With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice coming to cinemas early next year, I thought it would be good to look back at what will be its predecessor, Man of Steel. Like many, I was very hopeful (to say the least) that the film would live up to the very high expectations it had, given it was released on the back of what can only be described as a brilliant Batman trilogy with Christopher Nolan now returning a producer for the movie. At the end of the review I'll explain my hopes for the upcoming film too as that's more pertinent to most right now given the exposure it's getting these days.
Superman. The paragon of power, the defender of the weak and well, an icon that has undoubtedly captured the hearts of millions across the globe. Zack Snyder was appointed to paint his picture of what hopefully would be an enthralling movie and if I were to have to summarise this review into a few words, I'd say he carried out his job pretty well.
The setting of Man of Steel starts on Krypton, and more importantly, with the birth of our hero. However, it doesn't quite come at the best time with Krypton's days numbered and after an altercation between Jor-El and General Zod (you might hear about him later, just a guess), the scene is set for and grand chase to the Codex (a database which contains all the genetic information of all the bloodlines of Krypton). And boy was it grand. Quite frankly, I was blown away by how detailed and beautiful the scenery was. Everything seemed in sync and with a high octane chase taking place, I was on the edge of my seat of the best part of 10 minutes.
This hell of a rollercoaster all concludes with the exile of Zod and his co-conspirators to the Phantom Zone but not before killing Jor-El, who held Zod off as his son was sent to Earth, planet he stated that his son would be:
A God Among Men
It's this uncompromising facet of Zod's personality which allows him to kill a good friend and makes him a compelling villain later on.
Krypton's demise is easy to see and hard to take as we see Lara, wife of Jor-El resigning herself to her fate, her last wish being for Superman to make the world a better place. The music (as always from Hans Zimmer) was of the highest standard, making this scene project the type of emotional resonance you don't find too often in films.
Welcome to Earth
We're introduced to our hero through a number of flashbacks depicting his struggle and how his supernatural abilities led to him to become ostracised by those around him. His parents, well aware of his extraterrestrial origins, deny this repeatedly in the hope he can assimilate among humans with ease. These scenes are rather unspectacular, but the emotional conflict within Superman as to whether to use his powers at such a young is interesting.
Superman throughout these flashbacks is conflicted and alienated from society. How he uses his rough past to try and pave a better future is key to realising what makes him the person he is by the end of the film.
The Turning Point
This flashback is triggered by Lois's perplexion as to why Superman does not make his powers known to mankind. Surely he'd be a hero among many, so why, why would he choose remain anonymous.
Something must have happened...right?
You're not just anyone, Clark, and I have to believe that you're-that you're sent here for a reason. All these changes you're going through, one day-one day, you're going to think of them as a blessing, and when that day comes, you're going to have to make a choice: a choice of whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.
Excuse the long quote but it does pack a punch. If Superman is going stand by humans, he can't do it half heartedly, otherwise everyone will know of his ability before he himself is sure of what do with it. And what can be a more painful way to illustrate this by watching your dad die right in front of you. Superman could have saved his dad, I'm sure he really wanted to, but his dad recognised that the world was not ready, not ready to see that which they can't understand.
Enter Lois Lane!
We do see Lois quite early on in the film tasked with discovering what conveniently happens to be a kryptonian scout ship. She is then saved by a "superhuman" rescuer (kudos to those who know who this was) and tries to tell her editor all of this.
Surprisingly it fails.
The character development between Superman and Lois felt really quite superficial, this sudden turn of events becoming a catalyst for their relationship all felt out of place, if I'm frank I'd have preferred if the time was put to better use. Near the end of the film however, I'd say Zack Snyder made their relationship more emotive and just about...okay.
The Final Showdown
Zod Vs Superman, we all knew this was coming and it was definitely a battle of epic proportions and one I definitely did enjoy watching. Superman got a lot of flak for causing the destruction he did, but when facing an enemy of Zod's calibre, it's hard not to. The dialogue during these tussles really highlighted the mechanic (and I would say amoral) nature of Zod. All the more reason for natural birth I guess.
Speaking from personal experience, I wouldn't know what it would be like to kill the only other living person from your race, but I'm sure it would not be nice. Superman definitely did not feel nice doing what he did, but as corny as it sounds, he knew it had to be done, and I'll end this review with his words...
Krypton had its chance.
It's clear that the music and action scenes in Man of Steel are its strong points and redeeming qualities. However, I couldn't help but feel that later on in the film Superman is needlessly bland (albeit for those final scenes with Zod, that would elicit an emotional response from anyone) and less likeable than I would have...um, liked? All in all I'd rate the film a solid 7.6. The rewatch value is also strong with this one (see what I did there) and so I recommend you watch it as we look forward to the sequel eagerly.
Speaking of the sequel...
Hopes For The Sequel
Action, action, and maybe some more action? Did I mention action? With word that Batman and Wonder Woman (and some other Justice League characters in the mix) will feature in the next installment, Zack Snyder has no excuse if Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ends up a formulaic and mundane film. WIth a vast array of characters, all I can really hope for is some well choreographed fight scenes, aesthetically pleasing visuals, and some top notch acting. Ben Affleck as Batman has raised a lot of eyebrows among the fandom so the onus is on him to produce a stunning rendition of the caped crusader. No pressure, Ben.
Thanks for bearing with me through what I hope was at least a mildly interesting review! Feedback of all sorts is greatly appreciated and I'd like to know: what did you like about the film? Let me know in the comments.