I remember walking out of the cinema in 2013 having watched “Man of Steel”, thinking, what a load of stinky garbage. And not in a “Batman & Robin” kind of way that simultaneously makes you laugh and wish you were struck by lightning, either. No, “Man of Steel” was a snooze fest. So much so, I had to constantly move around in my seat and punch myself in the face to prevent myself from falling asleep. Was it my expectations? Or did the movie literally suck more dick than Maria Ozawa throughout her illustrious career? Perhaps a little bit of both. After watching Christopher Nolan’s masterful “The Dark Knight Trilogy”, I wanted so much more from Warner Bros/DC than whatever “Man of Steel” gave me (which is nothing, btw).
A couple of days ago, I was scrolling through Netflix when I stumbled across “Man of Steel”. Since “Justice League” is hitting the big screens soon, I decided to give this shit show a second chance. Surprisingly, after the first 30 minutes or so, I was neither asleep nor mad. I was actually enjoying the heck out of the movie, paying close attention to every line of dialogue. What changed? Was it my expectations? Or did I actually miss something back when the movie first came out?
The prologue that’s set on Krypton is fantastic. Most of us are familiar with Superman’s backstory. We know that his parents, Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van sent him to earth, right before the destruction of their home planet, Krypton. But watching the tragic events unfold was engrossing. Though the prologue is short, we learn everything there is to know about Krypton and the important people who reside in it. We feel the warmth of Jor-El and Lara. We understand why it’s essential for them to save Kal-El – he’s Krypton’s first natural born in ages – and we witness Zod’s betrayal of his once-friend, Jor-El. But Zod isn’t just a soulless big bad hell-bent on taking over the world. We understand that while his methods are vile, his intentions are good – he wants to save his people, whatever the cost.
The sequences that follow, are even better. We see an adult Clark Kent saving a bunch of people on an oil rig in a BADASS sequence that will make you first pump the air and go yeaaaaahhhh bitches!! And then we see Clark destroy a redneck’s vehicle when he sexually harasses someone. The opening scenes of the movie do a good job in setting the tone. This isn’t going to be like any other Superman film you’ve seen before. This is going to be different. Darker, both literally and with its themes. Zack Snyder chose to drain most of the colour out of this film and covered each frame with a sepia filter. Yet, his visuals are gripping. Whether it’s “300”, “Man of Steel” or “Watchmen”, Zack Snyder has a way of making his movies feel like moving pages of an Alan Moore comic.
In a series of flashback sequences. We see a young Clark Kent – probably 12 years old – saving a bunch of his peers from drowning when his school bus crashes into a river. He singlehandedly lifts the bus and pushes it ashore. He should have been hailed as a hero. Except one of the moms of the kids whom he saved, interrogates Clark’s parents, asking question after question about how Clark could do what he did. Geez, how about a thank you, I will do your laundry for the rest of your life, instead? Clark is sad and confused. He asks his dad if he should have let the kids die. His dad says, “Maybe.” It’s a weird thing for Jonathan Kent to say. Jonathan Kent from the “Smallville” TV Series would have given his son a hug and said “I’m proud of you. You saved a lot of lives today, son.” But the f-life, emo undertones in “Man of Steel” keeps things fresh and adds a layer of importance as to why Superman can’t reveal his identity to the world.
I love “Man of Steel” because it’s dark, realistic (as realistic as a movie about a flying alien that shoots laser beams out of his eyes can be) and takes itself seriously. But there is a scene that is so dark, it feels ridiculous.Why did Clark Kent not save his father from the hurricane??!! The movie can be darker than my asshole, but no son would allow his father to die just to protect his identity. I get it, Kevin Costner is a badass and if he puts his hand up in a Terminator-talk-to-the-hand manner, you listen. But if you’re the invincible man known as the MAN OF STEEL, you better run into a damn hurricane to rescue your dad. Despite that one scene, the first hour of the movie goes by quick. It isn’t “fun,” but it sure as hell is engaging.
And then the second hour of the movie kicked in and I remembered why I left the cinema feeling disappointed, 4 years ago. Roger Ebert once said, “It’s kind of a letdown when a movie begins by redefining the nature of reality, and ends with a shoot-out.” He was referring to “The Matrix.” It sucks, even more, when a movie begins by selling you the importance of being the first natural born on Krypton in ages, only to have the final one hour of the film be a Michael Bay ejaculation. It’s lazy storytelling.
I know, I sound like a hypocritical, pompous clown for bashing on a movie for having a one-hour long action sequence, when I frequently refer to “Mad Max: Fury Road” as a cinematic masterpiece. Here’s the difference. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a 2-hour long car chase that tells so many stories throughout. It’s poetic and surprisingly feminist. It’s a metaphor for monarchy and religion. It’s a beautiful display of practical effects. Every action set piece is memorable. Mental dudes spray paint their mouths silver and go apeshit. There are grandma mat rempits with shotguns. And while the craziness ensures, THERE IS A DISFIGURED GUY WITH A FLAMETHROWER GUITAR RIDING A TRUCK FULL OF GIGANTIC AMPLIFIERS. Does “Man of Steel” have a disfigured guy with a flamethrower guitar riding a truck full of gigantic amplifiers? No. “Man of Steel” has buildings falling down and dust. Loads and loads of dust. Grey dust. In large quantities.
Why take this route when the movie was just getting interesting? Superman has an interesting conversation with his dead biological dad, gets his suit and learns how to fly in 3 seconds? How about exploring that a little more? Clark has an interesting conversation with his pastor. The pastor looks shaken but does his best to maintain composure when Clark tells him that he’s the ET Zod is looking for. Also, lasts about 5 seconds. Instead of crumbling buildings, we could have gotten to know the Kent family a little better. Perhaps with a little bit more backstory, Clark sacrificing his dad to a hurricane would’ve made more sense.
We could’ve gotten to know Lois Lane a little more. She’s a journalist after all. You have one of the best actresses working today in Amy Adams, and her character is a damsel in distress? God dammit, I would have much rather seen Clark play fetch with his pet dog than watch mindless, substance-less, meaningless action sequences take place for an hour. It’s not even cool action sequences either. You can play with your phone, make toast, eat toast, take a shit and you’ll still not miss anything. I don’t get it. Oh wait, I do. It’s Zack freaking Snyder and F the story is his motto.
The climax only gets interesting again when Superman is choking Zod. You can see the pain in his eyes. He does not want to kill Zod, but realizes he has no choice. When he eventually snaps Zod’s neck, he lets out a scream of agony. It is a brilliant piece of acting by Henry Cavill.
“Man of Steel” is an interesting movie. It is in more ways than one, like “Batman V Superman” – the ultimate cut, not the theatrical edition. It starts off great. The first one hour is something I can watch again and again. The second hour will make you not want to see another Zack Snyder movie again.