Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Man of Steel considered.

After weeks of half unconsciously treating the opening of the new Superman film, Man of Steel, as a minor second coming, some more sober second thought about it is called for.

For one thing, its relatively low Rotten Tomatoes score (56%)  is disappointing considering what is riding on this film working to create a true DC Comic Cinematic Universe Franchise, even if it can still claim a majority critical approval.  As it is, I think this is a case where too many critics are missing the point of the film as it breaks away from the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve media image. That shadow trapped the last attempt, Superman Returns, to the point of retreading the first film's plot points with Superman being simply too powerful, thus dooming it. Furthermore, the critical situation was reversed with critics liking it, (RT 56%), but the public being far less enthused about it.

In short, Chrisopher Nolan and Zack Snyder had the same challenge Guy Richie had with creating his Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. to escape the shadow of Jeremy Brett's quintessential version.  The problem was that Brett's film version was originally on British and American public, TV and didn't have a predecessor with the grand epic feel of a major film genre redefining Hollywood movie to overshadow it. In that situation, doing a darker and harder edged Superman is about the only option. Not only does avoid the high idealism of Reeve, but gives Cavill's version a vital human grounding before embracing his alien heritage with some welcome realism of how the world would react to such a superhero appearing. In addition, Hans Zimmer's score may not emulate the full majesty of Williams' classic work, but it drives the emotional element home better than you imagine.

Man of Steel's true challenge to face.
In that case, it feels like the right move with drama and blistering action climaxing in a fight in Metropolis that finally topped Superman II's legendary brawl.  The final resolution to it would seem against Clark's character, but he's young, wholly justified under the circumstances and is cleared precedented in the comics. Just his reaction to that move gives just the right tone of a man driven to do the seemingly unthinkable for him for the greater good and paying a high spiritual price for it. In addition, Lois Lane is refreshingly talented as a reporter who figures Clark out right from the beginning and thus begins a fascinating new dynamic with the superhero as a secret keeper from the beginning.

The film is certainly not perfect in some regards.  I don't approve entirely of how Pa Kent is more concerned about keeping Clark's powers secret than helping people and the way he was killed off stretches creditability to be that determined to keep that secret. Also, Cavill's take as Clark Kent the reporter was really disappointing; unlike Reeve, he didn't put any effort in making the persona believable in any sense. For instance, he didn't even change his hairstyle and there is nothing established in the film to allow him to work at a major newspaper.  For that matter, a narration of him writing in a personal journal in his travels could have gone a long way to doing that.

Regardless, the strong Monday box office indicates a decent sustained interest in the film and hopefully we can enjoy more of them.  If it means that Wonder Woman will finally get her film before Justice League, it will be something long overdue. If only Bruce Timm, the guiding producer of the classic DC Animated Universe franchise could be in charge of the writing part of it, then its future would be really assured.

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