Paul Dundon’s Weblog


A little cheese and a little whine

Film Log: Man of Steel

Details here.

All superhero movies face the problem of how to generate sympathy for the protagonist; after all, it’s hard  to feel sorry for someone with superpowers. The recent trend of “reboot” films face the additional problem of how to tell a story which the audience has already heard in such a way as to give the retelling some artistic purpose or at least, to feel worth the effort.

Man of Steel felt to me like two films: everything up until Zod’s arrival at Earth and everything thereafter. The first part offered no very good solutions to the first problem, falling back on the old and implausible stand-by of Superman unable to use his powers for fear of his identity being revealed. I was hopeful, after a promising start on Krypton, and a cut straight to an adult Superman rescuing survivors from an oil rig disaster, that we would be spared the tedium of a whiny childhood in Smallville; but a few minutes later we were in flashback central, subjected to the secret identity cant overlaid with the traditional but slightly troubling proto-fascist “what the world needs is one really strong man” narrative.

The first half did, however, add some interesting ideas to the Krypton backstory in a way which laid the ground very nicely for the second half. This was rather better, developing the basic idea that Superman had to choose between saving his own race or defending humanity, adding nicely to the well-known story while also giving our (super)hero a genuine moral dilemma and a reason for us to care about him which didn’t depend on his refusal to man up and get on with his life. It didn’t go as far with this as it might have done, but this part of the film was a fairly satisfying by-the-numbers alien invasion romp and too much philosophy would probably have made it a lot less fun than it was.

Having been fairly ambivalent about the first hour of this flick, the second part won me over, right until the unnecessary five minute coda where Superman and Zod slug it out and destroy huge swathes of Metropolis in the process. Like the rest of the film, this was technically very accomplished, but uncertain, from a storytelling point of view, quite what it was doing.


Filed under: Film + TV

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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