Focus film reviewer, Patty Papageorgiou-Axford reviews this summer’s latest blockbuster
The summer movie season is upon us once again and true to tradition it comes laden with action, adventure, monsters and -where would summer be without them- superheroes. This year, the much awaited Superman re-boot Man of Steel steps into the fray of summer blockbusters promising to entertain us over the coming (potentially wet) holidays.
Admittedly, taking a well-known story and making it new is not an easy task. For this reason alone it would be unfair not to give any remake the benefit of the doubt. Man of Steel takes on the challenge but delivers a frustrating result, albeit not all bad.
The film opens on the last day of the planet Krypton, where events leading to its imminent extinction are hastily crammed into easy to swallow morsels of expositional dialogue. It serves a purpose and with the backstory quickly covered, Jor-El and Lara’s brief turmoil follows as they let go of their son, Kal-El, bestowing upon him the hope of their species. Kal / Clark’s upbringing on earth is in turn delivered in snippets of flashbacks – an effective cliché containing some very poignant moments. Young Kal is made all the more human for his struggle with incomprehensible physical changes and his search for his identity. Wittily, the word Superman is uttered only once in the entire film, this version aiming to bring us a hero with a human side. Disrobing itself of any imitation of the 1978 original, Man of Steel brings us a hero with a name, not a monicker.
Even General Zod almost transcends the appearance of a stereotypical, power-hungry villain. Panto moments aside, he is also facing his own battle, striving for an ideal in blind deference to the society he was born and raised in. As he himself puts it, he was “born for this purpose” under Krypton’s “artificial reproduction control” where citizens were genetically designed for a pre-designated role. This society was what Jor-El and Lara hoped to change, to give Krypton’s people the right to hope and dream by liberating their own, natural-born child.
Man of Steel does a pretty good job of becoming a stand-alone superman film (although the sequels are surely yet to come). However, it would have been a lot more compelling had it explored a little more of the drama available. Kal’s journey of self-discovery, the acceptance of his place in an alien world, equally the turmoil of Zod’s doomed idealism and the poignancy of a civilisation’s self-destruction – there was so much room for scope on these issues, which would have given a lot more depth to the story. Instead, the film is bloated with action sequences and explosions – so many explosions. How many crumbling buildings does it take to give the viewer a sense of danger and chaos? Granted, action is imperative in this genre but in all honesty, the amount of gratuitous destruction in this movie is nothing but tiresome. Sure, your average 13 year old will love it, but the adults amongst us will be wishing for a little more dramatic content than angry super-powered fisticuffs.
That said, as far as the summer action movie goes, Man of Steel is not entirely a disappointment. Over $125 million box-office takings are a good enough statement that despite its shortfalls, your popcorn munching experience won’t necessarily be a wasted trip. This is summer time escapism after all.