Review: Man of Steel (2013)

man of steel

I’m a man of an aging body, so far removed from steel I be!

Screenplay By: David S. Goyer
Directed By: Zack Snyder

I’m fine being alone, or at least in the minority, when it comes to Man of Steel. This is the second time I have watched 2013’s reboot of the Superman franchise, and it was even sweeter this time around. I ended up focusing on a lot of the little things that surrounded the main motif of the film, making a choice. This viewing I noticed the nod to Wayne Enterprises, and LexCorp, to name just a few of the small details within the film. Call these small details fan service if you want, but I think they help to make the universe of the film feel fuller than it would have otherwise.

Ultimately Zack Snyder’s film is about the larger aspects of humanity. The mistakes our society has made, and continues to make, as well the way the world revolves around our choices. Actually, the film is mostly about choices and how every choice we make has a great impact. In that way Man of Steel uses its large scope to circle back around and become intimate again. It’s not the destruction of a city that is large, rather it’s the choices made that led to that destruction that loom large.

After I first watched Man of Steel I entered into a couple of arguments about the film. One dealt with whether it was fair to make a case for any film being about the choices we make since ostensibly all films are about choices. The other argument dealt with the destruction that takes up most of the final act of the film. In both cases I was, again, in the minority, but that’s a position I feel is completely justified after seeing the film a second time.

When it comes to the issue of choices, this is, I believe, Man of Steel’s master stroke. It is true that all films have characters making choices, but having a choice being made in a film is not the same as having a film be about the choices we make. Man of Steel is about the choices that the characters make, so much so that the narrative is crafted around the choices being made. Zod makes a choice to go beyond his mandate, just as Jor-El makes a similar choice. Superman makes the choice to hide who he is, to keep his destiny at bay for as long as he can. The narrative is built around characters making choices to the tune of each scene beginning or ending based on a choice a character has to make. This, to me, is much different than having a film about death where characters make certain choices at certain times that relate to the theme of death. In Man of Steel the theme is that of choice.

The destruction that takes up the final act was a much discussed aspect of Man of Steel when the film was in theaters. I believe the destruction was warranted, and justified by the story. The first bit of destruction we see is brought about because Clark Kent has made a decision based out of anger. After that the destruction results from Clark trying to make rational decisions for the greater good and consistently being forced into situations where destruction occurs. There shouldn’t be a problem with the fact that destruction and death occurred, rather people should be impressed that Superman was able to in the end make the tough choice and kill to end the destruction.

I realize that Mr. Snyder isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he most certainly is mine. Man of Steel is yet another film from him that I consider to be the best of mainstream fare. While someone like Christopher Nolan is busy offering up horrid action scenes, lifeless characters, misogynistic takes on women, and showing a complete inability to understand humanity Zack Snyder has, not so quietly, shown time in and time out how a Hollywood big production should be made. Man of Steel isn’t without fault, it’s most certainly lacking in the romance department and it ends on a complete clunker of a joke. On the whole though, Man of Steel is a great work of popular art, a mainstream film that people should be happy to hang their capes on.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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5 responses to “Review: Man of Steel (2013)

  1. I don’t have a problem with the destruction as a whole being part of the movie. What bugs me is the use of blatant 9/11 imagery (people running from smoke and similar moments) that feels cheap. There’s little sense that Snyder cares about any of these deaths and is just using them for the spectacle. I didn’t hate Man of Steel, though, and do feel there are intriguing themes being covered. It just didn’t come together for me on the whole. It’s similar to Watchmen, which has great moments and sequences yet never pulled itself together into something complete.

  2. Watchmen is probably my favorite comic book movie all time, or at least the best. Personally I don’t see the 9/11 imagery. It may be there for you, and for others, but I don’t think that’s what Snyder was aiming for or what the finalized film produces.

  3. It’s hard to say for sure, but there are a few shots that felt really familiar from the 9/11 footage. Still, I can’t argue with your interpretation. I will say that it didn’t take me out of the movie as much as the ending of Star Trek into Darkness.

  4. Good review Bill. Starts off so fine and moody, but eventually just gets too hectic and insane for its own good. Especially given the fact that it’s only the first installment of this franchise, and already, we are getting major character-deaths that aren’t just disturbing, but very unexpected and sad. But not in a good way, either.

  5. Dan Heaton – Haven’t seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet, will probably get to it at some point though.

    Dan O’Neill – None of the deaths that do happen felt wrong to me. I thought they were earned, and that those characters had served their purpose.

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