Movie review – Man of Steel: Superman flies again

2013-06-23 14:00

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The right blend of imitation and innovation, and a whole new world to get lost in for a modern audience, makes Man of Steel invincible, writes Gayle Edmunds

The most God-like of the superheroes, Superman, was due for a successful new-generation makeover, and the creative power of threesome Zack Snyder, David S Goyer and Christopher Nolan has hit the box office jackpot.

Made for $128?million (R1.3?billion), it made more than half of that back in its opening weekend in America.

To boot, it’s a superb piece of film making, with a bespoke design reminiscent of the worlds created for 300 and the Batman series, yet unique in style.

Henry Cavill, a British actor with a good CV of solid performances, has just become a superstar with this role. He is the perfect heir to Christopher Reeve, reviving Superman with just the right amount of imitation and innovation.

This holds true for the entire film. The basics remain the same, but what needs to be remixed has been and there’s a lot more time spent on Krypton, which is a treat.

The cleverest intervention of all is making the first villain a fellow Kryptonian. This sets the scene nicely for the future when Lex Luthor and his ilk can grow into their evilness with enough knowledge of Superman’s weaknesses to make it a proper fight.

The problem with Superman has always been that he’s, well, unbeatable. He can fly, really fly, not with webs or batmobiles; his eyes are lasers and the rest of him’s pretty lethal too. Yet Snyder manages to get us to relate to him as a human being.

Russell Crowe steps into the large shoes of Marlon Brandon as Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian father, the scientist who foresees the death of his planet because of greed and lack of inventiveness. He dispatches his son to Earth in a spaceship just before the magnificent Krypton implodes.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that Krypton has been convincingly created as “a fantastical yet logical imaginary world”, complete with its own language – for which 300 words and phrases were invented – only for it to be destroyed, spectacularly, in the first third of the film.

It’s a shame, in a way, that this film is 3D. With such rich world-building, it is distracting to be forced to look at the foreground of the shot, when sometimes you want to let your eyes meander on to the background, painstakingly created in every detail by the production designers.

One of the other welcome updates is that Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is given a whole lot more gumption than her predecessors.

She’s not content to hang about fainting at the first sign of trouble. Instead, she’s portrayed as a pucker trouble-seeking investigative journalist, which is how she sniffs out who Clark Kent really is and when Jor-El’s nemesis, General Zod (Michael Shannon), arrives on Earth and demands that Superman be given to him, she does her bit to save the planet – and Superman.

Snyder and his team play up Superman’s God-like qualities, yet also carefully cultivate the vulnerabilities that make him more human-like.

The film avoids the linear depiction of a superboy becoming a superman and, instead, the boyhood of Clark Kent is pieced together, much in the same way as Superman must piece together his own alien history. The audience and the protagonist both work slowly towards a better understanding of Superman as the film progresses.

Marvel might have controlled the box offices unopposed since Robert Downey Jr donned Iron Man’s suit back in 2008, but there’s a new DC comic book hero in Tinseltown and he might just prove to be invincible.

» Man of Steel opens on Friday

Film: Man of Steel (Nu Metro)

Director: Zack Snyder

Featuring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Antje Traue, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner and Laurence Fishburne

Rating: 8/10

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