Film Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Man of Steel is finally in cinemas, and we let you into the world of Superman’s first hand – from two perspectives.

M.K Smith is critical:

Because it’s only been seven years since Hollywood has graced us with a Superman movie, it’s obvious that cinema-goers must have been gagging for another. A fair departure from the standard superhero blockbuster, the emotions run deep in the newest interpretation of Superman. Decrying the camp trap that many superhero films lapse into, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel means serious business.

Director Zack Snyder is a polarising figure in cinema, and this time around the shaky, handheld camcorder quality of his directing is almost nauseating. His dodgy camera work dominates the near-endless scenes of destruction and conflict that are littered throughout the film. The amount of exploit included is to be expected from the genre, but Man of Steel takes a lot of liberties. The action sequences are meandering, and while they’re often exciting, they take much too long to pay off. The special effects, soaring soundtrack and moody cinematography are stunning though, making the brutality almost seem worth it. Almost.

It seems quite obvious that the impossibly handsome Henry Cavill was chosen purely because his aesthetic is Superman personified. Buff and brooding, Cavill exudes physical presence; it’s just a pity that this seems to have drained his acting potential. When he isn’t grimacing and clenching his fists, he is flat and plagued by a monotone voice. His monotony is shared with a very sad-eyed Russell Crowe, who is onboard as Jor-El, Clark Kent’s real father. The star-studded supporting cast makes up for Cavill and Crowe’s stale dispositions however. Michael Shannon’s villain, the wonderfully malevolent General Zod, is tense and electrifying. And a pleasant casting surprise comes in the form of Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, who is a surprisingly well-rounded character for a female love interest in an action movie.

It’s difficult to discuss the movie without mentioning the presence of producer and co-writer Christopher Nolan. His critically and commercially esteemed Batman trilogy has cast a towering shadow over the superhero genre of blockbusters, and Snyder has clearly taken notes. But Zack Snyder is not Christopher Nolan, and Man of Steel is not the Batman trilogy. Much like Nolan with Batman, Snyder tries to balance gratuitous action with poignancy, to kick you in the teeth and tug on your heartstrings in one fell swoop. His result is just clumsy, and ends up being somewhat disorienting instead.

Man of Steel is not terrible, but the film still has its problems. It’s rambling and unnecessarily overwrought, exhilarating to the point of exhausting. The film wants so desperately to have grit and meaning, to be the intellectual alternative to the run-of-the-mill summer blockbusters. Much like Clark Kent himself, it just wants to be liked.

*****

Nathan Li is pleased:

Henry Cavill is going to be the Sexiest Man Alive of 2013 – you hear it from me at Grapeshot. The much anticipated Man of Steel is finally propelling the British actor sky-high with his global attention that he deserves.

I was eager to preview the movie in 3D at IMAX Darling Harbour, and it did not disappoint. In the 2013 remake of the sci-fi classic, the visuals are stunning, and I am talking about both the CGIs and, of course, the actors. Having gone through contractual rigorous body training, both Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman) and Russell Crowe (Jor-EI) look, quite literally, out of this world. Amy Adams (Lois Lane) is a delight to watch. And the sexual chemistry between Cavill and Adams is subtle yet pleasant.

Life and death is a unifying theme of the story. Through Clark’s eyes, we are struck with the opposing ideologies of life. While the dad on Earth wishes to conceal Clark’s true identity, the Krypton farther has a much more ambitious plan for Superman regarding the future of Earth and Krypton. On the other hand, meaning of life on Krypton, as asserted by General Zod (the antagonist played by Michael Shannon), is one for evolution and competitive survival, while Jor-EI believes there’s more that is humanly to life and that Superman is the key to it. Deep huh?

The constant flashback in the storytelling is a tactic to evoke audience’s sympathy with Clark Kent’s struggling upbringing on Earth. It’s a nice touch to the action movie but it’s not a groundbreaking approach for exploring identities and differences in a film. There are quite a few ‘awww’-worthy moments but unfortunately not powerful enough to make you tear up or anything.

If you’re going to watch Man of Steel, which I highly recommend, you should watch it in 3D at IMAX. The world’s biggest screen adds another dimension to Superman’s story with the mouth-opening, back-straightening actions, explosions and… Henry Cavill. It might take you a while to adjust your vision but it’s definitely a great experience.

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