Friday, June 14, 2013

The Man of Steel


I have a couple of friends whose primary request for a new Superman movie is that "Superman punch stuff" (action of that sort being in short supply in Singer's Superman Returns and Donner's Superman, too). I can unequivocally say the Man of Steel delivers in that department, that's not the only thing to like here. This new origin story for Superman follows on the heels of Nolan's Dark Knight films are delivers a pretty well-crafted film that just happens to be about a superhero rather than  working primarily on spectacle to disguise a lacking script--not that there isn't a lot of spectacle.

The film starts on Krypton. It's take has little references to several recent versions: Byrne's Man of Steel, Silver Age stories, and stuff more recent. There's also a bit of Russian cosmism and post-Alien techno-organic look. The headgear of the ruling council of Krypton reminds me a lot of Aelita.

When we get to Earth. Baby Kal-El is grown into an adult Clark Kent, set apart from the rest of humanity and drifting like Hugo Danner in Wylie's Gladiator. His growing up in Smallville is delivered in flashbacks interspersed throughout. Some reviewers have felt this made the film feel disjointed but I wasn't bothered by it. Lois Lane and Phantom Zone criminals appear in short order, making this film feel like it has a shorter ramp up than a lot of other origin stories to me.

There are some changes to the Superman mythos (as if there was one unified version) that may bother some people. Jonathan Kent's portrayal, for instance, seems to be the many thing people have a problem with--though I don't think that's the biggest change.

The film is very serious; it's definitely in a different vein than the Marvel films. It works, but it could have had a few more bits of levity without much changing the weightiness they seemed to be going for. The film's palette is muted: from Krypton to Kansas there isn't anything colorful here. Several reviewers have said the action sequences sometimes go on a bit too long, and I can see that (though I really wasn't bothered by it), but what really got to me was how many bystanders were probably killed off-screen in all the destruction. This breezy attitude toward mass destruction is a trend in summer (uh, spring) blockbusters in general, so it's not flaw of Man of Steel alone, but I still feel like it's a flaw.

So anyway, that's my take. Check it out.

20 comments:

Tim Shorts said...

Thanks for the review Trey. I've never been a fan of the Superman movies, but with Nolan and Snyder it looks interesting. I like the muted colors of DC Universe that Nolan has created.

Trey said...

While it's not as dark as Dark Knight, it fits in reasonably well with that aesthetic.

Sean Robson said...

I've never had much faith in Hollywood being able to tell a good Superman story - after all, the comics have been trying, unsuccessfully, for seventy five years, now. I did like John Byrne's Man of Steel reboot enough to collect it, so if the movie is taking its cue from Byrne they may manage to actually make Superman an interesting character.

But I must say, I'm sick to death of superhero reboots - how many times do we have to watch Spiderman's origin story? These have been done so many times they are now part of the public consciousness. Can't we just move on and start telling superhero stories instead of constantly reintroducing the characters?

Trey said...

@Sean - If you want to get a really good "reboot" of Superman, check out the novel It's Superman by Tom DeHaven. It sets the story back in the Depression where it should be and does a great job of it. That's the movie I would hae loved to see.

Joshua Dyal said...

The best "reboot" of Superman I've read is Straczynski's Supreme Power series, although I guess I can see how die-hard Superman fans don't see that as one that counts. I agree with Sean, though--everyone knows the origin stories of most of these superheroes already; let's move past that and assume that they've already "originated" and that reboots don't need to retell all that jazz again.

What are the changes to the Kent's that you're referring to? I haven't seen the movie yet, but the previews have Costner saying all kinds of non-Kentish things like Superman should hide who he is and not be a hero and stuff like that? I presume that's what you're referring to?

Aos said...

I'll be seeing this tomorrow with my oldest son. In recent years, I have found entering these things without expectations leads to a much higher rate of enjoyment.
Otherwise you end up crying about shit like "Into the Darkness" expecting people to take you seriously.

Trey said...

@Joshua - It's that stuff, though I would say Jonatahn Kent's stance is a reasonable one (whether you agree or not) and they builda consistent character around that.

@Aos - It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to. :)

Aos said...

Ha, i Was actually thinking of some guys I know in meat space.

Joshua Dyal said...

"Boys don't cry," according to Robert Smith. And if that emo poser doesn't cry, then REAL MEN really should avoid it!

Trey said...

I would never, never call that tearful faux-Indian who shed you manly tear in those anti-litter commercials unmanly.

Justin S. Davis said...

I have very specific ideas about what a "Superman movie" should be, and copious collateral damage doesn't really fit. But it's gotta be better than prior efforts, where Luthor was a moron and Supes was deadbeat dad AND a mopey stalker.

But I'm willing to give it a chance, because I've heard so much good buzz from comic-book-types that really went in expecting to hate it. So, thank you!

Gus L said...

Manly tears are the hardest to pull off. One must remain stoically uneffected except for the tear (this is tricky) - staring off into a vista helps. The 'Irish wake' variety of manly tears (drunken self-destructive hijinx followed by blubbering, capped with standing, red faced, suddenly sober and enraged to seek just revenge) is easier, except for the last part, but situational. Thus my question is does the movie answer what a Supermanly cry looks like?

Trey said...

Similar to a manly tear, only it's issued in space and it immediately crystalizes into an ice jewel, beatiful in its austerity.

David said...

I don't know what the hell you're talking about, but I'll be damned if I don't admire your manliness while saying it.

:: tear ::

Joshua Dyal said...

Saw it this weekend. Don't have any real issues with the changes to the mythos--but then again, I never really was a superfan of Superman, who has always struggled to find interesting challenges due to the rampant ramping up of his powers over the years.

My only real gripe, and this is minor, is that Jonathan Kent ends up becoming Uncle Ben to Clark... which is a little "been there, done that." Real sense of deja vu on repeating that motif all over again.

I greatly enjoyed the various (and lengthy) fight scenes between Superman and other Kryptonians. Other than in The Avengers that's about the best example we've seen so far of what superhero on supervillain action can look like, while being really exciting and suitably superheroic.

Joshua Dyal said...

Also, the action scenes may end up really raising the bar on expectations from Thor 2. In many ways Thor in Marvel comics is comparable to Superman (very strong, near invulnerablility, flight, you can kinda sorta map lightning bolts to laser eyes, etc.) If the Thor 2 action sequences are either relatively unimpressive, or relatively scant, then it will feel fairly flaccid (I like alliteration) compared to Man of Steel.

Aos said...

My oldest son twisted my arm and I took him to see it. I loved it.
That is all.,

Trey said...

Cool. Glad you enjoyed it.

Trey said...

@Joshua - Yeah, it does raise the action bar. I would say in a number of portrayals Jonathan Kent has a little Uncle Ben to him.

Bard said...

Nice review. I'm looking forward to seeing this one.