Saturday 15 June 2013

Man Of Steel (2013) - Zack Snyder

I've never liked Superman as a character.  Where's the interest in someone who has no human flaw, someone who (besides some alien substance) is practically invincible?  With Man Of Steel, Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan are attempting to tell a more human story, to provide a hero that we can relate to.

And yet, in the opening sequence we are thrown headlong into the alien world of Krypton.  As the planet is on the verge of imploding, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is attacked by the usurper General Zod (Michael Shannon).  In the midst of the planetary crisis, Jor-El sends his newborn son, Kal-El, to Earth as the saviour of his people.  Snyder introduces us to his dizzying camerawork and CGI effects, but with little to no backstory it's difficult to care for these aliens.

In a jarring shift of tone, we then meet the adult Kal-El (now known as Clark Kent) on Earth.  Here Snyder seeks to offer a gritty, realistic vision of the superhero that's worlds away from his comic book origins.  This is the story of a man trying to find his true place in the world, yet any attempts at showing humanity are undermined by the alien mumbo jumbo and clichéd, cheesy script.

Of course, Superman's place in the world is as a symbol of America - it's no accident that his suit is blue and red.  "What will it take for America to trust me?" he asks towards the end of the film.  The answer is religion.  Man Of Steel is littered with Christian overtones and iconography: from his seeking guidance from a priest, to his Christ-like willing sacrifice for the human race. At one point, he even hovers from a spacecraft over the Earth in a crucifix pose.  As a result, the film descends into typical 'America will save the world' drivel.  The imagery of a destroyed Metropolis, especially, will not be lost on New Yorkers.

Moreover, Man Of Steel offers no character development.  Henry Cavill certainly has the chiseled jaw and steely blue eyes of the hero but the script gives his character nowhere to go beyond posing and punching.  Amy Adams' Lois Lane begins as a feisty, strident reporter competing in a male dominated society, yet she falls for Superman's charms too easily and quickly becomes a simple damsel in distress.  And Shannon's General Zod is just a one-dimensional villain with some laughable one-liners.

It's with the incredible special effects that Man Of Steel succeeds.  Super powers, alien technology and anti-gravity weaponry are well rendered, whilst the intense close-ups and zooms provide a visceral experience where you really feel the force and impact of each blow.  That said, for someone who is out to save humanity, Superman doesn't half destroy a lot in the process.

Man Of Steel is an enjoyable film, but Snyder doesn't succeed in his vision of a relatable, human hero.  For all its blockbuster entertainment value, the film is inherently flawed - you can't make a human story about an alien.


Watch: Man Of Steel is in cinemas now.