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Friday, July 12, 2013

Man of Steel

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The time is now for Warner Bros. and DC Comics.  The window has already closed to be able to compete with Disney and Marvel Comics so its time to just try and carve out a little bit of a niche for themselves.  Sure, Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy was a huge success, but that's over, and unless you thought "Green Lantern" was a good direction for DC Comics film-wise, well, I'd have to disagree with you on that one.  So with all their chips on the table, Warner/DC has decided to go for the Hail Mary.  That Hail Mary is "Man of Steel," sponsored by Sears, 7-11, IHOP, and of course, LexCorp.

Contrary to what you might hear about "Man" the film isn't that bad, sure its loud, bombastic, brash, and suffers from a severe case of style-over-substance.....hmmm, well, I guess "Man of Steel" isn't that great when I really stop and think about it.  While it has some good ideas, the way Superman is presented almost makes this attempt feel like this is a sequel to another film.  And while "Man" tries it's best to distance itself from the less-than-super "Superman Returns" there are too many scenes where director, Zack Snyder, once again, lets his ego get in the way and decides to make things explode as opposed to detailing the psychology of Clark Kent and how he's torn between being the last son of a dying world and the protector to a new one. Snyder shoehorns scenes of Clark's more impressionable years in Smallville, but the scenes merely feel like a feeble attempt at trying to make us feel like he has a soul and why he feels an obligation to the human race.  I almost feel "Man of Steel" would have been better suited as a trilogy as opposed to fitting everything into one giant action-fest.  Obviously Warners has no interest in another compelling "Dark Knight-like" trilogy, they are so busy trying to catch up to Marvel.  The one thing I will say is that Superman isn't as interesting to be able to fit into an entire trilogy like Bruce Wayne/Batman.

At the end of "Man" I was left both wanting more and wanting less, if that is possible.  The action scenes were both large in scope, but felt empty; the story of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman was both easy to follow, yet lacked depth; and the story became inconsequential come the start of the 3rd act when everything that can go boom, goes boom.  I'm sure Michael Bay had plenty of tissue handy when he witnessed Metropolis being torn apart by a group of Kryptonians.

What troubles me the most about this new direction for Warner/DC is the world building, or lack thereof. Sure, you get a nod to LexCorp, Wayne Enterprises and other minor DC characters that may exist in this specific universe, but while Warner says they want to complete with Marvel in the superhero-movie-making business, they still seem to want to make self-contained films and somehow make them all gel.  If you go all the way back to when Marvel released "Iron Man" the plan was already in motion for more films within a coherent universe.  Marvel could have slapped "Iron Man" together and flown by the seat of their pants, but they made a conscience effort to create a world where other heroes could exist.  "Man of Steel" provides us with glimpses, or "Easter Eggs" of companies which have meaning to characters such as Lex Luthor, Batman, and Cyborg, but you're left to wonder how many movies it is going to take to finally set in motion a "Justice League" or even a "World's Finest" film.  At this stage in the game it looks like we'll get another "Man of Steel" film in 2015 and maybe a "Batman" reboot in 2016.  You might say "Well, you can't create an entire universe in just one film."  I'd say back "How come Marvel was able to do it, and make us believe they knew what they were doing from the get-go?"

In no way am I shredding this film, even though it might sound like it.  There are things I genuinely like about "Man of Steel."  I thought the acting and casting was spot on, and it looks like we finally have an actor playing Superman that we can believe in with Henry Cavill.  He fits the suit like a glove and his banter with Lois Lane, played wonderfully by Amy Adams, is vintage.  Michael Shannon continues to impress as General Zod and is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters actors in Hollywood.  The supporting cast is solid as well, including Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White, Chief Editor of The Daily Planet.

With "Man of Steel," Warner/DC neither loses ground or gains ground on the Disney/Marvel juggernaut.  If anything it washes the taste out of Superman fans mouths for "Superman Returns" and gives people plenty of explosions.  What it didn't do is break new ground.  Sure, Superman does some super things, but he also feels like a shell of what Superman should be; a protector of the Earth and Metropolis, not it's destroyer as seen in the final 30 minutes of "Steel."  This review sponsored by Wayne Enterprises.

Fun Fact:  General Zod's first appearance was in Adventure Comics #283 in 1961.

2 comments:

  1. Good review Matt. It was a solid movie for a superhero flick, but not the best I've seen in quite some time and I felt disappointed when all was said and done.

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    1. Thanks Dan! Yeah, overall Man of STeel just makes a lot of people forget about "Superman Returns." I've never been a Zack Snyder fan and this movie didn't really make me change my tune. Until Warner/DC move away from the dark and moody "Nolan-verse" there is no hope for a Justice movie.

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