Thursday, 20 June 2013

Man Of Steel

I've completely given up on my film blog, so in a cynical attempt to get you to read my thoughts on the films I see I'm going to write about it here. Still here? Then we'll begin.

Following on from Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and....yes....Iron Man 3 comes another metalic-themed super-hero flick, Man Of Steel. Thankfully this is not a reference to Sam Tomkins who, to paraphrase Bill Shankly, I wouldn't watch if he were playing at the bottom of my garden, but to the character formerly known as Superman. Cast in the leading role is Henry Cavill, a man hitherto known only to me for his turn as Albert Mondego, son of the dastardly but quite brilliant Fernand Mondego in a version of The Count Of Monte Cristo also starring Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce aswell as the ubiquitous James Frain and the late Dumbledore original Richard Harris. If you haven't seen this film then please do. The Count Of Monte Cristo is one of the greatest stories ever told and this is a tremendous update on it. It's also got Luis Guzman in it, and you can't go wrong with Luis Guzman. Or the quite unpronouncably named lady who plays Mercedes.

But is Man Of Steel any good? Well yes it is. It was always going to be better than the Brandon Routh version of a few years ago, but I was pleasantly surprised by how favourably it compares with the original Superman films of the 80's with which this version has most in common. Cavill is sufficiently older now to not remind me of Albert whenever he is on screen and anyway I'm told that he has been in The Tudors since then and several other things of note. I couldn't watch The Tudors on account of it casting Joss Stone as the ugly one who big fat Henry VIII didn't want. That struck me as a bit like casting David Beckham as John Merrick. I know, we've all seen 'Goal' and there's no way he'd pull it off even if he was ugly enough.

Man Of Steel is a star-studded affair. Aside from Cavill it features Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Laurence Fishburne, but the show is well and truly stolen by Michael Shannon. Fans of Boardwalk Empire will know him as Nelson Van Alden (or perhaps George) but here we seem him taking on the role of General Zod, a classic Superman baddie from the Christopher Reeve era, then played menacingly enough by Terence Stamp. Shannon's take on Zod is different, and the clothes are certainly an improvement on the 80s' garb sported by Stamp. However, what strikes you most about Zod is that he has a stronger motive for being fanatically hell-bent on destruction. It isn't just a hobby as it seemed to be for Stamp's incarnation of Zod. Crowe also has more to do than his predecessor in the role of Superman's father Jor-El. Those of you expecting him to do a Marlon Brando and disappear in the carnage on Krypton might be pleasantly surprised. Unless you don't like Crowe in which case you'll probably get very annoyed. Crowe's Brando-esque scenes at the start of the film are CGI heavy, with all scenes set on Krypton looking and feeling much more like a Star Wars prequel than any of the super-hero films we get beaten over the head with these days.

So is there anything not to like? Certainly not Amy Adams who is spellbinding as Lois Lane. Whether or not she was chosen for the aliteration of her name I'm not so sure. If that is the case then I suppose we should all be grateful that they did not choose to cast Susan Sarandon or Priscilla Presley. On the downside although Man Of Steel is action packed and really moves, some of the fight scenes are too long and are tediously repetetive. And if it is possible to have too much flying in a Superman film then this is it. These are minor quibbles but the film could probably have been 20 minutes shorter and you have to suspect that the extended action is down to the current obsession with all things 3D. Watching it in 2D as I prefer to do, you can still see which scenes are made almost entirely to suit the 3D audience. More worryingly, the action could be so relentless because director Zack Snyder doesn't think we as an audience are clever enough to cope with too much dialogue or character development.

The script too could have done with some extra work. Hearing Zod pronounce that there is 'only one way this ends, either you die or I die' can only lead you to the conclusion that he can't count. Though it is not clear how important mathematics was on the Krypton curriculum before it all went tits up. My personal favourite though, and the line which reminded me most of Blackadder's classic 'have you vanquished the nibble pibblies?', was Zod's instruction to one of his minions to 'release the world engine!'. Also, look out for liberal use of the word 'codex' which I am convinced exists only in this film's universe.

Man Of Steel is left wide open for any number of sequels, and I'll be among those lapping them up. If they're all as good as this first effort than that might not be any bad thing.

No comments: