Friday, June 21, 2013

Man of steel begins - a review

  I have read Superman comics for forty-five years, now, and it is the very first time I've seen a Superman movie, a true Superman movie.
  First of all, one shouldn't even start comparing this with all the previous Superman movies. It’s so far above them that that would be totally unfair. They were mere juvenile attempts at telling the man of steel story, while this is the very first time they’re even attempting to make a mature, intelligent and passionate movie about him.
  This is also the first great film from Hollywood in four years, since Terminator Salvation. Though that doesn't say much either, since Hollywood has long since descended into boredom and total commercialism.
  There is something about the Superman story or mythos, if you will that has a kind of universal appeal, one that, at least to me has nothing to do with religious connotations or him being an American idol and ultimate immigrant either. It isn’t easily defined, but it is there.
  He is a stranger, a traveler, not quite human. «Even though you are raised as a human being you are not one of them».
  You can see, right from the first image that they have freed themselves from all the past films. There are no homage there, no echoes of previous, hopelessly unsuccessful attempts at telling the story. This Krypton is unlike any we’ve seen in the past, even though the story is similar. They (Nolan, Goyer and Snyder) do follow the comics, even though they’re also liberating themselves from it. The Kryptonians die from an ecological disaster brought on by their own, disastrous actions. They are not gods at all. In spite of their technology, or rather because of it they have long since become a degenerated people, descended into a state of being remote from life and passion.
  One of the few scenes of the story that feels less believable at first is when the Kryptonian council sentences their criminals, the failed rebels to prison, the Phantom Zone, effectively saving their lives, but when you think about it that is also completely in character. Their ability to consider the ramifications of their actions vanished long ago. We experience a structured, ordered and joyless society, where only Kal El’s parents and partly General Zod show emotion at all. Gray is the predominant color of Krypton.
  Then we are brought to Earth, to Kal El’s troublesome adolescence and adulthood, to his long and hard search for answers to who he is. And not long after that, the story takes off in earnest. While the quality of Batman Begins falls when he puts on the mask, this one is strong to the poignant end. When we first see the man of steel in his suit, it is a great moment, not a downer. The fact that that is followed by a few «embarrassing» moments also feels right.
  As stated, this film is so much better, both overall and in the details compared to all previous versions that any comparison is unfair. The characters are «human». General Zod isn't a «villain», but one, though gravely misguided with a very good motivation for what he is and is doing, and they show in great ways how he is as much trapped by his upbringing as the Kryptonian council he rebelled against. Michael Shannon is just phenomenal in the role, clearly far superior to all previous actors playing Zod.
  Everybody, from Lois to the secondary multicultural cast of characters like Professor Hamilton, Perry White and General Swanwick fits the story. It seems like they have thought about everything, every little detail of the mythos, what to include and what not to include. Kal El is smiling, reveling in his powers, when he is finally able to fly, like anyone would. And as stated the movie is filled with such minor, but crucial details. Professor Hamilton figuring out how to ignite the Phantom Zone device. Lois tracking down Clark Kent. The fact that the Kryptonian soldiers are better fighters, but that Kal El is more experienced in the use of his powers. The true ramifications of a Superman among us are at least touched upon for the first time. The battles, even though they are very much there take a backseat to that. And so on.
  What more than anything delights me, also as a writer and upcoming filmmaker is how great storytelling this is, a far cry from the usual empty bluster of Hollywood and the films Nolan has directed.
  The one thing I would fault the movie for, aside from the rather embarrassing product placement and being a mainstream Hollywood movie, is for not being even better at fulfilling the promise of the mythos, but as stated: it is so close to achieving that perfection that, even though I didn't jump up and down in joy when I left the theater I was certainly filled with wonder.

  Great job, guys! Keep it up! Hopefully this will herald a string of Superman movies and be the last origin story for decades.

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