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Man of Steel (2013)
The Superman film we've been waiting for!!!
For the past seven years, I've been vocal about waiting for a Superman reboot after the disgrace that was Superman Returns. Well, now we have it. And I'm so glad, because it's a great film and the fact that the same critics who praised Superman Returns are trashing it now is just amusing, but sad at the same time. I saw it at a press screening, and I am going to see it again at a midnight screening.
Sad because too many people have their preconceived notions about this film being "dark," meaning that it's just "The Dark Knight" with Superman instead of Batman. It's not. If I were to compare its "tone" to anything, it would be "The Hunger Games" or "Avatar," which I suppose you could call "dark," but it's not quite the first word that comes to mind.
The basic premise of the story is the familiar origin, followed by a battle with General Zod, whom we saw in Superman II. You might argue that it takes the best of the first two Christopher Reeve films and brings it into a new era of more advanced special effects; but the movie is very non-linear (okay, that's ONE similarity to Batman Begins). Jarring to some, sure, but it's an improvement over the idea that you have to go a half hour before getting on the action.
In fact, action is what we get on Krypton. In most versions, Jor-El pleads with the council to let him lead the planet's populace away from its impending doom, but unfortunately, one of his theory's supporters--General Zod--interrupts his visit with the high-council and starts attacking everyone, leading to Jor-El fighting and giving chase. Eventually, Kal-El is sent to Earth, and we see him as a fisherman and he saves people tapped on an exploding oil-rig.
Yes. Despite the "dark tone," this Superman is still an unselfish, altruistic do-gooder who just wants to help people. Until the end of the film, the most "dark" thing he does is steal someone's clothes after his are destroyed in the explosion.
Like many superhero films, the scenes of Clark growing up lay it on thick that other kids picked on him as a child. It might have been better if they'd toned that much down, but it makes him seem all the more selfless when he saves his peers from the bus accident. And no, Jonathan Kent does NOT say Clark should have let his classmates die, but rather that he needs to weigh his heroics against people finding out his secret.
Now, when our hero finally does put on the blue tights/red cape to give himself up to the military to be taken by General Zod, some seem to feel that the action goes on and on too long. Okay, I can see that, but it's not any worse than in The Avengers, and the kind of "destruction porn" (as someone put it) is what some of us WANT from a Superman film. Those of us who grew up watching the '90s animated series or reading stories like "Doomsday," "Reign of the Supermen," or Grant Morrison's JLA won't find it so overwrought.
Now, the ending is sure to cause controversy as in a moment where Zod's threatening a couple of people while Superman has him in a headlock, Supes snaps Zod's neck. A lot of people will surely act as if this was the ultimate betrayal of Superman's morals and values, but the same critics will laud Superman II where he kills Zod (notwithstanding a deleted scene that shows otherwise) without as much justification; as well as Superman Vol 2 #22 where-- again--he kills Zod and the others. In the aftermath of that comic, however, Superman feels a certain amount of guilt, which actually makes more of a statement about how killing is wrong than just "oh, I never kill." And since here, his kill is no less justified than a cop killing in the line of duty, the idea that he becomes a "dark anti-hero" based on that ONE ACTION is ludicrous!
I'm really hoping that this film is the success that it deserves to be, and that as more critics weigh in, more of them see that it was a great picture, or at-least a far cry from the joyless experience their colleagues describe; but if not, at-least this film is here to be enjoyed. It got Superman away from the direction Superman Returns threatened to take him in, and completely entertaining.