Friday, 14 June 2013


Four words changed the face of modern cinema back in 2005 - Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. With Nolan's take on the Caped Crusader, audiences and studios alike were shown that there could be another way to depict a "comic book character" upon the silver screen. Reality could be part of the foundation for a film of a larger-than-life superhero... and it could work with impressive results.

Jump 8 years ahead and the success of his Dark Knight trilogy has placed Nolan at the top, amongst the few who can pick and choose (and not be interfered with on) any film they wish to make. Passing on Warner Bros. invitation to helm the rebooting of their jewel in the crown, Nolan took on instead producer and co-writer duties, leaving the directing to the dismay of many fans - Zack Synder. With a back catalogue classed by many as a prime example of "style over substance" (300, Sucker Punch, Watchmen, Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole) Synder seemed a very leftfield choice to bring the all-American hero Superman back to the world.

So, does the mix of "style" Synder and "normal" Nolan work? Yes. And no.

Superman - the challenge has always seemed to be how to actually challenge him. He is, after all, invincible. Until they introduced the (still strangely unbelievable) reaction to parts of his homeworld - Kryptonite - nothing really ever put him in jeopardy. Apart from his natural urge to protect those mere mortals around him (which is often exploited by the villains), tension for the son of Jor-el has been problematic at best. So, the way around that particular thorny issue for the reboot? Give him the double whammy of both emotional AND physically obstacles to deal with.

Cavill, stepping into the iconic cape donned by Reeves (4 times) and Routh (just once), has the somewhat unenviable task of retreading the origins trail along with some additional development. The plot here spans what was originally taken up by the very first two Superman films - his arrival and "identity" discovery and then his "home compatriots" challenge. Throughout a big chunk of the 143 minute running time, Cavill is asked to perform various shades of reserved, quiet and awkward as the young Clark Kent tries to follow his Earth-fathers advice and keep his head down as "humans won't be able to cope with the knowledge of someone like himself walking amongst them." Kent Snr is given an almost Uncle Ben quality from the Spiderman franchise with every great speech given echoing the infamous "with great power comes great responsibility." Choosing Kevin Costner to be Kent Snr was a wise choice as he walks the fine line between "everyday man" and ""learned father to an alien" easily, making what could have either been a throw-away role or abit of a joke neither. His performance resonates more than Russell Crowe's Jor-el who for the most part has to play it very neutral as he is a hologramatic version of himself, guiding Cavill to make his choice of  whom to fight for.

Now, if all of the above seems a tad "serious" then you have read between the lines! This is played for drama and depth rather than adventure and fun. And therein lies the rub. With the likes of complicated and slightly unhinged Bruce Wayne/Batman, drama and depth can work. However, Clark Kent/Superman, by its very nature, demands a lighter touch - probably to help deal with the way-out-there plot of an alien fighting for justice and the American way. But Nolan and Goyer's script instead concentrates on the "serious" whilst Synder brings the "spectacle." None of them seem to have brought the "light touch" or the "fun" that the original two outings had or the likes of the Ironman franchise repeatedly delivers. Yes, this is a different film from those just mentioned and a different time, but then, out of nowhere, in the last 5 minutes of the Man Of Steel, we are suddenly given a full-on glimpse of just how entertainingly fun it can be! The interaction between Cavill's bespeckled Kent and Amy Adams's Lois Lane is cheek-achingly grin-inducing after all the spectacle, speeches, smashingof Smallville and strangely enough the avoidance of the actual word "Superman."

Up until those final fantastic five minutes of non-special effects fun, the plot sees alot of back story crammed in via a non-linear timeframe but strangely done at a very lesiurely pace. Just like Clark Kent himself, the film seems to meander, looking for a place to fit in. His movement from place-to-place and job-to-job sees him secretly saving people, then moving on before his true nature and identity is discovered. This backstory told through flashbacks is a novel approach to the life of Kent but it does make it slightly harder to feel sorry for the boy who has to keep himself to himself for fear of ruining both his and his Earth-parents lives. Just when you begin to connect with the young Clark, the scene swings to either a burning oil-rig or a bar and the connection between audience and protaganist is weakened somewhat. 

Overall, Man Of Steel is a good foundation to build upon, and no doubt the sequel will be on its way to us very soon, but its not a great stand alone experience. At times too serious and too long, the film suffers from Transformers Torrets where the action is too fast - a fact heightened by the use of camera shake presumably added for realism. When one of the many entanglements isn't taking place, it gives us a good insight into how hard it must be for the son of Jor-el to fit into our world but I just wish they'd have put some fun into it to ease both his and our souls... 

Also, sci-fi geeks, look out for the cast of BSG and Dollhouse and for the Wayne Enterprises and LEXCORP logos dotted around!

UK release date: 14.06.13
Certificate: 12A

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