A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Produced By: Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas, Deborah Snyder
Written By: David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe
Running Time: 143 Minutes
The greatest titan in the history of comic book and greater pop culture history, Superman is the quintessential embodiment of American iconography and idealism. A beacon of hope, a savour and protector from evil, the red-caped gladiator is a living, breathing contemporary Jesus Christ.
When observing the character and what makes him such an important, revered and iconic figure in our world, hope is precisely what he stands for and represents. Above all else, Superman injects hope into our world, inspiring us as we gaze into the skies, awestruck with a pulsating feeling of security.
So where did it all go wrong for Zack Snyder and his bleak, lifeless and grim interpretation of the classic hero?
Much has been said about the divisive Man Of Steel, with it’s bold depiction of a naturally (perhaps divinely) conceived child sent away from a crumbling civilisation to bring hope and salvation to a world in need, to it’s utterly ridiculous final act which shall be touched on soon enough.
Structurally, the origin story aspects of the film are not the problem. The flashbacks offer a refreshingly grounded, melancholic look into the adaption process young Clark Kent, (formally Kal-El), lives through in his formative years.
Shot beautifully with a preciseness and elegance to the composition of each frame, the flashback sequences are able to achieve what few origin stories can; a connection and deep understanding for the character.
Unfortunately, artistic flashbacks are not what people walk in to a Superman picture to see, there’s a lot more to explore.
Where the film falls flat is with the Kryptonian world and the believability of it all.
Bizarre, glossy and far too artificial to become enveloped in, the opening portion of the film sets up the circumstances and contextualises the narrative well enough, however the world they have chosen to create belongs in another era, perhaps one where Marlon Brando’s talking head floats through outer space. Moreover, the councils, creatures and excessively fast paced nature of the scenes set on Krypton do not allow for any breathing room or development of the chaotic alien world.
The saving grace for these scenes and the film at large are the performances of Michael Shannon as the vicious General Zod and Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Kal’s father, however there isn’t much they can do to salvage anything substantial in the grand scheme of things.
Physically, Henry Cavill as Superman is a satisfying fit, especially in a contemporary sense. There isn’t anything wrong with his look or performance, except for when he is requird to speak.
Thankfully, the screenplay doesn’t ask too much of the Brit and instead lets the visuals do the talking, however this is not an indictment of Cavill’s acting, more the jumbled, scattered storytelling abilities of director Zack Snyder.
With a peppering of intelligent, meaningful lines throughout the film, the majority of conversing consists of wooden, fractured delivery of awkward and forced dialogue.
Now, where the credibility and quality of the film miserably plummets into irreparable ridiculousness. The battle between Zod and Superman is perfectly fine, for the better part of seven seconds that is…
There is a moment where Zod is temporarily incapacitated and Superman enlightens him on the atmospherical differences of Krypton and Earth and how it takes years to adapt and harness your focus.
The events following this singular moment of cleverness and potential exploration of a critical weakness amount to nothing more than an hour of sheer destruction and mindless bombardment of stimulation in all the wrong ways.
Not only are aircrafts destroyed, not only are houses caved in, not only are landscapes swept away, but cities, outer regions, even small countries (by the looks of it) are totally obliterated.
Now serving as the catalyst for the forthcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the sheer stupidity of having ramifications of this magnitude with Superman at the centre of it all completely tarnishes everything the character represents.
Antagonising The Man Of Steel is an interesting route to choose, however the execution of Snyder’s vision completely misses the mark.
The beacon of hope destroying shops, stations, skyscrapers and cities without batting an eyelid goes against the character’s traditional framework in almost every possible way, even if his intentions were solely focused on the protection of the planet.
Lastly, the deliberately desaturated colour grade of the film sucks out every fibre, every glimmer, every iota of hope the already-joyless picture possessed to begin with.
This is not the Superman we know and love, those stylistic choices belong in Gotham City.
Zack Snyder is able to capture some truly beautiful, masterful and poetic images in his films, but he’s a poor storyteller who doesn’t explore characters.
This ultimately defines him a style-over-substance director, and when you’re in the spotlight with a picture as gargantuan as Man Of Steel, once the hype wears off, people begin to see the product for what it truly is – a messy, unfaithful, bleak and hopeless incarnation of the greatest superhero to grace our universe with a flat, under-explored and weak narrative barely holding it together.