Sunday, June 16, 2013

Man of Steel 3D review

In 1978, a film version of the comic book superhero Superman was released. Its slogan was "You'll believe a man can fly." That movie deserved its motto. It was inspiring, and mythic. After some lesser sequels in Superman Three and Four came Superman Returns.(2006) Hardcore fans were disappointed in the last movie and studio Warner decided to reboot the superhero legend in the just released Man of Steel. The question becomes is the newest movie as good as the first one?

Man of Steel starts on the planet Krypton. Scientist Jor-El (Russel Crowe) is warning the ruling council of the impending destruction of the planet due to over mining of the core. Krypton is a truly alien world mixing advanced technology with Romanesque art. General Zod (Michael Shannon) rushes in and stages a coup. Jor-El decides to send his infant son, Kal-El by spaceship to earth with the Codex that contains the DNA.   Zod's coup fails but the planet is doomed. Zod and his cohorts are sentenced to a black hole.

Jor-El's son is found by farmers Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and his wife, Martha. (Diane Lane) They name him  Clark and raise him, showing him love and teaching morality. Eventually, Jonathan tells Clark of his extraterrestrial origins. As a man (Henry Cavill), Clark works odd jobs while trying to discover what his destiny is. He secretly completes superhero tasks. While investigating an ancient Krypton based ship, reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) discovers Clark and his true identity. Meanwhile, Zod escapes and comes to earth to demand the surrender of Kal-El. He also wants the Codex.

Russel Crowe is a better Jor-El than Marlon Brando was in the first Superman movie. That's because he's given more to do but more importantly, he believes in the existence of the character. Initially, Michael Shannon's villain, Zod, is one dimensional until we discover why he wants the Codex. Only, then is this villain fleshed out. Amy Adams as Lois Lane is more than just a love interest for Clark Kent aka Superman. She's the epitome of the serious journalist who is searching for the truth. However, there is no spark between Clark and Lois. She seems interested but Clark lacks passion. Henry Cavill certainly has the body for Superman. There's a shirtless scene that is sure to make women swoon. I'm sure women will say what one female military officer says, "I just think he's kind of hot." He's better off as the human Clark Kent than Superman who comes off as somewhat cold. There's nothing to make one like Clark. Perhaps, it's the absence of friends as photographer Jimmy Olsen is missing from this Superman tale.

Director Zack Snyder does a great job in setting up the action set pieces. Yes, there is fast cutting and jump cuts but he keeps the scenes in logical order. You know what is going on. It's all very exciting. You won't get bored watching this movie.

But Man of Steel is no Superman. Part of the problem is the screenplay by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan. Leaping between Superman's childhood, his journeys and the present day sap the movie of much of its energy. Pa Kent telling Clark that maybe he should let a bunch of drowning kids die to hide his identity makes no sense in the creating the moral fabric of Superman. The should have just redid a scene from Superman where Kent tells Clark that he has greater purpose than playing sports. Yes, the Kents did the right thing by hiding his identity but the idea that the world would not understand him takes away from Superman's destiny. There is also a lack of the American mythic quality that the first one had. That's all because of the whole secret identity thing while doing heroic acts. There's no goose bump moments where Clark Kent as Superman saves lives before the big climax action pieces in the end.

The movie also suffers from Hans Zimmer's score. Look,  it's okay but is more like musical wallpaper. And you don't get enough of the main theme. The problem is John Williams score for Superman. His main theme or march for that movie describes Superman and is so iconic that you identify the character to the music. It's inspiring. And that original score had nice touches of Aaron Copland for that distinct American quality. After all, Superman is an American myth.

As for seeing this movie in 3D, see it in 2D. Man of Steel 3D is a  conversion from 2D. After a very good first twenty minutes in 3D, the movie goes flat. You will forget that 3D version of this movie is in 3D. Part of the problem is that it feels as if the director wasn't thinking in 3D. And 3D conversions cannot capture the angles, nooks and crannies of the real  world. The result is that at best the movie has a pop up book effect. But there is no depth or popping out in a picture. This 3D conversion is nothing more than a cash grab. Save your money. Nothing super about this movie's 3D.

Man of Steel is exciting but sullen. It's a joyless exercise in superhero storytelling. The grade is B.

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