Zack Snyder who directed 300 has directed The Man of Steel – the latest Superman saga written by Christopher Nolan. Possibly one of the best writer-directors in present day Hollywood, Nolan has given us fascinating films like Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, The Dark Knight and Inception. Given that his films are dark, edgy, cerebral and unconventional, I was keen to see his interpretation of Superman.
The film opens with the contorted face of a woman at childbirth and you know this is Superman’s mother. There is trouble in Krypton with General Zod (Michael Shannon) rebelling against the system so Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara launch their newborn son Kal-El into space in a special craft in order to protect him. Along with him goes a genetic codex, something that Zod wants to lay his hands on. Zod kills Jor-El because he refuses to hand over the codex. But Zod’s rebellion is short lived as he is punished by the council and banished to the Phantom Zone with his troops. Krypton however gets destroyed.
Infant Kal-El’s craft crashes into the fields of Kansas and he is discovered by Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) who hide the spacecraft and raise him as their son, naming him Clark. As a young boy, Clark is a recluse because he does not know how to deal with being different from the kids around him. His father advises him to keep his powers a secret because the world would not be ready to accept them. However, Clark is forced to use some of it in times of extreme distress.
Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) grows up into a wanderer who keeps a low profile. He saves a lot of lives but does not make friends. He eventually meets Lois Lane (Amy Adams), an award winning reporter from The Daily Planet. She realizes he has special powers but is not allowed to publish the story by her editor. In the mean time Zod tracks down Kal-El’s location, lands up on earth, demands that the US government hands over this ‘different’ individual or else get destroyed. Clark is handed over but of course returns to save the day.
There are some nice moments in the film. Clark’s scenes with his parents are well executed. His soul searching and identity crisis is explored well. The script has some very very smart lines that you might miss if you are not paying attention. It was interesting to explore the psyche of Clark as a child and have the ‘S’ on the body suit explained – we all thought it was S for Superman right? The image consultant in me liked Lois Lane’s attire in the film, professional without being too in your face. The performances are as competent as one needs in a film like this.
Sounds good so far right? Well not quite. The story takes an inordinately long time to establish the credentials of Jor-El, Zod and the planet of Krypton. The 20 minute fight between Zod and Kal-El at the climax could have been condensed into 5 minutes since all it contained is buildings blasting all around NYC. I would have liked to see a little bit more of Lois Lane who is thankfully easy on the eye unlike in the films of the past.
Nolan’s narrative is dark as expected and has distinct tinges of Dark Knight. So much so that you would be forgiven for mistaking NYC for Gotham City. The familiar bright blue suit with the red cape is much darker and duller keeping in with the mood of the film which has very little colour.
Man of Steel is Superman deconstructed, deglamourized and demystified. It is a bit like morphing Barbie into Lara Croft. While they both have takers, the genre is completely different. Unfortunately, the film takes away all the fun, magic and feel-good factor that the Superman series is known for. You end up feeling cheated and wonder if it would have been better to just stay home!
Parents, save some money and talk your kids out of watching this, because they will hate it.
Copyright© Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa June 2013
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