December 15, 2013

Man of Steel is Solid Gold

Man of Steel Superman 1
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Considering the debacle that was Green Lantern, public opinion has largely been that Warner Brothers can’t handle any superhero that isn’t Batman because Christopher Nolan stripped him down to a gritty, realistic version of himself. This movie has the decency to prove this notion half wrong, given Nolan’s proximity to Man of Steel’s production. And it seems like the biggest problems with Man of Steel (which shouldn’t affect all but the superhero obsessed in the audience) only come from trying to bring this space alien’s superhero origin story more down to earth because Batman was a monstrous success. That said, this movie looks amazing, it sounds amazing, and despite being two and a half hours doesn’t feel its length at all just because of how exciting it is. Don’t wait for it to come on TV to save money because all you’ll be doing is depriving yourself of the proper scope with which to watch the movie. It’s big. It’s really big. It’s the reason theaters still exist.

So the biggest problems with this movie stem from the rewriting of Kryptonian history that’s crammed into the first 10 minutes of the movie that remains convoluted and unnecessary throughout the entire movie. Without getting too spoiler-ey, (because it’s explained in the first moments of the movie) eugenics was introduced on Krypton and Kal-El (Superman) is the first naturally born child. During this time the world’s energy consumption has become too severe to the point of harvesting the planet’s core for energy leading to its destruction. At the same time General Zod attempts a military coup in an attempt to save their species, but fails and is sentenced to the phantom zone. All the while you’ll be wondering if Jor-El performed an abortion when he retrieves a codex, or list of the genetic structure for every artificial offspring that his planet can create. And after we get the history of Krypton, we get to the history of Clark Kent. But at least that’s when the movie seriously leans on the brakes and it’s much easier to take in everything as it’s presented.

Besides that and some rather blunt associations with Jesus, there isn’t much more to be critical about. This is a movie that did its action very carefully, and very right, compared to most other movies where the camera operator has a seizure while filming or the producer decides to cut the best actions scenes to save money. Every fight scene, despite the speed of the characters is incredibly entertaining and for once the quick cuts flashing along don’t end up hurting your eyes like they tend to with other movies. The picture is always clear and the characters are very easily discernable from each other. The acting is more than solid on every front, with Michael Shannon absolutely loving his role as General Zod bouncing back and forth between calm, menacing, and totally off the walls nuts. Kevin Costner seems to only exist so he can speak to young Clark Kent with intermittent pauses in his speech to teach him about keeping his abilities to himself despite an overwhelming urge to help people. And Amy Adams’ Lois Lane feels rather shoehorned into the film, having several scenes and moments that feel significant but overall only lends herself to one plot point that could easily have been shifted to Superman (this is a movie with strong Nolanesque tendencies, at the foremost is a troubling view on women [see: Memento, Inception, The Prestige]).

So there are flaws, but unlike in Star Trek Into Darkness, they don’t drain away at your ability to enjoy the movie because you don’t have to stop and think about what’s happening while the movie continues on at a million miles a minute. Unlike that film, here every character is totally consistent. General Zod is bad and Superman is good. Everyone else is practically color coded on one side or the other. It’s an impossibly entertaining movie, and definitely what you need if your last superhero movie was The Dark Knight Rises and you need to wash the disappointing taste out of your mouth.

By Marc Price

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