'Man of Steel' a little rusty September 21, 2013 • Patrick White
Action Comics No. 1 premiered 75 years ago and featured a colorfully dressed suave, strong man smashing a 1937 De Soto into a nearby rock. This one image gave birth to a cultural icon that has spawned thousands of comic books, television series, and six major films, including this year’s “Man of Steel.”
When looking back at the first cover with the Last Son of Krypton, people are seen running in fear of this ultimate power. One particular frightened gentleman’s emotions are reminiscent of Edward Munch’s painting “The Scream.” This theme is present throughout “Man of Steel” as humans of Earth do not understand and in many ways fear this outsider.
“Man of Steel” opens with a saturated Krypton on the verge of imminent destruction. The cinematography is breathtaking. The browning skies are spotted with spaceships and creatures not known on earth, a science fiction element that will contrast with most of the first half of the film. The main conflict is introduced as Jor-El, the ill-fated father to Kal-El, later known as Superman, faces off against a former ally, General Zod. The two exchange blows while the planet they knew so well begins to crumble beneath them. Jor-El attempts to inform the elders of the situation, but to no avail. Krypton dies.
The opening scene acts as an introduction to the overall tone and the film takes off from there introducing Clark Kent, a man who has fantastic powers. The keyword that should be focused on there is not “power” or “fantastic,” but “man.” Kent is first and foremost a man and David Goyer, screenwriter, and Zach Snyder, director, want us to understand that. The filmmaking team hope that audiences embrace the elements of Kent that are most human and show off the heroics when it is only necessary.
Snyder manages to pay homage to the original mythology of Superman while still redefining what it might be like if a “human” had powers. No film has expertly showcased a new way of viewing an individual who is burdened by special abilities. Rather than focusing on the positive nature of a superhuman transformation, this story introduces an audience more to the negatives. With the expertly written screenplay by Goyer from the story by Christopher Nolan and Goyer, Snyder had it easy adapting something so compelling as a new Superman film from the viewpoint of the young hero rather than standing in as an omnipotent narrator.
Now when Snyder’s film is good it’s very good, but unfortunately there are also moments that are bad, very bad. For example, not since Michael Bay’s “Transformers” has there been a film with such blatant product placement. Clark’s mother works at Sears, his friend at IHOP, and most baffling is a conveniently located 7-11 in small-town Kansas. Additionally, the filmmakers make some curious choices with audio that might pull you out for a moment while watching. Superman coughs uncontrollably while hurtling to the Earth because he’s near a poisonous substance and Snyder does not utilize the majesty of Hans Zimmer’s score often enough.
The film is flawed and is simply not as groundbreaking as Nolan’s masterpiece, “The Dark Knight,” but it is and will remain an entertaining piece and a bright spot for filmmaker Zach Snyder. The future can only be brighter for the one, the only, “Man of Steel.” Let’s just hope that when this “Man of Steel” meets Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader in 2015’s “Batman vs. Superman” that all the flaws are removed for an action-packed masterpiece on par with Nolan’s films.