Thursday, October 17, 2013

[In Review] The Man in the Blue Suit

During an attempted coup by General Zod (Michael Shannon) on a dying planet, Krypton, chief scientist Jor-El (Russel Crowe) sends his son Kal-El (Henry Cavill) in a rocket to space. Kal is the first child in centuries to be born on the planet in a natural way. Kal's ship crashes on Earth, where he is found by the Kent couple and raised as a human child. Kal, now named Clark Kent, leads an anonymous life and tries his best to hide his otherworldly strength and psychic powers from the prying eyes of the world. However, it all changes when General Zod manages to arrive on Earth. Kent can't remain latent anymore for the fate of a planet rests in his hands.

"You are weak, Son of El, unsure of yourself. The fact that you possess a sense of morality, and we do not, gives us an evolutionary advantage. And if history has proven is that evolution always wins." - Faora-Ul

Superman is one of the oldest in the history of comic book superheroes. His first forays onto screens have been very successful but during the late 80s, starting from the third film in the franchise, it all started going downhill. An attempt was made to resurrect the franchise, twenty years later, which resulted in an average film that barely covered its production costs.

Come 2013, and Warner Bros tried to revive the Man in Blue once again. This time the ship was piloted by a star-studded team with Zack Snyder as director and Christopher Nolan as one of the writers. The film had an approximate budget of $225 million which is way more than what Snyder ever had to work with before (it is $2 million greater than the combined budget of his earlier works 300, Watchmen and Dawn of the Dead). He put this money to good use by seamlessly blending CGI with live action and no breaks in linearity. It is some feat when you regard the fact that Superman's is one of the most CGI-reliant action in cinema at the moment.

Man of Steel has some great CGI, especially in how the atmosphere of Krypton is replicated.
Meanwhile Snyder himself has not changed his style for the big film; the movie came out disjointed, fragmented, very simple yet too convoluted at times. Watching this film is very similar to sifting through a photo album; bright flashes of individual scenes, randomly mixed together and strung on a very conventionally designated common core. Along the way, it transforms into a deep and controversial (for the Superman aficionados who have read the comics) film that does become black and white with patriotic morality, something that has always been associated with Superman - love the country that gave you shelter, and defend it to the last drop of your blood while enduring its quirks. The film can also be kind of taxing on people who don't know about Superman beforehand because of its matter-of-fact style. The dialogues in the film are short and concise, and the basic information is embedded in the rhetorical monologues, something reminiscent of teenage cartoons.

The story is weak though, with just too many loopholes. I just sat through wondering about them not even the least bit impressed with where the film was going. The only scene that elicited some real emotion from me was when Clarke comes in to save his mother from General Zod. It was brilliant. Elsewhere it was just monotony. Nolan is a perfectionist but in Man of Steel he looked far from it - he left too many loose ends. For example, Clarke is supposed to loose his powers whenever he is away from the Earth's atmosphere. He does so on General Zod's ship but has no problem fighting in the vacuum of space? Or for that matter amid the Kryptonic beams of the World Engine? These are just a few of some of the major plot-holes that I spotted.

Scenes involving Clarke Kent and his human mum, Martha Kent (Diane Lane) are some of the best in the movie as they drip with raw emotion.
The action scenes are intense and full of hyper-realism as Superman blasts or gets blasted through asphalt, fighter jets, skyscrapers, aircrafts and what not. These sequences really leave your head spinning but the effect is almost cancelled as you see the ubiquitous Lois Lane (Amy Adams) popping up soon after. Hers is the most perfunctory main character in the movie. She seems to share no chemistry with the Superman and has a tendency of following him unrealistically (for example, right after the final heat vision scene).

There is nothing to complain in the music department as the great Hans Zimmer doesn't disappoint. He is a magician with his instruments and gives a very dark, yet uplifting score to the film. The Man of Steel theme is out-of-this-world kind of awesome.

Shannon plays Zod with impressive ferocity. Spiked with a goatee he looks like a Roman dictator or a survivor from David Lynch's epic Dune.
In the end, the movie is entertaining yet nonsensical, has some adrenaline-pumping action and heralds the reincarnation of the cinema Superman (à la Superman vs. Batman which is set to release in 2015). This movie is still, however, nothing compared to the Batman trilogy but despite that has its own moments of greatness.

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