Man of Steel... we sort of believe a man can fly...
Man of Steel is here. What do I think of the film? Well there is a long answer... and a short answer. I'll give you the short answer first. It's pretty well, okay. It doesn't fail utterly, it does get more right than it gets wrong, but not by much. Directed by Zach Snyder from a story by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan, it feels like a movie that bit off a bit more then it could chew.
Russel Crowe gives an Oscar worthy performance as he breathes real life into Jor-El and easily steels every scene he's in. Michael Shannon's Zod is a villain to fear and a genuine threat to our hero and all of humanity and Antje Traue's Faora-Ul is just as threatening and scary to watch. Amy Adams' Lois Lane has the flair and spunk we expect from the character but still manages to give us something more than a damsel in distress. Dian Lane and Kevin Costner are excellent as Ma and Pa Kent. With all these actors getting such well rounded characters, sadly, our titular hero played by Henry Cavill doesn't fully come to life the way he should. It's not his performance per se, but rather the breakneck pace the film barrels through. We are given incredible glimpses at what events in the life of Clark Kent make him the man he is, but they don't have room enough to breathe and resonate. Henry looks and acts every bit Superman, there just isn't enough soul to make us root for the man or the hero. It's almost as if this film tries too hard to be Nolan's own Batman Begins and The Dark Knight films rolled into one movie, when a slowed down, more nuanced approach would have fit this particular character. It's ambitious, it's beautiful to look at, but it is at times both exciting and bothersome all at once. It's not a complete failure, but its also not the rousing success I wanted it to be. Watch the trailer and read on for a more specific review.
If you were to keep all of the scenes from this trailer, but cut the run time in half, you have a good idea of what the total film of Man of Steel feels like. In screenwriter language, each written page equals about one minute of screen time. Each scene in this film feel like they need five pages, but were only given three. A recent interview Zach Snyder gave to Collider's Steve Weintraub bares this out. Apparently his first cut of the movie ran nearly 3 hours and was cut down to 2 hours and 20 minutes, without removing any scenes, only paring them down. This comes at a great cost to character development and the overall excitement of the movie. Grand ideas and themes, and life lessons to live by are introduced, but are casually let go far too soon to resonate to the moment at hand. This is in part due to the non linear editing in the vein of Batman Begins. In very many ways the two films are similar when the best course probably should have been to tell a more straightforward film. After all; Superman is not Batman. We leap from the thrilling, exciting, and moving opening scenes on Krypton and are then flung forward 33 years in time to earth with a fully grown Clark Kent on a fishing trawler who then saves a bunch of people on a burning oil rig, then we're shot back to when he's 12 years old in school having a difficult time controlling his powers- all in a span of the first half hour or so. You get story whiplash. Just when you're beginning to empathize with our hero, the audience is jarringly tossed away to focus on something completely different without the time to digest what we just saw.
When the action comes, it comes hard, fast, and violently. Because character time was sacrificed, it makes it hard to care. And when the real destruction begins, first in Smallville and then in Metropolis, it never lets up. The amount of buildings being destroyed and therefor the implied human collateral damage is off the charts. There is so much destruction you stop being thrilled by it and eventually you become numb. If there was a place to make cuts for a run time, it should have been during these action beats and not during the character building drama. My one hope for this film, much like Zach Snyder's own Watchmen adaptation is that this one gets a full on extended/Director's cut. It needs the full 3 hours to work. This is a movie you want to love each and every scene, because they do have a purpose but they just aren't given the space they need to help the audience care. You want to enjoy and be excited by every action sequence, but when the characters involved have been reduced to mere cutouts of their potential, it's hard for your heart to start beating faster when their lives are in danger.
On a technical level it's a gorgeous film to look at. Every shot is beautiful, even the chaotic action sequences. This isn't the Chris Reeve Superman. When this Superman flies, it's fast, it's violent, it's a force that can't be controlled. The effects are top shelf. CGI creations including Zod's armor are incredible visual splendors that are to be commended. Hans Zimmer's score stands as one of the composers most beautiful and original creations in some time and holds it's own against the legendary John Williams score for Superman:The Movie. If you're wondering if it's worth the extra cost of seeing in 3D, my response is yes. I didn't see it on a large format screen, but I felt the smaller theater I saw it at helped the presentation by not being so huge you couldn't take it all in. For a post converted 3D effort it works fairly well offering depth when and where needed most and isn't an eye gouging affair. If you like 3D, it's worth the extra couple bucks, if for nothing else than the Man of Steel 3D glasses you get!
In the end...
While not perfect, it isn't terrible either. I think it largely depends on what your relationship with Superman on film has been over the years. If you've been tired of Superman being too emotional and not throwing enough punches into bad guys, then you'll be more than satisfied. If you're looking for a more somber character study of what it means to essentially be a living god, then you're probably going to be disappointed, at least with this shorter choppier cut of the film. That said, I left the theater not fist pumping the air, but nodding my head as if to say, I get what the film makers were working for, I appreciate the effort, but it didn't quite go the distance. It did make me excited and hopeful for the next installment. And, taking from one of the best scenes in the movie... that's what the "S" is, a symbol for hope. I have hope for this new franchise and that's what counts most.
On a 10 point scale, it's a 6.5/10 - Not perfect, but not terrible. Worth the time and money to see in the theater.