Man of Steel (2013)

While i know this caped crusader (in red) since i was a kid, my knowledge is limited on his name, his love interest name, and his weakness. I remember him as a figure who works as a journalist with thick glasses and wore his costume under his tweed jacket (somehow writing this made me wonder where he hid the flowy red cape…and this in turn made me think of Iron Man’s quip on Thor’s cape). So yeah, my knowledge is next to zero, unless you wanna count several early episode of Smallville as a viable knowledge source (or was there another TV show as well? I can’t be sure).

Anyway, not like it would matter, knowing Nolan works on the story for this one, i’m sure he created some kind of alter reality anyway. This is a tale of comicbook superhero after all. (oh yeah, contains major spoiler, TL;DR post, erratic thoughts ahead, etc..)

Planet Krypton is on the verge of dying and under a military vendetta by its own military general, Zod (Michael Shannon). To ensure the safety of their child, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife sent Kal-el away for his safety and assuring his future. Kal-el aka Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) ended up on planet Earth, under the care of a loving parents, Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), growing up in a cornfield of Smallville, Texas. As an adult, Clark constantly on the move, trying to discover his past and his origin. Which brought him and Pulitzer-winning journalist, Lois Lane (Amy Adams). When Zod came to Earth with a vengeance and his army, he threatens, ‘give him Kal-el’ or face an absolute annihilation.

The opening sequence set in Krypton where people dress like one of the region of Game of Thrones crossed with alienesque structure a la H.R Giger (only slightly less industrial and more organic). The entire sequence feels rather odd, it can easily be eliminated without loosing much logic (since it will be mentioned and be clarafied again much later in the film). What interest me so from the things i learned about the planet is how the society is classified into different castes or rather hierarchal classes based on what they are born for. Apparently, the children in the planet is not conceived through natural birth, but instead from some kind of bulbous thingy that predetermined their social roles. For example Jor-El is a scientist while Zod is a military. One of Jor-El and his wife intent in conceiving Kal-El naturally is so he wouldn’t be predetermined, instead he can choose what he wanted to do and what he wanted to be. So Jor-El basically given Kal-El his freedom as a being.

What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?”–Jor-El (Man of Steel, 2013)

So of course these predestined life course that applies to Kryptonians also apply to Zod. Like in the movie’s climatic one-on-one battle with Kal-El, he delivers his frustration in a emotionally charged line. I did not remember the exact quote, but i remember it was expressing his despair and being lost without his planet. Zod, being born a warrior he has specific guidelines embeded in him since his birth, kind of like “I am a warrior, therefore i fight for my people, without my people i have nothing to fight for”

Zod: No matter how violent, every action I take is for the greater good of my people.

So in that moment, i actually symphatize with Zod character. His decision, his coursed of actions are something he did because he was wired that way. It is a part of the life purpose he was born with. Michael Shannon as Zod deliver an emotionally charged performance. This is to be expected though, since he’s always good in roles of ambiguous antagonist. The other antagonist that stood out was the cold and cool looking Antje Traue as Faora-Ul, Zod’s second in command. She is distant and emotionally removed, her movements has this fluid yet almost robot-like efficiency, maybe its the CGI? I actually like the hand-on-hand combat that she involved in has this almost arcade-fighting game quality. There were moments of pauses interspersed with accelerated speeds. It looks different and i think Kryptonian does fight different on earth.
(PS: The battle armor of Kryptonian warriors reminds me of something like Prometheus-Alien aesthetic (someting Giger-esque), i was intrigued by the story behind it, i havent found any production notes or article about them though, because the transparent breathing mask with upper body strap-on is interesting!)

While We’re still on the subject of Kryptonian i think i wanted to address some of the problem i had with the movies. For one, the battle a.k.a the CGI mess that must’ve took a better part of the budget of the film. I honestly don’t mind Superheroes Movies with battles and gimmicky action sequence (a proud Avengers fan here). But the action sequence i found in the film was so lengthy and become tiresome, instead of exhilarating i found them exhausting. The battle scene made the flaw of the camera work become more noticeable for me. The pictures that has this grainy quality to it works well with other scene and brought the film a grounded, realism quality. But in the battle scene it become harder to follow the rapid movement sequence. Watching the movie in 3D probably did not help as it’s a post-production conversion, so it did not have the manipulative space quality of a 3D film anyways. Secondly, one of the reason of Zod attacking earth is for a codex that supposedly help to resurrect their species, yet i found that this plot point to be ignored, I did not even realize it’s lack of significance until after the had movie ended.. So this basically these more action-y part of the movie is the part that annoys me. I just feel the explosions and annihilation is just a way to show how big a blockbuster this movie can be, please let Michael Bay and his Transformers franchise do that instead. I feel obligated to point out the sound design that came from the genius that is Hans Zimmer, especially during the gravity drill scene, that sound actually amplified the intensity and capture the epic moment of the scene.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane is refreshing for me! She’s not your usual human counterpart in the superheroes romance, she does not put herself in the constant damsel in distress situation (let’s not dwell on Clark caught her as she fall, it’s a requirement, there must’ve been somekind of checklist…). Lois is determined, self-sufficient, and resourceful. Her bold and feisty quality is probably what got her the much deserved Pulitzer Prize in the first place. Her involvement with Kal-El started as a professional journalist-source kind of thing, and she bows out gracefully when Kal-El asked her not to dig into his business further. Their attraction is not instant, it is culminating throughout the film, hell i do not think they are in that place yet, as the ending gives an open end to what could happen between them. Personally, I adore Amy Adams as an actress, i think she delivers well in most of her performance that i’ve seen. She’s definitely not a typical superhero’s babes, i like her even more for that.

As i pointed up there Let me put this out here first and foremost. Henry Cavill is a physical embodiment of what i assume the superhero should look like. I dare you to disagree when you catch a glimpse of his pecs and abs. As an adult Kal-El constantly movie from one place to the next in search for clues of his past (which brought him to his first encounter with Lois in the first place). Throughout the movie we were given moments from his childhood and his memories of his parents. These moments are supposed to be a way to see the growth of Kal-El into the figure that he will be known as. As an adult, we see him infiltrate (for the lack of better words) a government special project in canada, by posing as somekind of grunt workers. Within the spaceship he founds out his origin and got his Kryptonian suit, aptly coloured blue, with red cape, and a bit of yellow in the chest emblem, which apparently a family crest that signifies ‘hope’. Upon learning this discovery as well as accompanied by a ‘memory’ of his dad Jor-El there were very little emotion at play. In fact, save for his childhood phase, Kal-El is quite zen about everything! (Maybe he does yoga too..) There were a moment before Kal-El decided to surrender to Zod, when he visit a church, with a stained-glass window featured the image of Jesus Christ in the background. It reminds me of the words Jor-El said in the beginning of the film and later as a memory.

Jor-El: Goodbye, my son. Our hopes and dreams travel with you.
Lara Lor-Van: He will be an outcast. They’ll kill him.
Jor-El: How? He’ll be a god to them.

Jor-El: You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

I might be reading to much into this, but it really seems that Kal-El is intended to do great things, almost like a prophet, he would be the protector of earth and people shall idealise him. Maybe this is what the reboot trying to achieve. Kal-El is definitely not a demi-God like Thor who inherits otherworldly power or Iron Man/Batman with their large capital and situations that made them into super vigilante heroes. He raised beyond the limitation of normal human because he is not human at all. By the standard of Planet Krypton his physical prowess is perfectly normal if not weaker. Just look at what happened with Zod when he adapted to Earth’s atmosphere? I feel like i’m starting to ramble here…

So, before he reached his zen-like state as an adult, a young Clark (Kal-El) knows from early childhood how different he is. He learned he is different from an early age and only the constant care from his earth parents become his anchor in life, but he still question his own history, of what he is, and where he comes from. He realise he can utilise his extraordinary abilities to good use. Jonathan Kent, is a significant role in his life, let him know about his origin. When Clark saved his classmates from a bus accident, which almost exposes his strength to one of his friend, he did not get a praise from his dad. Instead he was asked to held back and not to display his power. When Clark ask if he should let his classmates died instead, his father said ‘maybe’. A move based on nothing but overprotective dad on his son. The event present where Clark had to make his choice whether to follow his father advice or go to his instinct, it was a point where Clark prove where his faith really lay. As heartbreaking the consequences is, this is one defining moment that shape him as a person, and made his action and as an adult made more sense.

I am talking about the final battle between Kal-El and Zod. When being forced to do something he solely believe he should not do, something that his father taught him. And how his decision, no matter how necessary it was, agonised him greatly. Really that final battle alone should be enough for me :) This is also when i realised that Clark really did not know what he should do with his power before, he hasn’t had anything to protect for. I think this is the actual defining moment for Clark to decide what will he do with his powers and finally assuming the role of Superman.

My friend asked me if i like the movie, i told her i love parts of it to bits, but some things in it also almost cancelled out my feelings. I guess between the duality of blockbuster big bang and the emotional back story something just lost and the entire movie just did not pan out as smoothly as it could have been. It’s like saying “I love it, but i’m not…”

Man of Steel has a heart under the smoggy landscapes of alien warfare. Reintroduces Clark Kent in an unexpected way and can be a potential foundation of a great series reboot if it were to be handled carefully. As this is not something of Nolan, i can only plead to DC, Dark Knight trilogy is the most successful DC films in years, please learn from it and improve! Heck, they can learn a thing or two from the way Marvel as well, depending on their objectives. While you can’t always please everyone, I just wanna say: less blockbuster crap (better choreograph sequence instead), more content, pretty please?


GENRE Superhero
DIRECTOR Zack Snyder | PRODUCER Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, Deborah Snyder | WRITER David S. Goyer | MUSIC Hans Zimmer | CINEMATOGRAPHER Amir Mokri | EDITOR David Brenner | STUDIO Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, DC Entertainment | DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros. Pictures | COUNTRY United States | BUDGET $225 million | RUNNING TIME 143 minutes | RATING PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language | RELEASE June 14, 2013
STARRING Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Antje Traue, Laurence Fishburne, Ayelet Zurer, Russell Crowe

Stills are partially from IMDb | Official Site


Last remarks

PLATO | If you noticed in one of the flashback scene, young clark was reading ‘The Republic’ by Plato, i wonder if its a nod to Kryptonian hierarchal system based or does it reference to the importance of the father and son relationship? (He often deliberate about the relation ship between a father and his son, and wonders if there’s a relation between father’s interest in their son got anything to do the son’s future outcome). But i might be reading to much into this, since this is the kind of philosophy book i read anyway :D

LEX CORP | Did you see those trucks? Is Snyder teasing us with future sequels?

RUSSELL CROWE | Almost unrelated, but when i write these thoughts out, i was accompanied by Les Miserable soundtrack. I still hate people for hating Russell Crowe in the film, the man can sing. ‘Nuff said!

TRUE FAN | One of my favorite author Barry Lyga tweeted a link of the comic book fan this after i finished writing the review this morning. It’s interesting to hear what the fans of the comic has got to say. There are similar thoughts as well as a different pov. I guess just like books adaptation, it’s also hard to adapt a comic book, even with its multitude of story arcs, versions, and universes involved! Read here if you like :)

2ND TIME | I watched the movie for a second time and enjoyed it better than the first time, maybe it looked better on IMAX? anyways still i fall asleep during the battle in the kansas, but i still find the climatic scene between Zod and Kal to be quite intense and captivating :)


3 thoughts on “Man of Steel (2013)

  1. I gave a higher score than you. I agree with the action scenes, too long! I thought after 2 hours it will end, but then the story peaked again, it’s like 2-3 times climax. Almost as if they aren’t confident with the regular storytelling. I agree too with the Kryptonian warriors like Prometheus-Alien, actually the atmosphere in the Krypton planet also looked like it. Great analysis!

    • True, with several battles that seems to be louder and bigger than the last one it becomes tiresome for me. Hahaha i wonder about the production design backstory, but i havent found any on the online sources XD!
      Will you post your thoughts on the movie as well? would love to read it :D

  2. Pingback: Monthly Digest: June 2013 | kinema kinema to karamel

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