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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 15, 2013

Man Of Steel Review: Fiery Explosions And Collapsing Buildings

THE LAST “Superman” movie, “Superman Returns” in 2006 didn’t do as well as expected, which is bad since “Superman” of DC Comics started the era of superheroes in Hollywood cinema in 1978 with the late Christopher Reeve in the title role, spawning two sequels and and then their own Batman series. But since then, Marvel Comics have taken over with more hits like the “X Men” and “Iron Man” series and the congregation of their various superheroes including Thor, The Hulk, Captain America, Catwoman in “The Avengers”.

Now comes the latest Superman reboot, “Man of Steel”, with the story written by Christopher Nolan who remade Batman in the grim and gritty “Dark Knight” series, directed by Zach Snyder (who helmed such flops as “Sucker Punch” and “Watchmen” and the big hit, “300”). Once again, they make it an origin story of how Superman (he’s almost never called that in the movie) started.

It opens with their planet, Krypton, about to be destroyed and his dad Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends him, Baby Kal-El, skyrocketing into space, much to the objection of the rebellious Gen. Zod (Michael Shannon).

The movie then jumps to 30 years later. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is a brooding drifter who goes from one place and one lowly job to another. He has personal issues he wants to resolve, but we’re glad they didn’t make him as tortured or conflicted as Christian Bale in “Dark Knight” since the two are so different from each other. To begin with, Batman is human whereas Superman is... well, he’s not really from our planet.

In a series of flashbacks, we learn that he was adopted in Kansas by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, who kept the space pod where Jor-El put him, inside their barn. Early on, they know he has special gifts like extraordinary strength and x-ray vision. But the boy Clark considers his powers more of a burden and struggles with it, saving people in danger but doing it in secret.

We’re then introduced to Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter of the Daily Planet. She meets Clark while investigating a mysterious alien vessel embedded in ice, which turns out to contain Jor-El’s memories. Soon, they both meet Jor-El and, later, Gen. Zod who’s hunting down Clark. The movie becomes a hardcore action flick from here on.

The best thing about “Man of Steel” is Henry Cavill. He really fits the role perfectly. And to think he has been previously rejected in favour of Brandon Routh in “Superman Returns”, Robert Pattinson in the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series and Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. He has a very dominant screen presence but his performance lacks the jauntiness of Christopher Reeve and there’s this perennial look of a frown on his face.

This is countered by Amy Adams perky portrayal of Lois Lane, but her character is so underwritten one can’t fully sympathize with her. There’s just no truly significant interaction between her and Clark the way the joyous “Can You Read My Mind” sequence upped the romance factor in the Reeve version. Hans Zimmer’s musical score in “Man of Steel” is good but John Williams’ work in the original is definitely better with the bombastic Superman fanfare and the aforementioned love theme.

What we are treated to in “Man of Steel” are endless CGI sequences of fiery explosions, collapsing buildings and so much spectacular destruction that’s meant to entertain but actually make the movie overlong at 2 hours and 20 minutes. We wish they’ve shortened the Krypton sequences since viewers already know about Superman’s origins anyway. This new movie could have been more exciting if there were other villains other than Gen. Zod. As it is, it lacks the light moments and touches of humor of the original Superman. At one point, we even got the feeling they’re trying to project Superman as a Christ figure (they’re both in their 30s) sent by the father to save humanity from the fallen angel that is Zod.

Even the iconic costume is now rendered in darker hues: the blue is almost black and the red is like dark wine. Now that the groundwork has been laid for this origin story, we hope its sequels will be more of what viewers would want to see on an already well established superhero. Superman simply needs to lighten up. And let’s see if he’d have more romantic sparks with Lois Lane if ever they would have a sequel.