I’m still enthusing over the latest trailer for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice; I’ve always been more of a Batman fan myself, and it obviously showed when I talked about it with my family.
“They’ve got the movements of Bats down to a tee!” I say happily.
My brother then says “I love that moment when Superman catches that thing.”
And that one lone phrase makes me stop for a moment.
I knew, I mean, I know that Superman is in this movie, but this is the sequel to Man of Steel (2013), the movie which has kick-started the DC Extended Universe, and I rarely think about it.
I’m always thinking about how thankful we are to Iron Man (2008) for commencing the beloved Marvel movies, but what of this movie?
I haven’t returned to it since I bought the DVD and re watched it in 2013…I could not help but feel that with the release of the movie mere weeks away, it was time to get reacquainted with the rebooted origins of Superman.
In terms of its release date, Man of Steel did get a raw deal; expectation had been heaped upon it because of Christopher Nolan’s involvement as a producer. After the critical acclaim that he received for The Dark Knight Trilogy, and with each epic trailer, the excitement continued to build.
Also, following in the wake of many Marvel films which each told or retold a familiar origin story, it meant that the onus was on Man of Steel to reinvent Superman in an interesting way to combat the well-tread tale of superhero beginnings.
It doesn’t help that Superman, (along with Spider-Man and Batman) has one of the most recognisable emergences into crime fighting in comic book history.
Because unfortunately for all its thrills, Man of Steel’s storyline leaves much to be desired; David Goyer attempts to deepen the mythology surrounding the destruction of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) home world Krypton, and place the beginnings of Superman in a modern and cynical society, to stand apart from Marvel’s brighter and upbeat universe.
To do this, subplots involving various details and MacGuffins are added and all of it threatens to over complicate a simple yet timeless story. The film is structured so that most of Clark Kent’s early life is charted through flashbacks, which are often placed at points that break up the flow and coherence of the movie.
We can understand what’s happening, even with the hard-to-notice bad character’s decisions and plot holes, but still, it all starts to become become unwieldy and clunky.
Indeed, because of this Man of Steel seems rushed yet ponderous at the same time, slowly unfolding its various messages concerning the power of the individual and their responsibilities before dashing into the next scene.
To cram all of it in, any adornments in the form of unnecessary dialogue or character interaction are smoothed over or cut out, meaning that the thoughtful script becomes very functional and almost box-ticking.
A mandatory tender airborne moment between Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Superman? Check!
The Dark Knight Trilogy, with all its brooding still found time for the occasional wry comment or sarcastic conversation, but in Man of Steel there is no time or thought spared for it, and as such when the humour comes, (particularly in the latter half), it feels slightly misplaced and irregular.
Much has been said about the overbearing fight sequences in the final act, so there is little to add in that particular discussion; it seems that the movie makers feared that the talking sections would bore the audience who had come to see Superman fight, and they very nearly over compensate through their attempts to please.
It is good to see Superman in action onscreen, with all of his capabilities brought to life, but sometimes less really is more.
The fact that they are addressing this in Dawn of Justice is somewhat interesting to me; did they plan to use the Battle of Metropolis as the basis for the movie from the off, or is it a reaction to the discontent of the more discerning fanboys?
I’m inclined to think the latter.
But this isn’t to suggest that the movie is a write-off by any means. Henry Cavill certainly has the look and presence for Superman and despite the fact that the rest of the cast can only use what the utilitarian script gives them, they still are well matched in the roles that they embody, and I look forward to seeing them develop in the later installments.
Director Zack Snyder, known for his visual accomplishments is on stellar form here; the vistas of Krypton, Metropolis and the Canadian Arctic make for compelling landscapes, and the cinematography of Man of Steel remains one of the most striking within the comic book movie genre.
A particular sequence which sticks out in my mind is Superman’s first flight; standing incongruous against the stark snowy environment, accompanied by Jor El’s (Russell Crowe) powerful monologue and with Hans Zimmer’s amazing, rousing score, it is one of the most thoughtful, joyful and accomplished moments in the movie.
For all its exposition and hand wringing about Superman’s role in the fate of Krypton and Earth, Man of Steel, though a ponderous and slightly sombre movie, excels when it delivers on the exciting battles and simple thrills that the Son of Krypton personifies.