“Chirstopher Nolan made me believe in superheroes,” a colleague remarked in awe, not too long ago, while discussing films. A statement that most of us would agree to. And, that is what producer-screenwriter Nolan tries to do for Man of Steel, too. Along with co-screenwriter David S Goyer, he recreates an elaborate and ‘believable’ backstory to the comicbook superhero, the only problem being that it occupies almost half the movie.
In a too lengthy prologue, Nolan tries to convince us about Superman’s origins with a well-thought out and detailed story of the sinking planet Krypton. As Krypton is in its last moments, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) steals the coveted ‘Codex’ that contains the genetic material of all his people. He and wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) then sends it away with their son, the first naturally born child of the planet Kal-El, off to Earth, so that he can “create a better world” than theirs. An action that leads to his death by General Zod (Micheal Shannon), whose sole purpose in life, he later reveals, is to save Krypton.
Back on Earth, the little Kal-El lands in the hands of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diana Lane), who take him in as their son and call him Clark Kent. True to his mother Lara’s worries, that “he will be a freak” on Earth, Clark finds himself isolated from his peers due to his superpowers. But his foster father warns him to keep his powers under cover till the Earth is ready for someone like him. Quite a difficult thing for a superhero to do, isn’t it? He is exposed over and again as he sets out to save humans in trouble and is forced to move from place to place living under different false identities. Till the ‘Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’ Lois Lane (Amy Adams) finds out the truth about him. Immediately after which General Zod returns to retrieve the Codex and take over Earth in the process. What happens next is not much of a mystery. There is fighting. Buildings collapse. People die. Some are saved. And, in the end, everyone knows the answer to whether the superhero ends up saving Earth or not. And amidst all this, he finds time to fall in love, too.
The biggest disappointment in 300 director Zack Snyder’s version of the film, however, is that the S on Superman’s suit doesn’t stand for what we thought it did till now. Cavill’s Superman is not even called so in the film. Yes, just one and a half times, to be really precise. Once when Adams’s Lane tries to utter it but is cut short, and then when some inconsequential character tells us that “that’s what they are calling him now”. What’s more, Cavill is not even seen in his suit till over an hour into the movie. There is no It-is-a-bird-it-is-a-plane-no-it-is-Superman moment. Neither is there a I-have-to-use-my-superpower-to-save-the-Earth moment. The viewer is not even given the pleasure of being the only one to know of the secret identity of Superman. The film is more about the young man dealing with the baggage that comes with having superhuman powers. It’s more about how he tries to fit in than stand out.
Even with the humungous effort that backs the film, Man Of Steel does not deliver as expected. The casting is near perfect, with Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Micheal Shannon giving outstanding performances. Cavill’s Clark Kent looks good in the suit with his chiselled looks and toned muscles, but his acting skills are put to test as the omnipotent superhero. Adams, too, is not at her best as Lane.
The last half an hour of the film is packed with ‘the stuff that superhero hero films are made of’. There’s a lot of flying, fighting and falling, more flying, fighting, and more falling, and a lot of sci-fi jargon. Every time you feel the fight is over, you soon realise that it is just the calm before the next special effects-aided storm. The film is too long and the solemn narrative style doesn’t do it any good. And, as for my colleague, me and many others who trusted Nolan’s vision and talent blindly, Man Of Steel disappoints.
Film: Man Of Steel
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams