MAN OF STEEL (2013) : REVIEW

June 12, 2013

"How do you find someone who has spent a lifetime covering his tracks? For some, he was a guardian angel. To others, a ghost who never quite fit in."
"I want to be Superman." is a common saying for 9-year-old boys all over the world. None can deny that Superman probably holds the title of The Most Popular Superhero among other superheroes in DC & Marvel's world. That certainly guarantees a spot in the box office ladder for this newest reboot of DC's Superman. On top of that, Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan both jumped in to participate in the making. The idea of Nolan-Snyder combination itself doesn't seem real; imagine TDK mixed with Watchmen and a little 300, just how amazing this movie could be! And for that, I certainly set up the highest expectation on MoS. The question is : did my expectation pay off?




Krypton is now facing an enviromental catastrophe as the planet's core quickly worn off, caused by the continuous exploit of the natural resources. Jor-El (Russell Crowe), Krypton's renowned scientist, predicted that this could be the end of Krypton's civilization and that his only hope is his newborn son, who is the first natural-born Kryptonian in centuries. Wanting his son to escape the doom and to find a better place, both for himself and Krypton's next-generations, he then planning to 'ship' his son to another planet, along with Krypton's heart&soul, Codex. But, things don't go easily as Krypton's sworn protector, General Zod (Michael Shannon), commits a treason and plans to wipe out unselected generations and take the Codex with him, in the name of Krypton's own safety. Short story short, Zod's plan failed as Kal-El successfully shipped to another planet, ending Zod and his fellows exiled into a shadow zone (or so-called black hole). Kal-El is now living in Earth, precisely in Kansas, under the protection of his farmer parents, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and is given a name of Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). Aware of their son's "gift", The Kents warn Clark Kent not to expose himself and try his best to adapt, worrying of what the danger might be out there. While Clark Kent continously questioning his true identity, trying not to be an outcast while wandering around the world with fake identities, General Zod is now "awaken" and seeking for revenge he was once sworn 33 years ago. He is now coming to Earth with a new agenda : take the Codex from Kent, genocide all the living human in Earth, and "re-shape" the Earth to be the new Krypton. What happens next?

It's been a while since the iconic Richard Donner's 1978 Superman and the sweet-underrated Bryan Singer's Superman Returns hipnotized us with the charm of the super human with red under(out)wear. And here comes Man of Steel; Znyder's version of Superman which is probably the most realistic and "human" version of Superman. There's no room anymore for Superman having fun saving people's life or some sweet little romance with a pretty journalist. S for Super Serious; this is about Clark, finding his place in the world. It's about Clark Kent's struggles on not exposing his flying and x-ray eyes abilities to the world and to balance his Kryptonian's power with his Earth's emotions. It's not mainly about Kent choosing side with Earth or Krypton, it's about how he becomes the best in both world. And we should thank both fathers on that, because the two of them has their own parenting credits in order to teach Clark Kent into the man he is now.

Expectancy is such a risky word nowadays. David S. Goyer unexpectedly turned the story of Superman we are used to into some kind of twisted reverse in MoS and it worked WELL. It's still the same old Superman, but by reversing it from back to front, it created something rather new. And thank you Snyder for (purposedly or not) losing his directing style of speed-up-speed-down with the hideous slow motions, because actions are a definite sell out in this movie. The 3D works well for the buildings' shatters, the up-close fist-to-fist battle, and when Superman speeds up and travels around the clouds. The last half time was a heart pounding and jaw dropping experience, with some serious property damages that even The Avengers can't top off. And the presentation of 2 indestructible people, fighting against each other in the end was well paid off, eventhough the answer was simply to twist the neck off. Now talking about the visual effect : it was Nolan's darkness all over and it was captivating. From the upgraded blue-gray shade Superman's suit (minus the underwear, good Lord) with its CGI cape (the cape served no purpose all right, but the cape made the Superman you know?), the darker presentation of planet Krypton and its advanced built spaceships and also the "S" that now means HOPE.

I was quite disturbed by the past-present plot. Focusing the stories in particular timelines was the idea, but it somehow felt a little bit jumpy, especially the transition between sequenced of events that seemed rough. It also showed the urgency and the lack of understanding. Also, the idea of Earth being attack by an alien forces and the proven fact that "we're not alone in this universe" wasn't getting much portion was considered as a plot hole. It was more like "Yes, that's an alien attack. No, no need to warn the outside continents, let's just leave it all to Superman to take down the enemies while we watch it LIVE." That doesn't matter though, blah.

One thing I like the most about MoS is that it is the only movie that reminds us that Superman is not human. It took me by suprises how in this movie people referred him as an "Alien" rather than "Hero". It was impossible at first not to trust Superman, but this movie made it possible. Superman here is an outcast, a damned alien that brought doom to Earth. Human doesn't trust him, although he has proven himself to be on their side (screw Kryptonian, you had your chance, he said). But that doesn't enough. The question will always be "Will he turn back on us?" "Can we trust him?". And it was shown clearly when Colonel Nathan Hardy (Christopher Meloni), with his is-this-for-real look, said "He's not the enemy." to Kent. And his fellow once again reassured it at the very end of the movie by saying "How do we know that someday you won't be turning against us?" Suprise much.


Now, let's talk about the performances. Henry Cavill successfully embodied Znyder's Superman, both physically (man those arms!) and emotionally. He showed us the vulnerable and struggling side of Superman, while determined at the same time. Though his charm can't be compared with Christopher Reeve's, he's done well enough as a more mature Superman. Amy Adam's Louis Lane was everything we hoped Ms. Lane to be : smart, witty, determined and bad-ass, minus the funny side. Though her connection with Kent was more like best-friend-in-crime rather than lovestruck couple, she delivered quite a sidekick for Superman. Russell Crowe also nailed his role; he looked more athletic than Marlon Brando's Jor-El, also a quieter one, but he sure was charming. While all the characters seemed to be promising, the main villain, Zod, was rather obnoxious. Zod was more like an intimidating killing machine with one target to complete rather than a ruthless old enemy, wanting for a payback. Shannon's facial expression didn't help enough to somehow straighten a muscle when it came to emotional department. But, the surprising act came from Antje Traue who portrayed Faora-Ul. Unlike Zod, Faora was ruthless and unstoppable and she wasn't "made" to do that.

Finally said, Snyder-Nolan combination was well-paid and it was goddamn satisfying. The 143 minutes seemed long in real life, but not while you were watching this movie. It got the action, the emotion and the biggest expectation came in reverse. Highly recommended. 




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