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Man of Steel

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Vlad Piranha

Joined: 15 Jul 2005
Location: Sector C Test Labs.
PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:43 pm 
Post subject: Man of Steel
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When The Living Daylights was released in 1987, critics weren't especially kind to the new direction for the James Bond series. They were critical of its grittier, no-nonsense tone and lamented the lack of any of the comic relief that the films had become known for during the Roger Moore era. One film historian, however, pointed out something educational that would apply to many film reboots that would come down the pipe for decades to come: Moore's portrayal had become so laughably campy that the best way to give the Bond films legitimacy again was to shock audiences with a vision so dark and gritty that it was avant-garde. So what does this have to do with Man of Steel, you ask? In the wake of the stink that was Superman Returns, it was clear that a different approach would be necessary to see Superman fly again.

Man of Steel chronicles the early life and upbringing of Clark Kent and how it brought him to his role as the most famous superhero of all. This is not a mere retelling of what we've seen before a la The Amazing Spider-Man. There are famous parts of his origins left to the imagination of the viewer in favor of spending time understanding how a complete outcast with almost godlike power could find his way through life as a humble and moral man.

After a somewhat turbulent youth, a lonely and anonymous Clark Kent wanders North America finding himself and helping those in need. Doing so, he leaves a trail of astonishing eyewitness accounts as breadcrumbs to be followed by a curious reporter for the Daily Planet named Lois Lane. Urban legends have spread about a guardian angel performing amazing feats and Lois believes it may have a connection to an incredible otherworldy discovery made only days prior. As she tracks her mystery man, a turn of events quickly uncover the truth about his existence and where he comes from. A group of condemned Kryptonian military fanatics led by General Zod are revealed to not only have survived the destruction of their home, but are planning on taking Earth to replace it. This is all unless the new hero the public has dubbed 'Superman' can stop him.

The general concept to the film is simple enough (I kept it brief to spoil as little as possible), but it isn't the plot that drives the film. Characterization is key to Man of Steel's success as a storytelling exercise and it isn't lacking in that department. The portrayal of Clark Kent as a frightened and tormented child did wonders to explain his compassion for the weak and helpless as a superhero. This is very much the kind of character arc that 2011's Thor relied upon, but more time is taken in this instance in order to carefully craft its finer details. Patience here is rewarding.

While this kind of drama is effective at layering the protagonists, it can get a bit melodramatic at times. If there is one flaw to this film that stands out, it's the tone. This is a dark film with virtually none of the comic relief or romanticism that is typically found in other projects of this genre. I imagine that this is Christopher Nolan's contribution to the project as a co-writer and producer. So much of the pervasive emotional anguish from The Dark Knight is seen in spades in this film and, after its two and a half hour runtime, the viewer can expect to be psychologically exhausted from watching it.

While Man of Steel didn't quite have the same kind of easy-viewing, matinee appeal as other films in its genre (the Iron Man series comes to mind), it was a worthwhile film to see and I applaud some of the bold choices made to make the Superman story feel new again. After two decades of campy, lighthearted presentation of the comic hero on television and film, it seems appropriate that someone would make a film like this, especially in this era. It's not for everyone, but for those of you who want something fierce and fresh:

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