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Man of Steel (3D)

2013-06-28 15:47
 
Man of Steel Henry Cavill
 
What it's about:

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.

What we thought:

Man of Steel feels, in some ways, like an answer to the fans who complained that 2006's Superman Returns was light on action and super-heroics. You really won't have that complaint with this film. "Superman, smash" seems to be the order of the day, and Superman does indeed smash like it's nobody's business, much to the detriment of downtown Metropolis.

The origin of Superman is one of the most recognised stories in popular culture, so much so that a retelling almost seems redundant. Man of Steel stays fairly loyal to its character's prescribed mythology, but kudos to writer David S Goyer for finding ways to look at the tale with a fresh eye.

Taking a leaf from producer Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, Man of Steel takes a similar flashback approach to its story. Starting with the death of Krypton (the design here is fantastic, recalling the fantastic design of the Star Wars films), the story then moves to Earth, cutting back and forth between the adult Clark Kent, a drifter who keeps his head down and moves from job to job while performing random, super powered good deeds, and the younger Clark, beset with dealing with his burgeoning powers.

Unlike earlier incarnations, the young Clark Kent in this film doesn't revel in his budding abilities. Far from it, his quickly developing powers are often a torment to him. He dare not defend himself against school bullies for fear of what a super powered punch might do while an incident in the classroom illustrates the more distressing side of having x-ray vision. This is a Clark Kent beset by insecurities and fear for what he is and I suppose that’s a Superman for our jaded times. Man of Steel is a concerted departure from the Superman films with Christopher Reeves, but then, to be fair, today's Superman comics aren't like the ones that those films drew their inspiration from.

While deserving credit for taking a fresh approach to Superman, the earlier parts of the film do feel somewhat disjointed, with some good to very good bits that don't really mesh into a great whole, a flaw that applies to the film at large. Not helping things is a script with dialogue that often feels like homily and characters that are pretty thinly sketched.

None of this really matters once Zod shows up with a few other surviving Kryptonians in tow and Man of Steel kicks into high gear. With Superman finally suited up and ready to take on Zod, what started out as a sci-fi film with touches of a coming-of-age tale quickly morphs into a super powered face-off on the scale of a Roland Emmerich disaster movie. Quite frankly, it makes the battle at the end of The Avengers look like a scuffle at primary school during breaktime.

Whole blocks of the city are laid to waste; punches send out sonic booms. The destruction on display here would keep insurance companies busy for decades. I guess enough time has passed for people to be comfortable with blatantly 9/11-like imagery being re-purposed for superhero fisticuffs.

Still, as impressive as all the action is, it does feel overlong and as if it exists in large part to distance this film from the 2006 outing. What I missed was the perspective of the ordinary man on the street, the guy just going to work and looking up at the sky in awe to see people trading blows high above. That might have lent the film something extra and would hardly have been out of place. 

So, a patchy story, thin characterisation and action that outstays its welcome. Yet, despite these flaws, Man of Steel is often engaging and the action staged in a manner that is jaw-dropping before it becomes tiresome.

If ever you wanted to see Superman going at it all out, this film is for you. Some of the imagery here seems ripped from the pages of the comics (with the glowing red eyes being my personal favourite). Credit must go to director Zack Snyder for crafting a film that dazzles the eye more than any other film so far this year. The flying sequences are also pretty impressive, with this being one of the rare occasions where I actually enjoyed the 3D (though, on the whole, the 3D doesn't get a proper workout).

Henry Cavill, if nothing else, is the most physically convincing screen Superman ever and the first to truly match the exaggerated musculature of the comic counterpart. In terms of performance, the script does not give him much, though he does sell that sense of benevolence that Superman needs.

As Zod, Shannon is all fury and blazing eyes, and does make for a formidable foe. Russell Crowe is noble and portentous as Jor-El though he does get a few chances to play at hero while Kevin Coster infuses the role of Superman's human dad with a sense of golden Americana usually seen in Norman Rockwell paintings.

As for Lois Lane, Amy Adams nails the sassy, single-minded nature of the character but the relationship between her and the leading man isn't developed well enough and its climax rings false. Given how little he has to do, I would have left Laurence Fishburne's Perry White for the sequel, as his presence here seems obligatory at best.

I'm giving Man of Steel three stars but that is a very enthusiastic three stars. It's only some pretty obvious flaws in the script that keep it from being very good. But that doesn't mean this isn't a fantastic piece of entertainment, with spectacle on a scale unlikely to be matched this year. As a fresh start for the character for a new generation, it does well to whet the appetite for future instalments.


With a patchy story, thin characterisation and action that outstays its welcome, Man of Steel is often engaging and jaw-dropping despite its flaws.

NEXT ON CHANNEL24X

A Most Wanted Man

2014-10-16 23:29

Add Your Review

(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
Anthony Haahjem 6/28/2013 8:13 AM
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Nicely written review Justin.
JamesBlacksmith 6/30/2013 1:09 PM
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Movie was epic, period. Superman was made to look 'beatable' as opposed to the usual 'nothing can hurt superman... oh wait a bar of Kryptonite...' The only performance I questioned was that of Lara (Sup's mom), but then my wife reminded me the Krypotnites has some issues with emotion. Overall a brilliant movie by Zack Snyder. Fresh ideas, great concept, engrossing characters drawing real emotion. The amount of action fit the scope of the movie.
Faahim Dajee 7/1/2013 8:10 AM
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I agree James, the best Superman in my book, especially the first half of the movie and not forgetting Kevin Costner's performance brilliant performance.
Lunga 7/1/2013 10:23 AM
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Greatest film I've ever seen!!! Seen it twice already and I might go for a third time. EPIC! EPIC! EPIC!
Adiel De Villiers 7/2/2013 3:50 PM
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Loved the movie. not a lot of dialogue, but the fast fast stop, fast fast stop, pace gives it a perfect comic book feel. Henry Cavill is an incredible actor, he says more in one look than most actors during a whole movie. I would have loved a little more Lois and Clark interaction. But you assume that when he meets her in Smallville they spend some time together. There are some obvious chemistry between them. Loved all the famous faces. I feel like they could have explained the science behind what Zod was doing to the earth, how and why. But I can totally see the imagery jumping of a page from a comic book. The transition from Krypton to 33 year old Clark was too much of a jump, a little more space shots, or maybe some ocean shots could have helped with the making the time jump more obvious. The back flashes were a great way of filling in the gabs, and explaining why Clark acted the way he did, and his moral compass. With barely a voiceover it was clear the filmmakers were intent on visually telling a story. They assume that the Geek/nerd population out there will understand without spoon-feeding the audience what was happening. Great movie.
JamesBlacksmith 7/2/2013 6:09 PM
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Time to update the user review rating Justin.
Benjamin Franklin 7/3/2013 9:03 AM
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Agreed! I wanted to love this movie being a fan of the comics and the iconic superhero! The first 40 or so minutes of the movie was awesome! The scenes on Krypton were nothing short of amazing! Unfortunately the second third dragged a bit without really fleshing out the character and then the final third was like a scene out of Transformers 3. Buildings crashing was the order of the day! Initially it was amazing! Then it just got boring with more of the same. The pacing was all wrong and not enough attention was spent on the story and characters! Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner steal the show here! Wish we got to see more of Kevin Costner though! Didn't really get a sense that Clark was as attached to his earth parents! It's disappointing for this Smallville fan! Overall, a decent movie. I'm hoping that Nolan gets the director gig for the sequel so that we get a better movie. Glad to see a Superman movie that has awesome action but we also need a strong story and emotions to back it up! Sadly, these elements were lacking!
Natasya Weber van Rooi 7/5/2013 12:21 AM
Fell asleep twice during the movie. Sat up straight for the fighting scenes nea the end of the movie. I do agree, the actor seems to be the best Superman actor to date. Storyline could have been better.
Omnivore 7/8/2013 10:09 AM
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Good review. Just one note: it's Christopher Reeve, not Reeves.
Trokkie Datsun 7/8/2013 2:09 PM
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Also fell asleep during the movie. These 5 stars ratings are typical superman fanboys
Nevendran Subrayal 7/9/2013 4:14 PM
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I enjoyed the movie until they broke what Superman stands for. In the comics he never, not once does he take the life of another living being.
JamesBlacksmith 7/9/2013 9:06 PM
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So you enjoyed the movie until the 130th minute? Did you not realise Superman had to choose between the life of the guy who killed his father and the life of the innocent family? i.e. he had no choice? A movie rated 7.8 by IMDB that is currently on $600 million worldwide is given the same ranking as 'White House Down'? Please remind me to ignore N24 reviews.
Mable Jacobs 7/10/2013 8:57 AM
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Ok, I have never ever been so bored, slept through the whole movie cos my little didn't want to leave the theatre. There are so many stupid things with that movie: 1. The planet is coming to an end, yet let's preserve the criminals and send them off, let's not let die on this planet, let's send them off to safety and remain here to die. As for the shoppaholic girl being Loui Lane, please!!! A good waste of my time and money
Mario Meyer 7/11/2013 3:45 PM
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I'm a Superman fanboy and I also fell asleep twice. I love that even while I fell asleep I could still fall asleep, wake-up and picke up the storyline without much hassle.
Paul Bester 7/15/2013 1:05 PM
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Once again I have to disagree with the review. Maybe you're trying to compare it to the other Superman movies which were good for their time but were trying to attract an audience from every age group. This Superman had no bumbling henchmen and was made for a more mature audience. I loved the action as well as the "disjointed" story-line in this movie.
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