With a dream-team behind it, Man of Steel should have been a game-changing film but, as Wael Khairy discovers, it's lacking everything that made Superman so special...
A man walks amongst us, lost, confused and absent minded. The misfit drifts from one day-job to another in search for his place in this world. The more he searches, the less purpose he finds in life. He thinks of himself as a freak, different, misplaced, and cursed. Each time he uses the very thing that distinguishes him from the rest, he is left with no choice but to leave and drift elsewhere. The day he finds out who he is and where he came from, he walks over to his guardian and smiles. He looks genuinely happy; he knows why he’s here.
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel was perhaps the most anticipated movie of the year. It had all the workings of a great success. Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) acted as “godfather” to the project, Zach Snyder (Watchmen) directed the film, and David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight, Dark City) is the man who put it all down on paper. Conceptually speaking, this is a dream team that would (and probably did) keep geeks up many nights. Having seen the film, I can honestly say, they did a great job at doing what they were trying to do, but the question is, did it need doing?
Man of Steel is a Superman film that begs to be taken seriously. Here’s a Superman film that has depth in its themes. It is filled with religious undertones and philosophical themes about the nature of human beings, but somehow it didn’t feel natural. For some reason, the very things that worked miracles for Nolan in the Dark Knight trilogy ultimately fail here.
Superman is portrayed as a Christ-like figure and that’s OK, but it did feel kind of forced on the viewer. Notice how his father says that he’ll be a God to humans. We then see Clarke Kent with a messy beard looking like Jesus. A few scenes into the movie, Superman walks into a church and even takes advice from a priest. The first thing he does after he walks out is, yup - you guessed it, sacrifice himself for the sake of human beings. It was obvious enough at that, but it went a tad too far when we see a shot of Superman floating above Earth in a crucifixion pose before going to save the day. OK, WE GET IT ALREADY! Superman is a metaphor for Jesus!
On the contrary, the motives behind Gerneral Zod’s actions are quite thought provoking. Much of what he does makes a lot of sense, and although he’s a menacing force, his incentives speak volumes about who we are as human beings. Would humans have acted any differently in his situation? Is what he’s doing all that strange to us? Think about it: he’s doing everything he can to guarantee the survival of his species. It’s a typical case of survival of the fittest. Even his method isn’t all that different from how human beings have acted in the past. He uses advanced weapons to take over a land inhabited by less advanced beings, much like what white settlers did when they massacred millions of Native Americans for their land.
The film puts our superhero in today’s world. The mise-en-scene has been handled in a way to have all the tools of filmmaking directed towards realism. The art direction is filled with a grainy effect, the music is dark and brooding, the cinematography is mostly handheld, and the acting feels true to life. While the film tries so hard to be taken seriously, it forgot to be everything a Superman film should be: fun.
Yes, Hans Zimmer’s score was thrilling and the man basically orchestrated my level of excitement at every given point, and yeah, Henry Cavill does a great job of developing the character during the first half of the film. Like I said, Man of Steel is a rich film, but then again, it’s just not Superman. The funny thing is, I now understand why Bond fans disagreed with me when I called Skyfall the greatest Bond film ever made. I stand corrected; it is a great film but a great Bond film it is not.
I found myself missing the very things the makers tried to sidestep. I miss the charm behind Christopher Reeves’s take on Superman, the humor in Gene Hackman’s portrayal of the villain, I miss the iconic John Williams musical score, and, damn it, I miss Superman flying over New York with Lois Lane by his side. Don’t get me wrong, Man of Steel falls short of greatness by venturing away from the film’s lighthearted, magical roots. Heck, at the end, they make Superman commit an act that goes against everything he stands for. Superman: The Movie remains the quintessential Superman film, and while Man of Steel is a relatively good film with great moments, it’s just not…well…Superman: The Movie.