There are times when going to an opening night showing, with the buzz and energy of the crowd really presents a fun, anticipatory and kinetic environment that truly enhances the experience of viewing the film. Then there are those occasions when a film is best served with an approach of one standing before a work of art quietly, taking in all aspects that are offered to the viewer.
Unlike my going to see Iron Man 3, or Star Trek Into Darkness on opening nights, I went yesterday to see Man of Steel at the first showing, after it has been released for a couple of weeks. My reasoning for this different approach was so that I could sit within a more quiet and subdued environment so as to really take in everything that the film had to offer. I took the same approach when the Dark Knight Rises was released. The reason why is simple, for these films which deal with such iconic characters from my youth warrant a much more deferential approach.
Going into the film, I knew that this was not going to be in any way, shape or form the Christopher Reeve Superman of my youth. I still can easily recall the night I saw that film back when I was eight, for my dear family friend Mark from Boston came out to visit his family and took me out to dinner, after which we saw Superman. The Richard Donner directed Superman film certainly made a lasting impression upon me when I saw it. Superman was noble, virtuosos and altruistic. I was so curious to see what qualities Superman would posses within Man of Steel.
Man of Steel while grounded very much within our present societal world, still shows the relevance of who Superman is, as well as the inherent qualities with which he abides by. Yesterday, I happened to read a review of the film which held the position that Superman is no longer pertinent to our present day experiences and particular issues, that somehow the general movie going public will not relate to the character of Superman, being that we are so jaded and or find it hard to relate to one who truly does stand for Truth, Justice and dare I say the “American” way. I would hold that Superman is all the more relevant for the very reason as to the way national and world events have played out, let alone the profoundly cultural issues that we are faced with, which easily shows forth a definite hunger and profound need for the very ideals that Superman stands for, represents and embodies.
Man of Steel as an origins for Superman I felt works on so many different levels. The score of the film is where I want to begin, for I purchased the extended soundtrack when it was released, so as to allow myself the opportunity with which to really listen to the different themes and variations extensively. Music is so important a facet in terms of establishing and conveying the impressions of a film, that I wanted to start with the sound of the Man of Steel, rather than watch it unfold upon the screen first.
One of the cool treats that was included was an additional disk of music which represented the musical concepts or stylization with which Hans Zimmer would incorporate into the film. It goes without saying that the score goes in a completely different direction than the John Williams Superman score. In fact, it is as far removed from Williams iconic theme as can be. Both scores are exactly and precisely what each film necessitates musically. I am, in fact listening to the Man of Steel soundtrack while writing this review. It is a superb, truimphent and worthy score for Superman.
The film pace was one aspect that I was concerned with going into the film. Whereas one of the major issues that I had with Star trek Into Darkness was the relentless, nonstop pace of the film, leaving me little time to metaphorically catch my breath and to be allowed to take in what was transpiring upon the screen. My hope was that the director Zack Snyder would allow for the a fitting balance between action and “story/character time”. Thankfully, I felt that there was a good balance between both story/character time and the flow of the action. Even though this was a film primarily about Kal-El/Clark Kent, I came away with a good sense of other characters motivations, personalities and their sense of perspective, which I would attribute to good acting, good directing and a good script.
Much could be said about the various actors/actresses within the film. Henry Cavill was spot on as the Man of Steel. I remember watching some videos of him at the SD Comic Con talking about the film and his approach to the icon figure of Superman and I was impressed by both his demeanor and his thoughtful responses. My gut told me then that he would nail the role and nail he did! I really appreciated the manner in which the character of Superman progressed and matured over the course of the film, from when he was a boy questioning who and why he is, to watching him on the road to self discovery and acceptance of his role and mission in life.
One side note which I wanted to address was the obvious allusions to Superman as a Christ/Moses figure. I listened to one particular podcast in which the hosts reviewed the film and went at length basically ridiculing and deriding that particular motif of Superman within the film. From my perspective, one which is very much grounded within faith in Christ, I felt that the “symbolism” and “representationalism” of Superman as a Christ figure is appropriate for who and what the character embodies. There are a few scenes within the film which I thought were well executed and apt for what was transpiring with the character of Superman. It was refreshing to see the filmmakers embrace that inherent characteristic and nuance of the character.
Michael Shannon as General Zod was tremendous! Perfectly executed, he was a believable villain, who classically did not seem himself as a villain per se, but as one who was to fulfill his duty at whatever the cost and direction it would take. I was really impressed by his command of the role.
Russell Crowe is one of my all time favorites actors. Interesting trivia, he is also one of Hentry Cavill’s favorites as well. His presence in the film as Jor-El was perfectly cast, for only one such as Crowe could carry the mix of dignity, ruggedness, gravity and paternal nature that is called for with this father figure.
Then there is Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Ma and Pa Kent. I very much liked the chemistry of the two playing Clark’s Earthly, adoptive parents. As one who is adopted, there were a few moments within the film that I thought were quite moving and poignant, in particular when a young Clark is questioning who he is and the relationship of his parents to himself. When Costner delivers the line, “I am your father”, it very much sparked an emotional response within. Another later scene was when Clark was arguing with his father and says that they are not his real parents. I laughed to myself, for I have had those exact same tiffs with my adoptive parents growing up. Yet, the reality is for Clark (as well as for myself) that they very much are his parents. The anguish and agony of Clark witnessing the death of Pa Kent was visceral for me.
What was really credible and compelling to watch was the distinct manner and way in how both Crowe and Costner were equally Superman’s father and how each enacted what it meant to be a father.
Amy Adams was a good fit for the role of Lois Lane. She came across as likable and not overbearing thankfully. She had a good mix of intelligence, resourcefulness and pluckiness, without coming across as too presiding.
I really enjoyed both Christopher Meloni as Colonel Hardy and Richard Schiff as Dr. Hamilton. Even though they had more minor parts per se, I really enjoyed the screen time they had and felt their characters were well played and added nicely to the storyline. It was refreshing to see these “human” characters also take part in saving the world and making the sacrifice that they did.
Lastly, in terms of actor is Laurence Fishburne who portrays Perry White, the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet. Like Crowe, Fishburne is one of my favorite actors. Who remembers him in Red Heat and Pee-wee’s Playhouse? Without giving away a spoiler, the scene where he is with the two reporters of the Daily Planet towards the end of the film and how he shows forth his resolve, stateliness and humanity I thought was griping and powerful! I certainly hope he has a larger role in the next film!
One of the awesome aspects of the film is finally seeing Superman cut lose and go to town in terms of his abilities and powers. For the longest time, I have wanted to see Superman “Rock Em Sock Em” in a movie, where we can see all of the awesomeness of the comic action finally on the big screen. That was one of the things which made Avengers so cool to see! Superhero’s on the big screen doing what superhero’s do and it looks authentic and epic. Well, not to give away any spoilers, but Man of Steel delivers, repeatedly. The fight sequences between Superman and General Zod really do pack a wallop!
The final fight between Superman and General Zod is the very essence of a battle royal!
While sitting in my seat, it certainly made me quite aware of all of the collateral damage that takes place, let alone all of the injury and unfortunate death of so many. This is a film that in one sense is grounded very much in “reality” even though it is within the guise of a comic book “world”. There certainly can be a debate about the “destruction” wrought within the film, though suffice to say, I believe that it was appropriate for what was transpiring in terms of the fight between Superman and General Zod.
During these scenes there are some easter eggs references to Lex Luthor and to Wayne Enterprise, which was gnarly to catch! Oh, before I forget to mention, there was even a polar bear earlier on in the film! I will let the reader look up the significance of that one!
Returning to the final fight between Superman and General Zod, I believe that it played out to the logical conclusion for which it did. Without giving away any spoilers per se, it was direct, visceral and appropriate for what the scene called for. I commend the director for taking possibly a more edgier approach to that particular moment and in how Superman reacts when faced with really of having no alternative other than the choice he makes.
Overall, I am really beyond pleased with Man of Steel. It is the Superman I have wanted to see since I was a youth. It is obviously distinct and quite different than say the Christopher Reeve Superman, but I believe that there is a place for both films. It is interesting to reflect upon the differences of both film, but suffice to say, I content that each film is in direct relationship to the time (and age) of which it was released.
I certainly hope that we get to see the continuation of Zack Snyder vision of the Man of Steel. We need more than ever the inspiration and virtues of what Superman represents. If only we could embody these qualities in our everyday lives would the world be filled with many more real, genuine heroes.