Kyle J. Steenblik

Man of Steel – A Trio of Reviews

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Three WPR staffers went to the advance screening of Man of Steel. It only makes sense they review it together, so here are their thoughts in one big read up. Hands were touched in popcorn buckets, beers shared afterwards, and a high speed police chase involved no causalities #yolo. Ok, one of those statements was false.

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As with any review, there may be slight spoilers, but nothing you haven’t seen from a trailer or is a big plot reveal

Man of Steel is the Superman movie I never knew I always wanted to see. It was a little bit dark, interesting, and not singularly focused on Superman. let me first explain where I was before the film started. I never cared for Superman, that is to say he never struck a chord with me. I appreciate the character and his magnitude, but I was just never drawn to him. One problem I always had was an inability to relate to the character. He was a seemingly perfect being. Even as Clark Kent, he was just a good guy, and I thought that was a bit dull. Yet, I was happy to see a new Superman movie, but I was a little skeptical because I really didn’t want another genesis story. After the film I wrote “I was wrong” in my notes. Wrong isn’t exactly the right word, but I can definitely say my mind has been changed. They got Superman right, and I am sold.

This movie was more about Clark’s/Kal’s (Henry Cavill) two dads (Jonathan Kent/Kevin Costner and Jor-El/Russell Crowe) than about Superman. It was essentially the story of how these two men created the man that becomes Superman. That made this a fantastic genesis. The interesting element is not where he comes from, but how he came to be Superman. For this I would credit the success of this story to David Goyer (The Dark Knight, and Batman Begins).

The story starts on Krypton where we are given much more detail about the fate of the planet and its civilization. Jor-El is desperately trying to save the vast Kryptonian Empire asking the council of elders to turn over control of the Codex to him. At this point General Zod (Michael Shannon) attacks with similar motivations but very different intentions and tactics. Jor-El escapes the attack, steals the Codex, and sends it to earth with his son Kal-El. Zod kills Jor, Zod is captured, and he, and his co-conspirators are imprisoned in the negative zone. Then, spoiler alert, Krypton explodes. The Krypton we see here is magnificent, I was genuinely surprised and pleased to spend some time there, and I wish we could have seen more. What we saw was enough to sell the fact that this was a great and advanced planet and its loss was genuinely tragic. This is one point that helps this film work as well as it does. Since it’s easy as an audience to mourn the loss of Krypton, it is easy to relate to the motivations of the antagonist.

After Krypton is lost we jump to Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) as an adult, wandering the planet, performing various random acts of heroics. Before too long he runs into Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and lost ship from Krypton’s past. Clark has a chance now to speak with the preserved consciousness of his father, Jor-El, and learns about his origins. Unfortunately, this also alerts Zod, who was freed from his imprisonment when Krypton was destroyed, to Kal-El’s presence on Earth. The development of Clark/Kal’s character is underscored by flashbacks of Jonathan Kent and a few key moments from Clark’s childhood. This is one of the best uses of non-linear storytelling I have seen, particularly from a superhero movie. Again, I feel obligated to shovel more praise onto Kevin Costner here, not because his performance was beyond anything we have seen before, but because he was a perfect Jonathan Kent.

Do you remember when Henry Cavill was cast as Superman? Do remember the disbelief that a British actor could become such an American icon as Superman? I hope people that said he couldn’t pull it off have the opportunity understand how completely wrong they were. I wouldn’t call him a perfect Superman, but honestly, he was as close as anyone would ever come. I am very much looking forward to the upcoming sequel and the Justice League.

There are a few drawbacks to this film, but none is significant enough to affect the overall enjoyment offered. The film released in 3D; however, filmed in 2D. If you are a diehard 3D fan, I’m sure you will love it, but it is a post production conversion. While post conversions have dramatically improved, the end effect is still more distracting than entertaining. That leads to the second problem I have. Zack Snyder loves the handheld camera in this movie; he loves it far too much. Correctly used, it can make static shots more dynamic, and is powerful cinematographers’ tool. It can allow the camera to be adaptive to the action unfolding, but it does not allow for the adaption of a 3D post production conversion, and over use simply makes everything look shaky and difficult to watch. Also on the direction side, there were a few too many jump cuts. Again, it’s a useful tool that in this case was over used, and I think a few times misused. It can be confusing to watch, there were moments I was unsure if I had blacked out for a second and missed the transition from one scene to another, or if the film jumped. It felt disjointed and jarring.

As far as the story goes, it was fantastic, but it did feel like there was a lot they had to cut out. I hope I am not the only one hoping for an extended cut blu-ray. I was fully bought into the universe they created, especially on krypton, and would not mind at all spending more time there. However, the story at times did feel a little too covenant, even for Superman. Really, there were elements of the plot that probably could have been resolved with solid diplomatic negotiation rather than the enormously entertaining fighting. Not to mention the amount of property damage that took place. My final complaint, if you could really call it a complaint, is the product placement present in this movie. It was less than subtle, and again, a little distracting. I don’t enjoy being pulled out of an action sequence to focus on an IHOP. That’s pretty much my list of complaints about this movie. It’s a little nitpicky, but not nearly as nitpicky as some are going to get. Trust me, there are going to be people very unhappy about many things here, and those people will be wrong, and they should be mocked.

This film definitely deserves four out of five dying stars.

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Xopher Reed

I am a diehard DC fanboy. I’ve always enjoyed the comics more on the DC side than I ever did for Marvel (I know there’s more than two sillies), that being said, for the longest time Marvel has been kicking ass up one side and down the other when it comes to feature films. Sure, DC has had a couple of great movies themselves and can even be blamed for the rebirth of the genre thanks to Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989.

It is with a happy heart that I say that this is by far the most superior Superman movie, and in my opinion the best DC superhero movie made. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the hell out of my lord and savior Christian Bale playing Batman, but I’m hard pressed to call him a superhero…semantics I know.

When I think superhero, I think flying, I think of megaton punches, heat vision, super speed, i.e. stuff that normal people just can’t do. That’s exactly what was delivered by Warner Bros. in Man of Steel.

I don’t think you’ll need a synopsis but needless to say, that the same tried and true mythos of Kal-El becoming Clark Kent becoming Superman rings true for the most part…with the only difference being the addition of much more Kryptonian technology being involved, again all you need to do is either watch the movie or see Kyle’s review above.

There are few movies that I really desire watching twice within the same week and this is definitely one of them. The actions scenes alone warrant a second viewing, though this time in 2D so I don’t get distracted by the shaky handicam and post-production 3D effects.

The cast couldn’t have been picked any better with the exception of Christopher Meloni as a badass officer who has numerous run-ins with Kryptonians and Ms. Lane. I apologize because he’s an excellent actor, I just can’t seem him as anyone other than a cop from Law & Order or even further back an inmate from Oz. All of the people who were complaining about Henry Cavill portraying the man of steel can shut up, these were the same folk who thought Ledger or Bale wouldn’t have played their roles well. I for one am glad to say that he made an excellent paragon of American idealism thanks in no short order to his father portrayed by Kevin Costner.

Now to bring up my favorite part of this flick. Michael Shannon, oh my science, what an amazing actor! His portrayal of General Zod didn’t only destroy anything that Terrence Stamp ever did, but he did it without a “kneel before Zod” line. I love an antagonist with whom you can sympathize and his second in command gave me some of the most geek-gasm inducing fight scenes where I could have swore they took pages out of DragonBall Z’s fight books.

Most people who come to check out reviews want to only hear good stuff, well there’s tons of that, because I think this movie is a masterpiece of DC lore…however there were a few parts thanks to Mr. Snyder’s direction that left me smacking my head. You should stop reading now if you don’t want spoilers.

1) The use of nothing but hand held cameras during the entire shoot. For the most part, it looked great, but there are scenes where you should not be afraid to have a camera mounted on something stable. My case in point for this would have to be any scene regarding emotional development of Clark Kent as a child. When Pa Kent is telling an old timey farm tale to his young son, you don’t need a dynamic shot, something sitting still would do just fine.

2) Ignoring the movie’s own laws about Kryptonian physiology and biology. Superman goes onto Zod’s ship, nobody has super powers due to atmosphere? There’s still a giant fucking yellow sun out the port side window! All of a sudden when the Kryptonian army show up planetside, they’re all levels of powerful. When you see it you’ll understand what I mean.

3) Please don’t do a jump cut right in the middle of a very interesting scene. It pulls the audience out of the film.

4) Zod, I get why you need the codex, and the planet machine, but do you REALLY need to bulldoze Earth? Are you telling me that after all of the years of traversing other planets that Kryptonites inhabited that none of them were “Class M” planets? I’m sure getting as far away from Earth would do you wonders.

5) I’m sure it was completely glossed over by many but some of the sound work needed some help. It’s being completely nitpicky but an A-10 doesn’t sound like that AT ALL and there is never any need anymore to include a Wilhelm Scream in your movie.

Most of these are extremely nitpicky things that I noticed, but the best part is that I didn’t care one bit! This film is as close to a perfect superhero movie that I feel I’ll ever watch. I don’t know, maybe it will be surpassed by something more in the future, but as far as DC live-action goes, it’s a winner.

I proudly give this film a solid 4.5/5 and suggest you go watch it in the theater and do so a couple of times. You’ll thank me later.

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Ryan Thomason

Geez guys, how the heck am I supposed to follow up those reviews?

SUPERMAN GOOD. ME ENJOY IT. ME LIKE IT WHEN FLYING MAN PUNCHES THINGS.

OK, seriously. See this movie. Ignore the critics that are paid to be critical of everything and people saying how Christopher Reeves is the only one who can play Superman, blah blah blah. See this Superman. I’ve never bought a Superman comic, I’ve never spent time reading his backstories on Wiki, I know the generality of Superman thanks to my nerd friends and previous movies. Like Kyle, I had low expectations when I heard about Man of Steel being another origin story. I complained about how “everyone knows how Superman became, Superman”. Man of Steel managed to make me shut my damn mouth about the origin aspect. It was wonderfully done, telling how Krypton came to implode on itself and how Kal-El made it to earth.

I was waiting for the “Here he is as a baby, here he is as a tween, here he is in high school, and so forth through his life. While they did maybe two or three cuts to parts of his childhood that helped define him it wasn’t what I was dreading at all. Also, I’ll just reiterate how while, Kevin Costner isn’t a huge part of the movie, he is Clark Kents dad, through and through. His simple touches throughout the movie built and built, culminating and intertwining with Jor-El. The writing and script-work in Man of Steel is top notch. I was sucked in, start to finish. Like Kyle, I can’t wait for an extended cut on BluRay.

My final note? Unless you’re one of the guys that like to give the people who made the movie due credit by watching them, in the credits. Have fun watching that. If you’re expecting any fun final scenes or some mind blowing clip that ties into something else, you’re in for a downer. There is nothing at the end of the credits. Still, sit through them, marvel at how many people were required to make it. Figure out what the hell a Hand Grip is, and why they need 10 of them, plus assistant hand grips, and assistants to the assistant hand grips.

Man of Steel gets 7 out of 8 Hamburger Star Points. (I’m not good with ratings)

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