Man of Steel (2013) Review: Credit Where Credit Is Due
I had been meaning to give Man of Steel another chance for a long time now. While far from the perfect re-imagination of Superman mythology and despite suffering from a myriad of glaring issues, there is still a magnetic quality to it that just can’t be denied. And on a few occasions when it does get the balance right, the imagery it puts up on the screen is not only instantly memorable but also iconic & breathtaking.
Man of Steel tells the story of Clark Kent who while growing up learns about his extra-terrestrial heritage and then journeys to discover his true identity as well as purpose in life. Keeping himself as anonymous as possible, he is ultimately forced to reveal his identity to the world, confront his heritage, and save mankind from total annihilation when remaining survivors from his long-extinguished planet come to Earth looking for him.
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First things first, Zack Snyder’s direction here is actually better than one gives him credit for. The majority of problems lie with David S. Goyer’s muddled script, for his nonlinear narration & lame interactions only affect the narrative flow & tonal consistency, and bring the entire film down. In spite of not being allowed free creative reign, Snyder manages to give us some jaw-dropping moments of action spectacle here that are as impressive & astounding as its larger-than-life hero.
Much of the problems that I mentioned in my original Man of Steel review still stand, but there are a few things about it that I do appreciate more now. This is the story of a young Clark Kent who is still learning, still developing & still far from the ideal version of Superman that viewers are most familiar with. He is yet to fully grasp the value of every human life and thus tries to save only those in his peripheral vision. But be as inexperienced as he may be, he does strive real hard to live by the principles that his adopted parents taught him.
Another notable thing about Man of Steel is the depiction of the U.S. military being as stupid & incompetent as they happen to be in real life. Unleashing firepower at anyone they deem a threat and then crying foul when the same target retaliates, the film is a subtle critique of the armed force that never has learned from its mistakes nor it ever will. Also, regarding the destruction & demolition of Metropolis, the leveling of a city is to be expected when Gods collide, which is what happens here. And Snyder does his best to give those moments of city-wide devastation the sense of grandeur they deserve.
Henry Cavill is perfect casting as Clark Kent/Superman. So is Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as General Zod. However, the material they are given to work with is just not refined enough. And because of that, their performance leaves much to be desired. There is a potentially great film beneath the convoluted premise, and a tighter script & better editing would’ve unearthed the gem its die-hard fans claim it to be. Perhaps the only aspect that’s without any complaints in the final product is Hans Zimmer’s epic, rousing & arresting score that’s as emotionally stimulating as it is aurally sublime.
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For all its worth, I still can’t call Man of Steel a sophisticated example of its genre. The silly moments are a tad too many to skim past and the story wastes precious time on characters who aren’t worth a damn. The human drama remains alien & distant, the opening prologue lacks any sort of intrigue, Jonathan Kent dies like an idiot, that facepalm scene with the priest, Jor-El spoon-feeding us every little info as if it’s a Nolan film, and lastly Zod having trouble incinerating a bunch of nobodies when all he is supposed to do is move his pupils are some of the many awful moments in this big-budget blockbuster mess.
On an overall scale, Man of Steel tackles with an interesting idea, and the intent behind it is a fascinating one too but this is an ambitious project that was hurried into production much before the screenplay was all sorted out, deftly written & neatly polished. A lot of its shortcomings could’ve been rectified with minor tweaks here n there. Nevertheless, thanks to Snyder’s innate eye for spectacle, we do get a visual feast that’s eye-popping when the combination is right. Man of Steel may not be the best all-round entry in DC Extended Universe but in spite of all the noticeable flaws, its highs still remain higher than what other DCEU installments have given us so far.