Thursday, March 24, 2016

Man of Steel

I meant to write this up a little sooner, but as fate would have it, I wound up cutting my self-imposed deadline close because in honor of Batman vs. Superman opening tonight, today’s entry will be dedicated to 2013’s Man of Steel (trailer). This retelling of Superman’s origin had a very divisive reaction among fans, as I have talked to multiple people who both passionately enjoyed and despised this film.

Man of Steel opens with the fall of Krypton. I am not 100% sure if this origin story was adapted from one of the many origin tales of the DC Comics series, but I am on board with how it evolved on the big screen here compared to the cartoons and comics I grew up with. The opening 20 minutes transpires on Krypton where we see Superman’s parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Faora-El (Antje Traue) be there for their son Cal-El’s birth. Not all is well though because Krypton is on the verge of apocalypse so they send their son off in a mini-space shuttle to Earth shortly before Krypton’s doomsday.

From there we see a montage of events as the film bounces around in Clark Kent’s (Henry Cavill) life as a child to his young adult years accomplishing feats of strength and discovering the true nature of his powers. Throughout this act of the film, Clark’s stepfather, Jonathon (Kevin Costner) keeps reminding Clark to hide his powers so the world does not discover him and reject him for being dynamically different that everyone else. When Clark meets the “ghost” of Jor-El, he delivers Clark an opposite message of being a symbol of hope to people of Earth and to rise above and lead them against all evildoers.

This leads to a series of scenes of Clark being self-conflicted if he should expose who he really is when Earth is facing the impending threat of General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) forces invading Earth. When you combine that with award-winning reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in the midst of publishing a tell-all piece on Superman, you get a Clark Kent with some big decisions to make.

Compared to the Lois & Clark TV series I grew up with in the mid-90s and even 2006’s Superman Returns, Man of Steel easily features a darker version of Superman than I am accustomed to. Going by reactions to friends and fans online this is what rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with this film as they desired a more customary all-American Superman, but I thought the way this film evolved Superman’s character came across naturally on screen. It would seem appropriate that Superman would be questioning his true self before embracing who he really is, and I felt the film did a great job at conveying that message before he finally donned the iconic Superman uniform.

Man of Steel goes all-in with the special effects, as it features some eye-popping battles with massive explosions and a city that is falling apart all around where Superman and Zod wage war in the film’s final act. One does not need to wonder how Warner Bros. could afford the budget for this after a couple of gratuitous product placement spots surely helped foot the bill, and it only seems the right thing to do considering Superman’s theatrical product placement legacy. The final fight scenes are a lengthy encounter, but they have a couple of spots in there to catch your breath and let the action breath before another epic battle ensues. I was still caught up and bought into the action all the way through Zod and Superman’s decisive final moments of battle. This moment features a bold filmmaking decision on director Zach Snyder’s part, but the way it played out I absolutely found believable and I can only applaud the filmmakers for going in that risky direction.

While I do l love the film, I would be remiss if I did not have a couple of hairs to split and nitpick over. I could have done without one or two more of the many flashback scenes. Man of Steel features a huge supporting cast, and they probably felt obligated to give most characters a certain amount of film time, and there were a couple times I felt they could have reduced or cut a couple other scenes to shave down the near two and a half hour runtime.

Man of Steel is loaded with extra features. There are five separate extra features totaling an hour detailing the training the actors had to endure for the film and expand on the lore and mythos of Krypton and Superman that all have good production values and do not come off as cheap, thrown-together extras like I have viewed on many other DVDs. The primary extra however is Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel and it clocks in at just under three hours. If you remember how Zach Snyder did “Maximum Movie” mode on a previous film of his, The Watchmen, this is almost exactly like that where it is like a second-screen experience where the film plays out in one window on screen, and in another window we get inserted with interviews with many cast and crew members talking about the scene that is transpiring.

Other Journey of Discovery moments features windows of alternate takes, outtakes, or raw pre-CG shots of the film taking place to show the vast difference of what special effects had on the film. It runs about a half hour longer than the main feature film because there are moments where the film pauses from playing and focuses instead on a pivotal interview moment or alternate take instead. While it is quite the commitment to watch all the way through, Journey of Discovery is a great way to relive the film and find out many more behind-the-scenes details and anecdotes in a way that is more entertaining than getting lost in countless menus of extra feature options. If you have the time, do not skip out on this highly entertaining extra feature.

As you can tell, I am a big fan of Man of Steel, and I am glad to see it get a fully featured BluRay release. If you have problems with the way how Superman is portrayed here, than I respect your opinion on not wanting to accept the way how Warner Bros. evolved the character. Once again, I thought it seemed a very fitting way to grow the character to today’s times and not too far off from the character’s core beliefs and values. If you enjoyed the film like I did and never got around to watching the BluRay I highly recommend checking it out because Journey of Discovery is hands down one of the best extra features I have ever seen, and this is coming from a person who has watched countless extra features over the years.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)

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