Man of Steel [2013] Movie Review

Let me get this out of the way - I am an unabashed fan of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's 75 year old beloved creation Superman. My reason for stating this outright is not because my affection for the iconic character will positively impact my thoughts on 2013's reboot Man of Steel but more so because it might do the opposite.

If I had been a better writer I'd probably find a way around this but since I'm not I find it imperative I explain my history with this character. Being a product of the 80's the world the Salkinds created and the legend which Christopher Reeve brought so magnificently to life shaped my fundamental understanding of not only Superman but what we it means to be a "hero". By no stretch of imagination were any past cinematic incarnations of the comic book superhero perfect but their depiction of the title character has forever etched itself in my heart and mind. Yet I champion the need to reinvent the character for every generation and/or to mine his rich history in the funny books and not slavishly pay homage to what came before (Superman Returns anyone?).

So why is it so difficult for me to walk out of this Christopher Nolan backed restart truly satisfied? Reckon it has a lot to do with how Man of Steel isn't even all that good of a movie.

Filmmaking, like sports, is a collaborative effort. So when something goes wrong people tend to pin the blame on someone. In this instance it's the script, penned by David S. Goyer, which fails.

Most of us, I assume, are fairly familiar with Superman's origins yet the filmmakers feel the need to cover this ground again. Not that I mind especially since the origin adds new and interesting elements to the backstory. Visually the world of Krypton is escapist science-fiction at its best where primal beasts and sophisticated technology co-exist. It's only when we get to the earth stuff that things start to get wonky.

Adaptations of superheroes to the big screen come with their own baggage. There's this need to "ground them in reality" so the audiences can relate to these larger-than-life characters. At the same time it's a double-edged sword when you're dealing with "fantasy" characters. The problem lies in the selective approach to breaking the rules, or skirting around them, when the plot conveniently requires it. Why do no authorities, media or even Alien conspiracy theorists descend on Smallville when Kal-El's ship crashes there? Simply don't bother explaining it. People see Clark behaving oddly yet nobody guesses something is amiss and reports it? Guess not until your script requires a scene to show your Pullitzer prize winning reporter/love-interest character (Lois Lane played by Amy Adams) snooping around.

When other Kryptonian survivors descend on earth in a big scary UFO things only go downhill as far as this "grounded in reality" approach goes. Would we truly react so nonchalantly just waiting around to see what their next move would be? I'd be expecting Roland Emmerich style global pandemonium to ensue. Man of Steel is shot on a large canvas yet its failure to fully realise what reactions such events would elicit make the world they're creating feel small.

The same can be said about the carnage on display here. The fight scenes are epic for sure but the fact everyone seems to walk away from it unscatched makes them lose any semblance of importance. If you're so determined to ground these heroes in our reality you should have the courage to deal with the aftermath of their colossal battles. Here Superman doesn't even flinch when human lives are at stake as he crashes his adversaries through, what could possibly be populated, buildings. I'd be willing to pardon this if "the why's" of his actions were addressed with a throwaway line but we're supposed to cheer a hero who continually destroys public property and risks human life? And the decision he takes in the end after all the destruction? I won't go into spoilers but not only is it so unlike what we've come to associate with the blue boy scout but also feels uncalled for after all the destruction that occurs.

It's a shame the writer doesn't get the title character because they have cast an incredible actor in the part. Henry Cavill looks not only physically imposing in blue tights but makes the role his own. Every generation has a different actor who embodies the role and Henry does so marvelously here. On the other hand Zod, played by Michael Shannon, is one of the bright spots in the script eventhough his actions make him out to be the dumbest generals in the universe.

Man of Steel 2013 Movie Review Poster Mondotees Martin Ansin Singapore

Incredible poster by artist Martin Ansin available on Mondotees

Man of Steel opens in Singapore cinemas and IMAX on 13th of June 2013

About The Author: Sarhan Rashid
Sarhan Rashid's picture

I'm always greatful for being an 80's baby. We experienced a simpler time while being on the forefront of technological achievements. The internet is one such achievement which has impacted my life. Having worked in the information technology (IT) sector for close to a decade it has truly shaped my world. Besides working as a Project Manager on Singapore CMS (Content Management System) Web Design and online advertising campaigns I enjoy movies, music, travelling and tech gadgets.

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