16 June 2013

Man of Steel: My Somewhat Superficial Reasons for Liking It

Dave and I saw Man of Steel last night. We both loathed the 2006 Superman Returns thinger. Superman as deadbeat dad: no thanks.

I hadn't read a single thing about MoS except that it was coming out, so I had zero expectations going in. I have to say I liked it a great deal. It was a true reboot / revisiting / retelling of major elements from the late 70s / early 80s Christopher Reeve Superman films, and probably major plot points from comics that I haven't read.

This may be entirely shallow of me, but for my money the best thing about those Christopher Reeve movies was the space goths, particularly Terence Stamp as General Zod:


I mean, shit man. Wow. Not to mention Hot Chick and Big Dude:

At its most basic level Man of Steel is a retelling of the Superman origin story plus the Zod plot. Great fine great. Sign me up!

On the Hot Mess side of things there are a ton of flashbacks, lovingly filmed in gauzy nostalgia-vision. Whether those work for you or bother you probably depends on how you feel about flashbacks. I think they did work to give Clark Kent a bit of depth, although not too much because hey, this is a Hollywood movie.

More confusing were the riffs on Communist art. Apparently, Krypton storytelling involves silvery montages that look basically like this:

...but more racially exclusive. Weird.

There was also some rough bombastic acting at the beginning, but I figured maybe on planet Krypton, you have to be a little yelly if you want to get your point across.

Basically, I liked it more than most movies that are 90% CGI polygons flying around at a ludicrous speed. Henry Cavill is ridiculously easy to like for a guy who is also insanely handsome. I loved Amy Adams as Lois Lane, particularly since Lane gets to do more than be nosy and get rescued. No one is Terence Stamp but Michael Shannon is mesmerizing in his own right (watch Take Shelter and you'll appreciate what he can do). Good times.


Little Gothic Horrors said...

It's being released here (in Australia) in a week or so. I'll probably go and see it with my husband and son, but I can never get into Superman as much as Batman. I like my superheroes a little dark, although from what I hear, they've darkened things up as much as is possible.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I really enjoyed it as well. (Saw it early Friday afternoon in 3D - my review goes up tomorrow.) It follows the current New 52 DC comics rather than the original, which was fine with me. And yes, the cast was perfect.

Andrew Leon said...

I haven't decided how I feel about it. I like the beginning and the giving of Zod a background beside "space criminal," but I hated that Nolan, basically, exploited our prior knowledge of Superman's history to skip actually giving us a real origin story. We accept that Earth accepts Superman because of what -we- know about him, not because of what they know about him, because, MY GOSH, he trashed Metropolis! I'm not buying that they were all just like, "well, it's okay, because he's the good guy."
And, then, my sister-in-law, who doesn't really know anything about Superman didn't get parts of it and couldn't figure out why we ought to be caring about Perry White. Because, from what we have in the movie, there's no reason to care about him. We only do because we already know who he is.

Basically, it was a movie about Zod, not Superman, which bothers me since it's called MoS.

However, Shannon was exceptional as Zod. If you've ever watched any Boardwalk Empire, you can see why he got that part.

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Little Gothic: I hope you like it. There is plenty of Zod to go around if you're not into Superman himself.

@Alex: Thanks for filling me in on the film / comics relationship. I wasn't sure.

@Andrew: I'm glad you left this comment. It is always really hard to tell whether a film is doing enough work to fill in potential gaps when you've seen a bunch of related films, or read the book. (Dave didn't understand The Hunger Games when we went to see it, for e.g., which suggests to me the movie failed to do its job.)

Holy heck did Supe ever trash Metropolis. So much collateral damage, and some dishonest storytelling in that we only saw human bodies while Zod / Zod's ship was doing damage.

On a storytelling / craft level, there is that problem when the villain is a bit more charismatic or interesting to follow or watch than the hero. Superman's a tricky hero because he's a too perfect and too powerful, I think. The solution in MoS was to make his antagonist also super, super powerful, with the logical result that an entire city gets trashed in their final standoff. It's trading one problem for another, I guess?

Mina Lobo said...

Hadn't even known this Superman remake was coming out until, perhaps, just last week. (The rock under which I live = rather large.) And even so, hadn't any plans to see it, as the two things I've been itching to see, the new Star Trek and Gatsby, haven't yet been seen by me (and prices for movie tix in NY are cray). But your post made me curious about Cavill, so I had to Google some piccies of the man, and now...well...W00F. To paraphrase young Sam from The Lost Boys, I'm at the mercy of my sex glands, yo. :-)
Some Dark Romantic

Elizabeth Twist said...

LOL, Mina. That is one way to choose your movies. I'm scared that Gatsby is going to be a dog of a film. I would say do Star Trek first (I have yet to review it because my nervous system is still reeling from the Imax / 3D assault, but I think I loved it?) and then MoS. Cumberbatch trumps Cavill in my personal hotness rankings.

Trisha said...

Might see it, might now. Haven't decided yet. :) I too prefer Batman to Superman, but I did love what seasons of Smallville I saw. :)

Mia Hayson said...

Mmmm! I am hearing great things about MoS so might have to go see it!

I love both Batman and Superman in different ways. Batman is so dark it's fab but Supes is so full of hope. Nothing seems to get him down. I love the optimist in him.

Georgina Morales said...

I don't know... Superman is too goody-two-shoes for my taste and I'm getting tired of the reboots. On the other hand, I've been hearing great comments of this movie, so I might give it a try...

Anyway, I come baring gifts! You've been nominated for an Inspiring Liebster Blogger Award at my blog. Hop over there to claim it!

Andrew Leon said...

Well, I was going to comment more, but I have a sick kid and have run out of time, so you'll just have to wait until I do my review.

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Trisha: it is a bit of a darked down version of Superman, so maybe it will suit you.

@Mia: I always wish Supe wasn't quite so perfect and powerful - I guess they do try to give him some internal conflict in the new film?

@Gina: Oh I know the reboot thing! Hollywood clearly ran out of ideas a long time ago. Some of them I like but come on guys, there are lots of new stories out there all the time. (If you haven't seen Moon, dir. by Duncan Jones, I recommend it for something different. If you like sci fi, that is.)

@Andrew: I hope your wee one recovers! I will drop by and comment profusely.

Andrew Leon said...

My review is finally up.

Deborah Walker said...

I enjoyed this for all the wrong reasons: the eyeball babies, the retro-futurism art-deco silver (and did you notice their crazy hats).

But most of all, for Michael Shannon as General Zod. Yum. Yum.

Was Superman even in it? I didn't notice him much.

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Debs: my feelings exactly. Andrew Leon's excellent review argued that it should have been called "General Zod." That would have been fine by me.

Catherine Stine said...

Interesting on the riffs on Communist Art. I was in Moscow a few years ago, and when you see the stuff in person, it's pretty spectacular. They even have lots of it still in the subways.

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Catherine I had the good luck to be in London a decade or so ago when the Tate Modern hosted a massive Communist poster art show. It was fascinating. I've been to mainland China, too, where there is plenty of Communist statuary to be had. The artistic ideal of the human body in Communist art is just...let's say muscular.

Mark K said...

It was too long, and the end fight dragged on, and on, and on.

But good to see a Brit actor shining through in a lead role.