Man of Spiel
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s another dark Hollywood film that believes it can be super just by being dark. Except, if that was the only criteria for super movies, then Twilight would be the super-est of them all… The only ‘light’ in that movie came from the glow on Robert Pattinson’s face.
It’s getting annoying, boring, and quite frankly, old, to see movies that pretend to be noir, or in some sincere cases (like this one), try really hard to be, when they can all easily be simplified to being glorified explosionfests, with stray moments of story and emotion, force-fitted into the screenplay to give it legitimacy as ‘cinema’. Or basically, Transformers spinoffs. Okay, before Superman fans come at me with Kryptonite bombs, let me clarify: Man of Steel isn’t nearly as bad, but unfortunately, it too thrives on the philosophy of self-serious popcorn flicks: ‘Weee! Who cares about character development when we get to DESTROY THINGS!’
Here’s a Superman that could easily have been one of two things: frothy, fun and badass like Ironman, or contemplative, intelligent and rousing like The Dark Knight. It had everything going for it, starting with, what is perhaps the best-casted Superman yet: Henry Cavill *is* Superman. In every twitch of his body, every movement, every facial expression, every neatly-crafted cut in his 40-pack abs (he’s so not good for the ego of your mortal, average guy) and in every punch he delivers from his dhai-sau kilo ka haath, Cavill is everything we ever wanted Superman to be, and if there is any one reason that this movie deserves a sequel, it is this man alone.
The support cast is also pretty darn good: Russell Crowe, Kevin Bacon, Diane Lane, Michael ‘Scaryface’ Shannon make for an epic cast for any movie, let alone an epic movie. Even the underlying idea and philosophy of the movie is on song: The movie is not just the origin story of how Kal El became Clark Kent, who became Superman, but about why the world needs saving and why Superman has to be the one to save it.
The problem is, in trying to be *both* Ironman (albeit, an, ahem, Stark-ly humourless one) and The Dark Knight, these ideas and philosophies are never fully realised beyond one-liner didacticism by the Earth father, Jonathan Kent (Bacon), who seems to know the answers to the universe, since he has not a single dialogue that does not preach, or philosophise, or *enlighten*; or from his natural father, Jor El (Crowe), who is, err… a hologram. Even the very limited emotions that the brilliant Bacon and Lane bring to the table (Crowe brings nothing since he is 3D) are so strong that they could have been the foundation on which the movie is built, but each time we come close to feeling for Kent, director Zack Snyder abruptly cuts away, because he wants to quickly start DESTROYING THINGS.
The film is roughly two and a half-hours long (and I do not use the word ‘long’ lightly), mostly because the climactic battle is as long as a movie of its own. But in the process, important plot points of the backstory are so half baked that you wonder if screenplay writer David S.Goyer replaced his oven with a gas chamber, to try and murder Superman fandom. For example, scenes about Krypton’s introduction and subsequent implosion, the relationship between General Zod and Jor El, the ridiculous and illogical reason for which Jonathan Kent dies, or even the fact that Jor El comes back as *3D* (READ THAT IN CAPS), for crying out loud, deserved explanation, more screen time, or just maybe, a strong second thought!
But the one thing that almost drags Man of Steel down from being an almost-good film to being a snooze-fest is the horribly miscast Amy Adams. Seriously, Jason Biggs and his hand had more chemistry in American Pie than these independently fantastic leads have in this film. Adams is too mature, too old, too plain, too dull, and too boring to be Lois Lane, and even Superman’s natural mom (Ayelet Zurer) and General Zod’s sidekick (Antje Traue) are way hotter, even with all the spandex. Or perhaps, umm… because of it.
Then there’s the thing with the character of General Zod. Like the rest, Shannon gets to mouth ‘epic’ dialogues but his character development is limited to contorting his face in every scene. If we played the ‘If you are angry and you know it, clap your hands’ game, Zod would just be clapping ALL THE TIME.
The Dark Knight trilogy is great because the origin movie – Batman Begins – concentrated on the origin on Batman. Man of Steel producer Christopher Nolan, who directed the trilogy, gave an emotional core to Batman in the first movie, while the big action scenes were left for the subsequent instalments. Man of Steel has more action than the entire trilogy combined, but very little of the drama, which ultimately, is its failing.
The one scene that stood out for me in the movie is when Superman beats the living hell out of Zod for threatening his mother – and if THAT emotional core could have been carried out through the movie, we would have had not just a great Superman movie, but possibly one of the greatest Superhero movies ever. Ultimately, Snyder fails – again – to live up to the complete potential, and promise, of the strong premise of his movie. But thanks to the extraordinary Cavill, and an out-of-the-world background score by the legendary Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel is just about worth the price of your popcorn, although it begs for a sequel that will give us the Superman movie we have long deserved.
Note: This review first appeared on Firstpost.com on June 14, 2013
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