Friday, February 19, 2016

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel
supes looking coolGrade: B
Genre: Action, Alien Invasion, Comic Book

When I first saw Man of Steel, back at its release, I was underwhelmed.  I hadn't intended to bother watching it again, but my son has been on a Superman kick and since its really bloody easy to rent a movie on Google Play, I loaded it up for him.

And I found that on rewatching it was a much better movie than I'd thought the first time I saw it.  Zack Snyder did good.

There were bad parts, the Kryptonian costumes looked uncomfortable and like costumes rather than like clothes people actually wore.  Only Lara Lor-Van (Supes' mom) looked like she was wearing clothes that a person would wear in the real world.

Plus the absurdity that Jor-El, a man bred for science and presumably not trained as a soldier, was able to be billy badass and defeat not just Zod's mooks, but Zod himself.

But leaving that aside, the movie worked well.  Flashing back and forth in Clark's timeline worked as a good way to establish his character and history while not dragging things out too much as all origin stories will if the director isn't extremely careful.

I did wind up positively hating the character of Johnathan Kent.  The problem wasn't Kevin Costner's acting, he did an excellent job.  The problem was that as written Johnathan Kent was not really a nice or good person.  He instilled fear and doubt in his son at every turn, worked actively to undermine Clark's natural desire to do good and help others, and generally was the closest to a villain I've ever seen Johnathan Kent portrayed.  By comparison, Diane Lane's Martha Kent was wonderfully done, and quite refreshing after the American Gothic cypher that she was turned into for the 1978 Superman.

But the best and most interesting thing about Man of Steel was the fact that Snyder, for a first in Superman movies, really looked at Kal-El through the lens of him being an alien.  That shift in viewpoint changed the whole tone of the movie in a positive and interesting way.

I'm also not sure whether it was a deliberate choice, or simply a remnant of Snyder's love of action sequences done by fast forwarding then ultra slow motion for the arrival of the punch or sword or what have you, but this time around I noticed that the first major power Zod and his soldiers really exploited and used was super speed.  Kal-El, by comparison, first developed his senses, his strength, and his flight.  But any good soldier knows that mobility is the key to victory, and so it really made sense that the first power Faora-Ul and the others would develop would be their newfound speed.

At heart, Man of Steel is a story of aliens visiting and invading the Earth, and Snyder managed to capture the awe at the arrival of aliens, and the fear at them being hostile perfectly.  Its more in the family with Independence Day, and The Day the Earth Stood Still than it is with the first series of Superman movies, or even with Superman Returns.  By choosing that approach to the movie, Snyder manages to instill a sense of awe and wonder at parts of the Superman story that I'd have thought were mostly worn out.  I'd been of the increasing opinion that retelling the origin of the more famous superheroes needs to end.  We know how Spidey gets his powers.  We know that Clark is the last survivor of a doomed world.  We know the Fantastic Four got their powers through irresponsible science.

But by changing not the content, but the viewpoint, of Clark's origin, Snyder developed something new and well worth watching.  Yes, we know Clark is the last survivor of a doomed world and most people who do Superman stories gloss over that part.  But for all that he grew up in Kansas that makes him an alien.  And that aspect of his origin turned out to be well worth exploring.

On rewatching Man of Steel, I find that I intend to watch Batman vs. Superman which I'd previously not intended to do.  Overall, it was a fine movie.

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