Man of Steel (2013)
Imagine how our world would react if they came face to face with this...
Have you ever hated buildings so much you wish they would just get smashed into a million peices? Do you like shaky cameras? Do you like Superman? If you answered yes to at least one of these, then you might find yourself enjoy this movie. Granted...if you said yes to the last, then you might find yourself having a bit of a conflict of interests, although depending on how "hardcore" you are you may find yourself enjoying it anyways. Enough though, let's get into this thing eh?
Most everyone knows the story behind Superman - and for the most part this one doesn't stray a whole lot as far as origins go. As Krypton (planet of the Kryptonians) becomes unstable from resource harvesting, one General Zod (Michael Shannon) throws a Coup to wrestle control from the leaders he deems unfit to rule so that he may save the Kryptonians through saving selective bloodlines. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) does not approve of the selective part of things, and says it's already too late for them as they brought it upon themselves. After an interesting race back home, he and his wife then launch their baby (the first natural birth on Krypton in years) off into space towards a distant planet (Earth) where he will live and maybe someday bridge the two worlds so any Kryptonians who may remain can live in peace with the locals.
Zod get's arrested with his conspirators and sent to the phantom zone (black hole) that serves as a kind of "prison" for the Kryptonians, but not after killing Jor-El after witnessing the launch of his son's space ship with the codex containing all the genetic structures of the Kryptonians. The planet then promptly explodes, wiping out those remaining on Krypton, and (a bit accidentally) freeing Zod and his cohorts from their black-hole prison. This will play a bigger role later on in the plot, but we start to focus more on the young Kal-El as he arrives on Earth as soon as we witness Krypton's demise. It might be a slight bit confusing as well, as we witness the crash then immediately jump to a "present day", where anything pertaining to the young Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is told as a flashback.
Of course, Clark Kent ends up stumbling upon the truth of who he is, and thanks to a hologram of his (trie) dad learns all sorts of things (including his real name: Kal-El). Things proceed pretty normal-speed for a while without too much in the terms of action as Clark puts some new-found thought into his abilities (which he has thanks to the Earth's younger yellow sun) and learns he can fly. As this goes on, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) manages to track him down after he saves her in the arctic, and enters her way into being the point of trust / romantic interest for Clark as the movie proceeds. Things eventually pick up when Zod manages to show up (after tracking the activation of the ship Clark used to learn about himself), and tells the world to turn over Kal-El or bad things are going to happen. At long last, the actual action-proper part of the film starts, with the general conflict of interest between Clark (who want's to save the Earth and happily co-exist) and Zod (who want's to burn the Earth down and create a new Krypton devoid of humans).
The opening shots of Krypton are lovely to watch, with the most diverse of the costume design appearing here in the form of the Kryptonian armor and undersuits - the latter of which ends up becoming the iconic "Superman" costume. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't love the armor (specifically Jor-El's in the above picture), particularly when the lighting is good. The planet itself is full of sci fi elements - space ships, laser guns, baby-manufacturing pods, floating robots with displays reminiscent of those pin-pictures years and years ago (or maybe that magnetic putty stuff), and some space- critters. The setting will be kind of missed later on, when things change back to normal everyday wear and tear on the eyes - up until the battles start, at which point it becomes ruins everywhere. Although the devastation later on is fun to watch happen, I understand it's also a bit of a contested point for a lot of fans of Superman, but I'll get into that later.
Audio here is a bit unbalanced. Lines are delivered well, and sound effects are great, but that old imbalance of loud action scenes followed by whisper-quiet dialogue crops up. I want to say it's just how I watched it, but considering how I had just watched a movie previous with the same setup and not had that issue I can only logically say it must be the movie itself. What musical score exists easily fades into the background and is forgotten when it doesn't deafen you, but the movie is no worse the wear from it than it is from the overwhelming amount of special effects.
Speaking of those special effects, as much as I loved how Krypton looked and all the destruction going on, explosions and heat-beams from eyes, heavy impacts and fire, I must admit that at times those same effects hit a level where it can break the immersion. There are numerous parts specifically during the battle between Zod and Clark where it seems to break down to a level of the Matrix: Reloaded battle of the Smiths scene (Neo vs dozens of Agent Smiths). It still works, but after seeing the visuals in other parts being so dang good it makes you double take - which is just enough that some people may be drawn out of the experience. Likewise, you will spend a lot of time elsewhere wondering just what's CG and what's not, something that can be remedied by a lot of the pretty glamor shots of the settings that happen as Clark discovers the extent of his ability to jump - even if it really slows down the movie and could be argued unnecessary (I enjoy it, because it shows a bit of progression from "leap buildings in a single bound" to flat out flying). The one part that I can't stand, however, is the over-use of shaky camera. It drives me nuts, starts giving me a headache, and quite frankly it exists for no reason what-so-ever in half the scenes that it makes an appearance. When used right, shaky cam can do wonders for a movie, but this sure as heck ain't it.
The romance subplot is pretty lackluster as far as romance things go - albeit I'm not master watcher of romance flicks. The actors do a pretty good job at acting, although some of the reactions people have can be questionable at times (as characters, not as actors). The main plot is solid enough to merit the action in the later half of the movie, although when that action starts up it almost feels as though we care less about logic and reason and more about just blowing up buildings and smashing cars. Clark's motives are also a bit hard to track, and although most of his decisions before donning the suit make sense after donning it can seem a bit strange (such as saving person X but not worrying about the building he just leveled a minute ago).
As I mentioned before, I wanted to get a bit into the geekery out there that was rather insulted by the levels of careless destruction out there in this movie. I'm not a huge fan of Superman, so I don't know a whole crap load about his written comic-book history or the likes, but I do know he's a huge goody two shoes with the worst "I'm human" disguise in the history of comics. That being said, I can understand the contention some would have to watch superman destroy so much property and potential lives as he smashes people through buildings and into exploding tankers and the likes rather care fee - especially after watching him constantly saving people pre-suiting up. It does seem a bit out of character particularly when, after toppling god knows how many skyscrapers and causing unknowable numbers of casualties, he suddenly cares so much about a single pack of people he'd be willing to take his final actions to save them. On the other hand, I can also say that it's played off as an origin story reboot for a newer age of people that tend to care only about flashy showings of effects, so things are going to be a bit edgy because of it. Beyond that, outside of trying to lead his opponents out of a city or town to fight, there isn't much Superman could really do to prevent that kind of destruction from happening were he to be fighting people of equal power levels. I won't hold it against him - you can't always detract yourself from the fight enough to go and rescue every falling building and person while taking on an trained group of super-villains.
There's a lot of moments in this movie that will not make sense to those who are trying to think too much on this movie - such as Lois falling down when everything around her is getting sucked into a black hole - but since it's an action movie I went into it with that same kind of brain-numbed expectations I usually do that allowed me to get around this sort of thing. If you go into it expecting an origin story for a new version of Superman, one where more destruction is shown and meant to be a special effects marvel, then you'll enjoy this movie a lot better. There exists in the movie aspects I really like, but also aspects that make it physically unenjoyable for me to watch, so it's a grabbag of opinions for this one. I'll let you decide for yourself, as I always do, whether you want to sit down and watch it - it's a fine pop corn flick, I just don't imagine a whole lot of repeat viewers on this one.