Unbox Rating: 4/5
The most anticipated film of the year zoomed in Philippine cinemas last June 12 with soaring record breaking numbers. In a day, it was able to rack up almost 70Million Pesos, a couple of millions past Iron Man 3. A great feat considering this is a rebooted franchise. An impressive cast and a master of visuals such as director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) helped create one of the best movie iteration of the most iconic superhero of our time. This is the Superman movie that we’ve all been waiting for.
A step in the right direction, Zack Snyder along with writer David Goyer (Dark Knight Trilogy) and Producer Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception, Dark Knight Trilogy) grounds the Superman story in what can be a holistic DC Cinematic Universe (or to purist, Nolan-verse). With the penchant of taking liberties with the source material you would probably enjoy this film if you come in removing everything you know of the Superman lore and strip him down to the basics: last son of Krypton is sent to Earth to take refuge and in his time here he starts showing latent super powers and abilities.
Clark (Henry Cavill) grew up different from all other people; he has tremendous strength, near invulnerability and heightened senses exhibiting things that are out of this world. That’s because he is. Unknown to him yet he is Kal El, the last son of Krypton, a mighty race from across the stars. His father Jor El (Russell Crowe) and Mother Lara (Ayelet Zurer) spirited him away from their doomed and dying planet. Landing on Earth, the pod reached Smallville farmers Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent. The Kents raised Clark, his Earthly name, as one of their own, ever protective of his real identity in fear that the human race will rise against him. In the quest to learn of his parentage, Clark briefly crosses path with Lois Lane, a Pulitzer-Prized reporter from the Daily Planet, somewhere in the Arctic region. Clark finds an abandoned Kryptonian scout ship buried deep in the ice. Activating the ship via a key code that was hidden in a pod that brought him to Earth, Clark learns the truth about his race, his family and the tragedy that beset them. He also inadvertently pings a signal to General Zod (Michael Shannon), a military leader who laid a coup during Krypton’s last days and is an adversary to Jor El. This brings Zod and his small team of Kryptonians to Earth to first capture Clark/Kal and then proceed to lay all of humanity to waste and establish a new Krypton on Earth. The choice has to be made by the last son of Krypton whether to fight for his race or for the planet that has adopted him.
Man of Steel offers a fresh new perspective into the Superman lore and presents it in a way that can resonate well with today’s audience. If you strip the movie down, what makes this iteration unique is the conscious effort by the producers, writers and director to instill a tenderness that hasn’t been seen in a comic-book superhero movie. This tenderness lends to the humanity of Clark as we’re shown issues that he faced and struggled growing up in a world that’s not his own.
What most people hated (or at least detested) are the various canon inconsistencies that the producer, director and script writer either ignored or simply changed to fit the movie rhythm. Oddly enough these are scenes which I not only let slide but welcome whole-heartedly. There are two crucial moments in the film where the movie either makes or breaks it for you. One part involving Jonathan Kent and the other involving Zod (end part). Some people would argue that these scenes were included just to give this iteration of Superman a scarred experience and is a self-serving mechanism that’s riddled with sloppy writing and total disregard of Superman’s core identity in the comics.
I submit a different view point: something which the whole movie has been actually driving at. Look at it from the lens of humanity. While otherworldly and almost god-like, Man of Steel’s Superman is very much flawed like any other human being. He may be physically superior but he can’t escape something we humans have to deal with every day namely choice and human error.
Was it poor judgment on Jonathan Kent’s part during that particular harrowing scene? Maybe. But you know where he’s coming from. And was it poor judgment on Clark/Kal with regards to Zod? Maybe. But again, this makes the movie much more enjoyable because this particular version of Superman isn’t as clear-cut as the previous iterations.
As an origin story, I like the fact that this Superman isn’t refined yet. Fiora-Ul (Antje Traue) pointed this out during their superbly eye-candy fight scene as well as Zod when he taunts Kal El of his training. And it’s not just the fighting style that’s rough around the edges, it’s the choices that he makes which makes him all too human. His utter disregard for collateral damage, for one, is an example. This, however, doesn’t necessarily translate for his utter disregard for life as hinted (rather poorly) in certain scenes. As humans we are further defined by our experiences, and I’m excited to see how Clark/Kal will be defined in future movies through his actions in Man of Steel.
Despite the huge action set-piece (which are freakishly amazing!!!) that’s assured by having Zack Snyder at the helm, it is the tender moments between Clark and his family (regardless if they are adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent or Jor El’s consciousness) that truly shines throughout the film. This is subtly amplified by Hans Zimmer’s poignant score in what can be one of his best compositions. It’s hard to make a modern Superman score without it being too all over the place. John William’s majestic fanfare theme will always have a special place in all our hearts but it takes a certain genius to tap into the essence of the film, the essence of the lore and create something of his own. Hans Zimmer knows exactly when to pull back and let a lowly piano sweep the scene or to raise the entire orchestra and add a zing of electric guitar riffs to create a backdrop for one of cinema’s massive fight scenes.
All in all, Man of Steel brought everything in to make this Superman reboot truly epic. The scope and magnitude alone of the set-pieces were pretty spectacular. And I haven’t mentioned when Superman and Zod decimated a part of Metropolis to ashes. The opening scene at Krypton already gives you the massiveness that demands of the film and the guys at WB did not disappoint.
Whether you agree to the arguments above or not, we can all agree that Man of Steel opens up the possibility of a shared Cinematic Universe for DC comics and that, in itself, is a super feat on its own.
Man of Steel is on its 2nd week in theaters nationwide.
Man of Steel also stars Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White, Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton and Harry Lennix as General Swanwick.
Credit for “Isn’t Perry White” joke to our friend, Peter Juan. Thanks Pete