do…). Additionally, the one positive thing that has come out of the utter massacre of Metropolis is the way it could set up Lex Luthor as a villain in the sequel with a very real reason to hate Superman (and of course we all know which other billionaire will be joining him). For the first time in a while, I am once again excited for DC’s cinematic future.>
- Jor-El & Lois Lane: Russell Crowe and Amy Adams are two of the finest actors around. Together they rack up no less than seven Oscar nominations through countless great performances, yet in this movie it felt like their presences were wasted by poor writing and plot holes. Both benefited from great introductions, with Crowe impressing greatly in the opening montage, and Adams shining as the Planet’s feisty reporter, but from then on began to pop up in the most ridiculous of locations – the worst of which was on Zod’s ship, where Jor-El’s ‘ghost’ was running (phasing) around of his own free accord, while Lois was invited aboard because she was… wait why was she on the ship in the first place?! After this it became clear that Lois was only really there to magically appear whenever anything important happened. She also had very little chemistry with Superman, so by the time that kiss (yep, the one with that joke) came around, it felt out of place. Lazy writing hampered two potentially great roles, even when both the actors’ performances were sound.>
- Zod: Michael Shannon’s Zod has had a mixed response in general, with many proclaiming him the year’s best villain (and he does beat Killian quite easily…), but others finding him annoying. I sit somewhere in between, and feel that he is a good villain, but doesn’t quite hit the heights he could have. At his best, Zod was dangerous and vengeful, but never truly memorable. I feel his personal back story with Jor-El could have been expanded upon a bit more, and been the real motivation for his vendetta against Kal (as opposed to the boring and confusing Codex plotline). Also: Supes… y u no kneel? Oh yeah… Zod never told you to…>
- "Oh Snap!": One thing that sure did piss a lot of people off was Zod’s death… at the hands of Superman. I was quite impressed with the decision, and appreciated the weight of the action on Superman’s character – showcasing how difficult the decisions he must make can be. Unfortunately, the act was compromised a little by two things: the fact that the people in danger could have escaped (and weren’t made to look completely trapped), and the fact that five minutes earlier Supes had basically killed another million people. Suddenly this act carries a little less meaning... One criticism I don’t like is ‘why didn’t Superman just turn Zod’s neck away’ – they’re both super powered beings, you try carefully moving a rage-driven, heat-firing Kryptonian’s neck. He had very little control in the matter.>
- The Military: While I initially enjoyed the inclusion of the military for the way it tied this version of Superman to the real world, I soon got a little bored by them. I found the characters of Swanwick and Hardy generic (and Farris just plain annoying). Had they used a character like Sam Lane or maybe John Corben I may have been more invested. Hardy’s rivalry with Faora was a plus point though.>
- The Finale: The source of the most debate, and in my opinion, the part that stopped this becoming a truly great film. Overly long and incredibly destructive, I feel that had they shortened these sequences by half, many critics would start to appreciate them for their good elements, such as the sheer ferocity of Faora and Superman’s fight. That whole middle section of the three part finale could have easily been removed, and left the movie feeling a lot less bloated. At times, it feels like WB went too epic, too soon with this movie, when this incredible level of destruction should have been saved for a Justice League movie or a sequel with Doomsday – or maybe just like… the Apocalypse…>
- Machines: One thing the ‘Transformers’ series seems to have made clear is that machines are required for every big budget movie. These are super-powered Kryptonians, if you really want them to decimate a city, just set them loose like Faora and ‘the big one’ in the battle of Smallville. The world engine was just loud and annoying, while its other half’s fight with Superman in the Indian Ocean proved nothing other than the fact that Supes can fly around the world really, really fast. Remove the emphasis on machinery, and you remove the somewhat justified ‘Transformers’ comparisons.>
- Original Plot Devices: While I do applaud Nolan and Goyer from trying to avoid retelling a Superman story that has been seen before, their overly philosophical ‘Codex’ MacGuffin and strange attention to detail with Earth’s atmosphere just made the plot strained and confusing for audiences. The Codex is core to the parts I like least about the film – from the world engine to Zod’s strange motivation. The atmosphere’s relationship to Kryptonian abilities, while sensible in principle, was made irrelevant by Zod’s rapid adaptation to his powers and Superman’s ability to fly in space. In the end it seemed responsible for creating more plot holes than it avoided.>
- Superman's Callousness: In each of the multiple fight scenes, Superman seems as responsible for the death and destruction as Zod’s people. An example would be telling the citizens of Smallville to stay in their buildings, before making the town the battleground for his fight with Faora. Not once did Superman try to take the fight away from the populated areas, and he often threw his enemy into various buildings and vehicles. While Snyder was right in humanising the ‘too-good-for-this-world’ nature of Superman, he was wrong in removing his sense of concern for other people not named Lois Lane.>
- (Other) Supporting Characters: Simply put, Jenny ‘I’m not Jimmy’ Olsen and Carrie ‘How is she a Captain?’ Farris really annoyed me. If Goyer wanted a female sidekick to Lois, why not use an actual character like Cat Grant, and not something that sounds so similar to Superman’s iconic pal? It seems like Goyer put these two in the script in order to solve the lack of female characters. It doesn’t. It’s a shame because Faora and Martha Kent were written so well.>
- 'Humour': David S. Goyer should never attempt to write comedy… ever. Many have criticised the film for being too dark, and the cringe-inducing lines of rare comic relief only highlighted this problem. “Hehehe… kissing… hehehe… its funny cause I’m not a human”.>
Although my negative section may suggest otherwise (sorry – I try to stay balanced, but it is easier to point out the flaws in movies!), I still did really enjoy Man Of Steel. At its best moments, it was not only the best CBM, but possibly the best film I have seen all year. However, the overemphasis on action towards the end, and poor use of a character like Lois, does let the movie down. It does appeal to those looking for epic thrills and adventure (and why not? It’s why we watch superhero movies!), but may Some of the criticism this movie has garnered from certain pretentious critics seems unjustified, and I feel Zack Snyder has done a solid job in reintroducing Superman to a new generation.
Overall, I would rate the movie 3.5 out of 5 stars - classing it as a CBM with a lot of emotional depth, but sometimes fails in balancing its action with its plot.
- Between the titanic levels of destruction and all the shameless advertising, I reckon Zack Snyder was trying to send a message to old Michael Bay. “Two can play at this game mate!”
- In retrospect, Lois being invited on Zod’s ship makes total sense. I mean, who wouldn’t want to meet a “Pulitzer Prize winning journalist”?
- Don’t mind if I’m on my own, but I teared up just a little when Jonathon Kent tells Clark to talk to the hand… um I mean not save him to protect his secret
- Why did Emil have to die? You can’t kill Toby. Superman’s biggest failing here is that he didn’t save Toby. Screw Lois, I would have saved Toby…
- Gotta hand it to Henry Cavill, all that time in the gym he spent in preparation for the role has really paid off. He looks great in that oil rig scene - you might say he’s ‘on fire’… (Sorry!)
- “I just think he’s kinda hot” – Carrie Farris, appealing to the Twilight crowd since 2013.
- Zod should become a central part of the next ‘Where’s Waldo’ book. He will find him…
- One ally Lex Luthor should call upon in the sequel is Pete ‘The (Not So Much Of A) Boss’ Ross, whose gotta be pissed his old pal messed up the IHOP
- Say what you like about Christopher Reeve’s more charming Superman, at least Henry Cavill figured out how to wear his underwear
- Yes! Went through an entire Superman editorial without once mentioning Batman! Oh Crap.
Anyway, thanks for reading again! I feel I may get some slack for my highly (and slightly generous) rating of Iron Man 3 in comparison to this. My reason is I had more fun while watching Iron Man 3. In general, I enjoyed both, and found them good (albeit occasionally flawed) additions to the ‘Golden Age’ of CBMs. Also thanks to SauronsBANE1 for the tips on formatting! So yeah, what did you guys think? Please comment and review!
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