Friday, 14 June 2013

Man of Steel Review: Is Superman still relevant?

Superman is a difficult character to crack, story wise. There isn't a person on the planet over a certain age who hasn't heard or seen some version of it at some point in their lives. Even if they aren't superhero fans, you can say the word Superman and most people know exactly who he is. Making him new and interesting then is nearly impossible. People have done it with vary degrees of success over the years, but the character always manages to gain new fans of some kind with each new incarnation.

More recently, his relevance has been called into question as many of his main stay stories and motives become less and less embraced by the general public. Finding a way to deal with them has become a benchmark of his writers in recent years. He is an indestructible, God-like figure that stands above us. Why is Lois Lane such an idiot, I mean, a pair of glasses, really? There is no real sense of danger because he never has a villain powerful enough to hurt him.

Thankfully, all of these issues are addressed in Man of Steel. He doesn't stand above humanity, he stands with it. People don't stand around waiting for him to save them. Lois Lane is intelligent and compassionate. Superman gets to let loose against an enemy that can give him a run for his money. All this and more is in a movie that portrays a truly modern take on the Man of Steel.

This is not to say that it is a perfect film. A lot of what gets "fixed" in Man of Steel are things that long time fans of the character will miss and complain about. Some of the elements that are great about the telling of his origin story get glossed over rather than explored in depth. There is very little exposition in the movie and what there is often gets woven into the main story, which can either hurt or help depending on how you approach it.

Ultimately though, I think that the character has truly been brought into the 21st century and it is about damn time. Man of Steel is an honest portrayal of the Superman mythose that proves his relevance to a new generation. Those that are concerned about Christopher Nolan's influence making Man of Steel a dark and gritty version have nothing to fear. As he said in some interviews early on, Superman is not Batman, dark and gritty doesn't work for a character who is supposed to be a symbol of hope.

It absolutely shows that Nolan took a hands off approach to Superman and let Zack Snyder, a man known for his visual effects mastery, take the lead the way a good director should. It is a bright, colorul film which is exactly what it needed to be. That being said, maybe it was seeing it in 3D but the color tones seemed a little to gray for my tastes. Contrast is a good thing people.

Also, be on the look out for what might be an easter egg for the sequel that is already rumored to be in the works. I won't spoil it for you, but if anything were a sign that might be it. It's extremely subtle and it is not in the end credits so you don't have to sit through them like you do during a Marvel film.

Henry Cavill is fantastic as Superman/Clark Kent. Amy Adams gives Lois Lane a sense of depth and honesty to her that makes her more than just Superman's love interest. Laurence Fishburne plays the role of a real editor of a newspaper today which in the story, much like modern day, is not an overpowering force in driving the plot forward. Michael Shannon has finally put Terence Stamp's portrayal of Zod to rest, much like Russell Crowe has with Marlon Brando's Jor-El. I think the cast has finally given us a reason to stop looking back to the 1970s to find a Superman story worth admiring, and a very good reason to start looking forward to the sequel or anything else DC Comics might have up their sleeve.

Is the Man of Steel still relevant? Absolutely, and he has finally joined the rest of the superhero genre in the sun.


  1. A very fair and unbiased review. You have my respect, sir.