Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel - Superman Epically Returns to the Cinema

Credits rolled around 3am at the five-screen theater in Lowell, MI - a location my wife and I prefer for our big screen movie watching because of its low prices and small crowds. Not more than a minute into the scroll of cast and crew did incensed nerds begin to loudly bitch and complain. Apparently Man of Steel didn't uniformly impress that particular audience, but it certainly made an impression on me. 

The character of Superman has suffered through many poor treatments over the years on both television and in the movies. In my opinion, up until Man of Steel, the only decent Superman film in existence was the first Christopher Reeve movie.  Since then, and even before, fans have had to pick and choose moments which "Worked" for them while discarding a considerable remainder. Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer have finally given us a Superman film which can stand alone, as boldly as the Donner film of the late 1970s.

As I think back on the screening, which began a few hours ago at 12:01am, I find that the film was an enjoyable journey through the development and growth of a character who constantly found himself in-between worlds. Focusing on the perspective of this, the titular character is the key to appreciating the journey of the film, I feel. It's a story of a dying people's hope surviving in a boy who comes to terms with his identity over time while becoming the hope for and a part of a new people. It's a movie about making life-altering decisions, finding one's place in a world, and understanding what it means to be a hero. 

The design of Krypton and the look of the film, the actors and their portrayals, the strong rooting of the origin in science-fiction as was originally intended by the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and the methods employed in telling the tale of this film all came together beautifully in the end. As with any Zack Snyder film, the visuals seem to enhance the world in which the characters exist and aid in the progression of their stories.  The design scheme for Krypton was amazing, and it is thus far the best depiction of Kal-El's home world in any medium, as far as I'm concerned. The general casting was exceptional, especially in the case of Henry Cavill who not only handled the part well, he made viewer believe that he was Superman. Russel Crowe's Jor-El surpassed Brando, in my opinion, and Amy Adams' Lois Lane was both ideal and natural. Also, Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent was as terrific as he was endearing, and (minor spoiler) I challenge anyone who cares about the characters of this universe not to feel as heartbroken as Clark at Pa Kent's inevitable passing. The story terrifically managed to offer viewers a brief and concise origin while giving them an exciting epic which left open the potential for several other films. Though, the possible ties to a future Justice League film are pretty much nonexistent and would have to be established in a later or different DC/Warner Brothers' film.

While I enjoyed various aspects of the movie, especially the way in which the film wonderfully presented the origin of the character, sent the viewer along with him on his journey toward self-discovery, and reinforced his growth with appropriate flashbacks to times during which he was lovingly educated by his constant and caring Earth father, I did have a gripe or two. The items which troubled me were minor, but I found that they made it difficult to continue to focus on the heart of the story. My biggest problem was with the length and scale of the action sequences. While those of us who read comic books are used to Superman thrashing around with villains, while watching a film I imagine many of us have difficulty viewing more than several minutes of continuous building destruction, slugging, and tackling. It all seemed gratuitous and repetitive toward the end. Another difficulty I had concerned the plans of Jor-El, the conflicting plans of Zod, and how Kal-El decided, in a way, to say, "Tough," to both of his senior Kryptonians. When and if you view the movie you might be able to understand what I'm getting at. Maybe you'll find it less conflicting than I did. In the end, sure, I had some issues, but I still understand the importance of suspending disbelief when viewing a film, especially one about a superhero.

For the seventy-fifth anniversary of this beloved hero, the world has been given a fantastic film about a legend, created by two dreaming kids from Ohio, who began the increasingly popular genre of superhero stories. Here's hoping that wherever Siegel and Shuster are now they're proud of the work and love which went into creating this, one of the best screen versions of their immortal character.

As for the nerds in Lowell who seemed to mostly hate the film, they were bitching about everything else there is to bitch about before the movie began, including their feelings on the next generation of video game systems. I think the definition of "Nerd" might read something like this: whiners who occasionally manage to have good ideas but often waste their energy complaining about creative works with which they have no creative association and upon which they have no significant influence (a somewhat general description based on years of evidence). Oh, well. You can't please everyone, right?

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