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Man of Steel (2013)

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Score: 7/10

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 23 min.

Release Date: June 14th, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Zack Snyder Actors: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Ayelet Zurer

D

ue to the success of the modern reinvention of Batman, it was only a matter of time before further superheroes received a similar treatment. With the decidedly more fantastical origins of Superman, the Christopher Nolan reimagining unwittingly tilts towards the Avengers over the Dark Knight, but the exceedingly serious tone results in an experience more impactful than that of the aforementioned amalgamation of protagonists. Calling “Man of Steel” overdramatic wouldn’t be inaccurate but the incessant and overwhelming action sequences are constructed proficiently enough to create grand spectacle at its best and mimic over-the-top video games at its worst. Both are still entertaining, however. The use of flashbacks and interactive memories in the storytelling is gimmicky, yet it allows the film to quickly engage in the adventure as well as pause to reflect on previous lessons learned and necessary history reminders. “Man of Steel” isn’t terribly far off from the effective formula found in Nolan’s Batman films, but the very extraterrestrial nature inherent in Superman prevents the tone from ever being as realistic.

Upon exhausting the natural resources of the planet Krypton, its people turn to their leaders for answers. But a plodding bureaucracy and an insurgence by former military commander General Zod (Michael Shannon) culminates in the utter annihilation of the planet. Predicting such an outcome, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) jettisons an escape pod into space carrying Krypton’s last hope – his son Kal-El. Landing on Earth and into the care of a loving family in Kansas, Kal-El grows up as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) in the small town of Smallville. Perpetually shunned by those around him for his otherworldly powers, Clark wanders the countryside helping citizens in distress while searching for the answers to his true purpose in life. But when Zod arrives on Earth and threatens mass genocide, Clark must not only reveal his true identity to mankind, but also put his trust in them in order to save his adopted homeworld.

Undeniably more “Green Lantern” than “Batman Begins,” this new retelling of the Superman origin is overwhelmingly science-fiction. Although never as grounded in reality as Batman, Superman has never felt so out of this world. Kal-El’s upbringing on earth is truncated with brief flashbacks (messing with the timeline is surprisingly productive) demonstrating his alienation and contradictory altruism, justification for intrusion in society, temptations to abuse power, and aspirations to override predestinated statuses. Each episode examining morality is eventually eclipsed by spectacular destruction, fueled heavily by jargon-oriented predicaments and verbally bombast-laced solutions. But the CG annihilation of Metropolis provides plenty of exhibitions to outplay deficiencies in plot, less convincing hand-to-hand combat, and ineffective narrations over montages.

The technology in the film subscribes to the same theory of overusing extraterrestrial lexicon, resulting in boundless adversarial capabilities – though plunging back into the inception of Superman is pleasantly more simplistic, thanks to the acceptance of general knowledge of his beginnings. Details are visualized exponentially for his birthplace but trimmed for adolescence, increasing the opportunities for special effects and keeping the drab stuff to a minimum. The rousing music, formidable villains, bleaker situations, evenly paced action, toned-down costumes (he finds his accouterments instead of fashioning them) and influx of seriousness (thanks largely to story credits by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan) have forged a more contemporarily suitable superhero, despite his troublesome invincibility, and moderate inadequacy in achieving a truly affecting plot. There’s still the sense that anything is possible, since the alien species’ power is undefined. But the increasing, downhill foolishness of the Christopher Reeve series (leading to a nearly two-decade gap between theatrical adaptations) and the disappointing 2006 return has given director Zack Snyder and his team the lessons necessary to stick to a more sincere Clark Kent derivation.

– The Massie Twins

 



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