Superman: Man of Steel

It has truly been a week of sheer apocalyptic excellence.

Alongside the incredible The Last of Us, I finally experienced the magnificent Man of Steel at the big screen at Odeon Leicester Square. Resplendent in 3D, the screen is a quality 8k experience and despite the extortionate ticket prices at £25 per head, I reserve the films I’m most excited about for this location to enjoy a proper cinematic experience.

I really don’t know how to start with this one. I’m afraid that my warped subjectivity would place a slanted view on this much hyped movie, but then one could argue that this has gone towards the whole experience; the fact that I had hyped this movie so much and then came out utterly blown away is surely the greatest experience any movie goer can have? I will warn you, this review contains spoilers.

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Thrown amidst the chaos of Krypton’s political and geological turmoil, we are shown an emotional and dramatic battle between the government leaders and a rebel army coup led by the infamous General Zod, played emphatically in a role surely deserving of villain of the year. Heath Ledger is still safe, but by god he should feel worried. Convicted of high treason, the General and his cronies are sent to some otherworldy alternate universe where they are confined to a very graphical and frightening stasis for an undefined period of time. Meanwhile our very own big-blue, currently in cutesy baby form, is shipped off to Earth.

Fast forward 30 odd years and through some oddly fortuitous events, Zod has pursued Kal-El across the galaxies to Earth and he’s really not playing nice.

Up to now, Superman is very much the loner and as the comic books will often alude, he is deep down a kansas labourer revelling in the solitary pursuits the likes of farming and fishing will provide. There’s no secret telephone box transformations here, in fact the Clark Kent reporter role isn’t really shown to us until the closing scenes in a fantastic little reveal that appears spookily reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s charming yes-maam smiles. It isn’t until our beloved Lois Lane smells a rat and forces our caped crusader out of hiding.

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Zod’s pursuit of Kal-El back to Earth puts him in a predicament. As a man of Justice (he personifies both the ideal and the word in the comic books), he is the ultimate boy scout, believing essentially in freedom of choice, life and that everybody is obligated to redemption. Something Batman and Superman often debate, sometimes to the death.

As Zod holds Earth to ransom, Superman’s decision to hand himself in is conflicted with his ultimate fear that Zod is not to be trusted, giving the film the excuse it needs to perform ‘Template Superhero Movie 1’. All super hero films go through some type of internal turmoil and sacrifice. We will often see our chief protagonists in a state of weakness without their powers. Snyder gets this out the way very early on in the movie and allows his comic book fans to enjoy the biggest spectacle on the screen unfold. There’s no divorcees, no adopted children, no love childs and no attempt to bring humanity to a character through moden social challenges and stigmas.

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Instead, Superman’s humanity is shaped via the decisions he makes, often via flashbacks of dialogue with his adopted parents. This is no ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ softness, but more about sacrifice and understanding that the needs of many outweigh the needs of an individual.

It works really well and the thought process put together to ensure that Superman becomes the man we know is a logical and believable progression.

It’s this schooling and character development that makes the crescendo, and I use that word lightly, so utterly absorbing. It would be difficult to have believed that anybody could top the chaos and destruction we saw at the end of Avengers, but the battle between Superman and Zod takes this to another level as we witness the punch up between these two god’s pretty much level the entire city of Metropolis.

With SFX where it is now, it appears nothing is impossible with CGI used extensively and dramatically to assist in the destruction of cars, buildings and cities with impressive and frightening ease. Punches from one to the other result in giant shockwaves, smashing glass and wood all around. Each fighter thrown in quick succession through buildings, ending up in a block of buildings 3 miles away as they fall apart like plywood. And they’re quick too, with the power reverberating in rapid, barely countable uppercuts, it’s a great way of reminding us that these guys are on a different level.

Just when you think it cannot get any more intense, the finale unfolds and we are shown a boss fight unlike any seen in any computer game. What we have, again, is a bunch of nerds making movies sitting around in McDonald’s saying things like ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if Superman could…..’. And then they make it happen. The realms of the fantastic and the real are melded into beautiful, poetic theatre.

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And they’ve done the impossible. They’ve turned a boy scout, generally unloved for his squeaky clean image and ‘yes-sir’ attitude, into a powerhouse action hero who can be, and was often, damn scary. Those lazer eyes were incredibly well done and his anger is far from hidden here and is frequently expressed with verve and gusto.

Neither Snyder or Nolan are known for taking breathers via comedy and we can see stark differences (no pun intended) between the world of DC and Marvel, as Wheedon can often have the audience in stitches through genuinely unexpected comedy, Superman is fraught with a much more conservative undertone, taking the audience through a more serious narrative.

It’s been a long time since I went to the movies where the audience not only applauded the beginning of the movie, but also the end. I sat through the entire end credits transfixed to the screen wondering if I should just get another ticket and go through the whole thing again.

Having a young daughter is helpful in that it gives me repeat opportunities to watch the best of the best at the big screen. I’m both excited and emotional that we are going through a golden age of cinema where we are witnessing the re-birth of dramatic screen superheros that now justify their posters in bedrooms of boys, the world over.

Oh and ten points to whoever spotted the Lex Luther reference in the movie ;)

The question now though, has superhero fantasy film finally taken over the comic book form? If this film is anything to go by, the future is exciting.

Epic and majestic, a truly masterful achievement. Yes, I liked it.

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