I don’t think my title is giving anything away, is it? We all know Superman is ultimately going to win. I mean, it’s hardly much of a franchise reboot if he dies at the end. In this instance my title is referring to the latter third of the film, where it all goes a bit Hulk a la Avengers, smashing up cities, but more on that later.
To backtrack, Man of Steel is – what I’m classing as – a reboot of a much-loved character. Perhaps to shake the memory of the somewhat bland Superman Returns in 2006. Anyone remember that? It was the one where Brandon Routh donned the cape and faced off against Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor (doing the best he could in the circumstances). And Kate Bosworth, whilst pretty, I could take or leave as Lois Lane. The less said about James Marsden’s character the better.
So why did the last one fail?
Bryan Singer was a safe pair of hands. He’d got The Usual Suspects and X-Men and X2 under his belt, and the cast seemed reasonable enough. The effects were passable, I suppose.
And maybe that’s the problem. I’m not exactly singing the praises of any part of this film. No aspect of this movie bowled me over, or blew me away, or whatever phrase you care to use.
Mostly it goes back to the script. Without a good one you’re finished before you start. Look and feel is important too. I mean, look at Brandon Routh’s Superman in his sky blue lycra and cherry red pants. It was all so classic, nothing new.
Fast forward to 2013…
And the dream team of Zack Snyder (directing), Christopher Nolan (producing) and David Goyer (writing) should deliver a solid movie right? After all, to date Synder has given us Dawn of the Dead, 300 and Watchmen. Nolan has given us Batman Begins, The Prestige, Inception, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. And Goyer has given us Blade, Blade II and Ghost Rider. Goyer also worked on the Batman trilogy with Nolan.
Happily, they do deliver, as this outing worlds is away from Singer’s efforts. Literally, worlds… the opening sequence is on Krypton.
Epic in scope and ethereal in places, the film’s opener has an exhilarating start, although borrows from Avatar and the 2009 Star Trek (the destruction of Vulcan bears striking resemblance to the tragic and fiery demise of Krypton).
The reason for the Krypton opening sequence and much of the film’s first half (and why I think this is a reboot) is Goyer and Nolan are playing to their strengths (as they did with Batman) and doing an origin story. Perhaps fair, given the franchise had somewhat lost its way – or perhaps never found it since the original in 1978?
A Nolan origin story
Either way, what we’ve got here is a much darker and more sombre tone. Ultimately, it’s gone full Nolan, with a buffed and beardy Clark roaming the globe trying to find his place in the world as he helps strangers along the way.
Does that remind you of a certain Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins? This style and tone continue throughout. Take Michael Shannon’s General Zod and his chilling message to the people of Earth – is this reminiscent of the Joker’s video message to the people of Gotham in The Dark Knight?
Despite these parallels I am, of course, nitpicking. This film is epic and grand, and perhaps not what you’d expect from this straight arrow character The final third goes very Matrix Revolution/Avengers with Kal-El/Clark and Zod going at each other in what can only be described as an unparalleled and joyous destruction of every skyscraper in Metropolis.
Something that no doubt most of the audience would have been waiting for, yet for all its action set-pieces, the film tended to hit home more effectively in the quieter moments. Scenes with Clark’s foster parents (wonderfully played by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) were particularly touching.
So all in all, Snyder did a fine job, perhaps his best work to date. Yet Nolan and Goyer’s influence was clear to see and, whilst their contribution undoubtedly helped reboot the franchise, they may have taken it too dark in tone. That said, watch out for a scene in the closing moments that suggest a sequel could be lighter and more playful.
Oh… and Henry Cavill is easily the best Superman to date. Live long and prosper. Sorry, wrong reboot.
As you were…