This summer has been a block-bustingly good summer so far. I admit to being a bit franchise-blinded these days. In about a year’s time, there is no doubt that some of these generous dice-rolls will have to be downgraded. Predicting future favourites is hard, but I suspect I’m more likely to do an Iron Man marathon than a new Star Trek one, even though I love them both right now to the point of irrationality.
Hopes were therefore ridiculously high for my next summer fling, with lots of fangirling on tumblr hyping it up. I did try not to put Man of Steel on a pedestal, but I also know how much I “just like liking things”. In the end, I came out of the cinema having had a good time, but in retrospect the film left me puzzled.
I’m going to put my cards on the table. I am one of those weird people who didn’t hate Superman Returns. I know every problem people have with it, and share many of them, but I’ve seen it around three-four times (simply due to circumstances), and I would still give it a very strong dice roll 4. Man of Steel tells us once again the origins of Superman, first in a very linear, please can we get to Henry Cavill’s abs, kind of way, and then it suddenly switches to flashback based storytelling. The bad guy is General Zod, in a costume that somehow manages to be both more serious and more ridiculous than his previous incarnation’s getup.
First the thing I loved most: the acting. Chief among these is Russell Crowe. I’m not sure if he intended it, but he was the funniest thing in the movie, which admittedly isn’t hard, but every time he was on screen I felt myself grinning. He was also the only Krytonian (hope that’s the right term) apart from Kal who looked comfortable in all his costumes. For an advanced race, the Kryptonians are crap at designing practical armour.
Amy Adams is next on the list, and I just wish I could thank everyone involved with creating this version of Lois Lane. The film would have been even better if she could have had twice as much to do, because she was a great female character who really felt independent even while being a potential love-interest for the hero.
Henry Cavill, I suspect, is half puppy. He looks like this really nice dude, and he clearly has the acting capability to do a lot more than what was given to him. I’m not going to get into the debate over the characterisation of Superman, since I am not that invested in him as a character. I admit I just enjoyed this new version. But, for a film that takes itself so very seriously, it could have cut short a few of the endless action sequences in favour of some actual character development. Sometimes it felt like the development was happening between the flashbacks. We got this bag of important moments in Clark Kent’s life, and then were left to fill in all the moments when Clark had to process it all.
Which leads me into the action. There were a lot of really cool moments. I especially enjoyed the close up fighting between Clark and Faora, but it was just too damn long, and too much destruction. They couldn’t take three seconds to show them rebuilding Metropolis before everything got back to normal? The camera-work, effects and music were all appropriately epic and invaded my brain even without 3D (though thank God it wasn’t in 3D or I would have gotten a headache), so I admit I was never bored. It just seemed disproportionate to the tone of the film.
I won’t try to guess what fans of Superman have to say about it. Apart from a few episodes of Smallville and Lois and Clark, the old movies and the aforementioned reboot – which I guess is actually a lot – I am still not that emotionally invested with the character of Clark Kent. I like the ideas he can represent, the modern version of the Jesus myth, the moral ideals he embodies, and how much one person must sacrifice simply because he can. Man of Steel tries exploring a lot of these, in fact the dialogue won’t shut up about it, but in the end it failed at engaging me in the debate. Jor-El says Kal was born as the first free Kryptonian in centuries, but then sends him to earth for a very specific purpose…? I feel bad for Clark who just seems to go along for the ride most of the time. Still, Henry Cavill has that nice guy charm, so you sort of accept his acceptance on some level. The fact that his last deed in the film is a morally ambiguous one – from his standpoint at least – was for me one of the more interesting things about the film.
Whether I enjoyed myself simply because I am a block-buster addict, or because the lady next to me was a bit drunk and kept fanning herself every time Cavill so much as smiled, I had a very good time at the cinema, and I look forward to any sequel or – dare we dream it? – a Justice League film.
Dice roll: 5
PS: Is there anyone out there who can explain when Clark needs to breathe and how exactly the atmosphere in the ship affected him? And also how Zod was able to breathe on earth without coughing up blood and got used to his powers almost at once without having to “acclimatise himself to the Earth’s atmosphere?” I was really confused on a lot of those points. I’m sure there’s a canon wiki somewhere that explains it.