“Goodbye my son. Our hopes and dreams travel with you”
There’s one plus point when it comes to preparing for ‘Batman v Superman’: there’s only one film to watch: ‘Man of Steel.’ It was a film I disliked a lot when I saw it at the cinema. I found it dull and repetitive. The last hour was an endurance test, of both my ears (the cinema sound level was eardrum bursting! My fiancée had to cover her ears!) and my patience. It was climactic fight after climatic fight, building after building falling in tiresome order. My second viewing found me disliking it a little bit less…but not much so!The opening on Krypton is very well done. It’s a version of Krypton that we haven’t seen on the big screen before, and although there are bits and pieces influenced by modern cinema (The Matrix baby pods, for example), there’s enough originality to set Krypton apart. Where it all falls apart is when the explosions happen and the noise begins. The prologue on Krypton suffers from what almost every other blockbuster of the modern age suffers from: overkill. Directors think they can plaster everything on the screen that comes to mind because of the great power of CGI. Like a lot of things in ‘Man of Steel,’ the prologue outstays its welcome and has the potential to make your ears bleed.
“One day they will join you in the sun…”
Director Zack Snyder and co decided that a ‘Batman Begins’-esque flashback structure and gritty feel would suit ‘Man of Steel.’ Of course, no one really wanted a gritty reboot of Superman, but that’s the reboot we were given anyway. Superman is supposed to be the all-American hero, full of hope and enthusiasm! We are told that the ‘S’ symbol on Superman’s costume stands for hope. But there’s barely a glimmer of hope in this film among the earnestness and darkness. The grit and realism of ‘Batman Begins’ is forced upon this new Superman and it just doesn’t fit.
Let’s start with something simple: Clark Kent’s earth-dad, Jonathan Kent. Jonathan reprimands young Clark for saving a bus-load of school kids. “What was I supposed to do? Let ‘em die?” Clarks asks his adoptive father. “Maybe,” Jonathan responds. Clark’s secret identity is too important to let the wider world know about it. Jonathan contends that the people will fear him. However, later on in the film, Jonathan runs into a tornado to save a dog, in front of his son. He even puts his hand up to stop Clark from saving him from the wrath of the tornado. Okay, Jonathan said that Clark shouldn’t save anybody…but he risked his life to save the family dog? Mixed messages or what?
“You are weak, unsure of yourself”
The flashback set-up is reasonably affective, but it repeats information over and over again, rather than giving us something new each time. It also hinders the pace and hurts the structure of the film. Not only that, but the script doesn’t do the characters (especially Clark Kent and Zod) justice. We rarely feel the conflict within Clark Kent, even after the consciousness of his alien-dad tells him to embrace the hero within. There should have been a struggle within Clark between the two philosophies of his two fathers. Instead, he simply embraces Jor-El’s words, straps on the suit (which comes from…where, exactly?) and flies off. There’s no build up, no feeling that flight is a monumental step for Clark Kent.
Shortly after that, the ‘smash smash bang bang’ begins. It’s loud, intrusive, overwhelming (not in a positive way), and mind-numbing. Superman fights in a handicap match, where he destroys/allows to be destroyed his home town of Smallville. There’s a few attempts to embrace his alien-dad’s words and save people, but most of the time he’s just hurling the bad guys through buildings and causing explosions. That’s a climactic scene in itself, but there’s another climactic scene involving a terraforming machine that induces deafness (that was the point at the cinema where my fiancée covered her ears). After Superman stops that, there’s yet another climactic fight between him and Zod, where they destroy most of Metropolis. It’s exhausting and repetitive.
Neo fights Agent Smith…I mean, Superman fights Zod…
“I just think he’s kind of hot”
There are many more flaws within ‘Man Of Steel,’ not least the pseudo-science that makes of joke out of the film’s supposed ‘realistic’ portrayal of Superman. But I think the aforementioned ones are the most important. I understand that Superman vs Zod is a battle of gods, but at least try something different from the typical city-destroying final battle! There’s an uneven pace and structure to proceedings, due to the flashback nature of the first half of the film and the ‘constant climax’ nature of the second half of the film. There’s promise within, with flourishes of inspiring script and tantalising glimpses at what could have been. I found the first half of the film less boring than I found during my initial viewing, but it’s still confused and misguided. It’s an example of a reboot made gritty for no other reason than a gritty reboot being the norm. Where’s the hope, Superman?
VERDICT: 4/10. There’s just enough promise in ‘Man of Steel’ to stop it from being a great failure. But it’s a misguided attempt to give Superman a gritty reboot full of boring scenes of destruction that never seem to end.