Film Review: Man of Steel

This review was originally published on The Orange Post on Wednesday 3rd July 2013.

Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is a mixed blessing. At times it soars, just like the breathtaking depiction of Superman’s first flight. However, at times, and particularly in the final hour, it drags and is reminiscent of the director’s poorly received Sucker Punch.

Snyder retells Kal-El’s origin story, giving Krypton a much grittier and organic feel when compared to Richard Donner’s glowing crystalline depiction in Superman The Movie from 1978. Through a series of flashbacks, he recalls important moments in Clark’s early years on Earth and then thrusts us into what is essentially an alien invasion, as Kryptonian criminals General Zod and company arrive in search of Kal-El and some alien maguffin thingy.

The problem with man of Steel is that it takes Superman’s perspective rather than ours. It’s very easy to imagine that Clark / Kal-El is apprehensive about revealing himself to the world. Unfortunately, he waits until Zod demands that he be turned over to don his tights and cape. Snyder never shows us how the non-US military world reacts to his existence. Instead, we cut straight to brain numbing Transformers-lite fighting. You and I dealing with a superman amongst us is far more interesting than an alien’s angst about dealing with us mortals.

And that brings us to stakes. In Man of Steel, there are none. From the outset, it is established that Superman and General Zod are practically invincible on our planet, so when the film heads down the slippery slope that is two guys fighting in the air and crashing through buildings ad nauseum, it is pretty hard to care. We’ve already seen the battle sequences in Man of Steel before, in the Transformers franchise and again last year in The Avengers.

It’s not all bad though. The actor most maligned on the internet for his casting, Kevin Costner, is really solid and brings a gravitas to Jonathan Kent, Kal-El’s human father figure. Also charismatic is Russell Crowe who has clearly stayed off the pies to fit into his Kryptonian super suit as Jor-El, Superman’s real father. The talented Amy Adams is a determined and ambitious Lois Lane who has great chemistry with her boss at the Daily Planet, Perry White, played by Laurence Fishburne. It’s a bit of a shame that this chemistry is not present with the guy in the tights.

Henry Cavill certainly looks right for the part of Superman, but as the storyline takes place before he dons his glasses and becomes a mild mannered reporter, there is not really any duality. Without the Clark Kent persona, Cavill has little to do but look concerned. He might be the perfect Superman, but I think that may well be a matter for any subsequent instalments.

I was most looking forward to seeing how Michael Shannon, one of my favourite actors, would fare in his first major blockbuster role as General Zod. For his first couple of scenes, I had a great time with Shannon’s intense, bug eyed performance, however, it soon became clear that this was a one note performance and I grew tired of it. I hope that this isn’t his only foray into mainstream film.

The final act of the film consists of two very long and tiresome CGI laden fights that will leave you walking out of the cinema exhausted. Only when the dust had settled and we got just a few moments of Clark joining Lois on the staff of the Daily Planet before the end credits rolled did I catch a glimpse of the Superman movie I really wanted to see.

Published in: on July 4, 2013 at 00:05  Leave a Comment  
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Cut from the Final Cut

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 13th September 2011.

Imagine being a struggling actor and after years of unsuccessful auditions, you finally get your big break. You rehearse your lines, shoot your scenes and then gather all your friends and family together to watch your work on the big or small screen. Imagine your horror when you find that your scenes have been reduced to a few seconds of screen time or even worse, cut completely from the final project.

Star Wars debuts on high definition blu-ray tomorrow. For Episode IV: A New Hope, English actor Garrick Hagon was cast in the role of Biggs Darklighter, Luke Skywalker’s long time friend. He shot several scenes including one on Tatooine where he confides to Luke that he wishes to abandon the Imperial Academy to join the Rebel Alliance, as well as a reunion at the Yavin 4 hanger prior to the Death Star battle. Both of these ended up on the editing room floor, with only a minor appearance, and subsequent death by explosion thanks to Darth Vader, making it into the original 1977 cut.

I suppose he can’t complain. Hagon does appear in one of the most popular motion pictures ever, and was even immortalised as an action figure. And that is much more than my next subject can say.

The Big Chill was a hit film released in 1983. It was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starred Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt and Kevin Kline. Its storyline follows a group of college friends who come back together as thirtysomethings after the suicide of one their mates.

The original script called for flashbacks of the dead friend’s life that were to be interspersed throughout the film. These scenes were shot using an unknown actor at the time named Kevin Costner.

In the final cut, all that remains of Costner’s work are a few shots of his wrists and hair as the corpse is being prepared for the funeral. After sitting through Costner’s self-indulgent disaster, The Postman, I think The Big Chill may be his best work. The deleted scenes have never been released.

Speaking of which, The Big Chill soundtrack is rather excellent. Costner isn’t on that either.

Being cut from a film is not just a phenomenon for unknown actors. Famed film director Terrance Malick finally returned to the big screen with 1998’s The Thin Red Line after an absence of twenty years. This World War 2 drama features seemingly every big name male actor of the time, including Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and George Clooney.

Malick’s first cut ran for a bum-numbing five hours. By the time it hit cinemas, The Thin Red Line was down to 170 minutes. Unfortunately, to achieve this feat, all of the scenes featuring Gary Oldman, Billy Bob Thornton, Viggo Mortensen, Jason Patric, Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman and Martin Sheen were left on the cutting room floor. I hope they all got paid anyway.

The deadly final cut has even happened to me, although in my case I barely made it in front of the camera.

In my years as a child actor, I was cast in the ABC miniseries Children of the Dragon, starring Gary Sweet. I played a hotel bellhop and had two scenes opposite English actor, Bob Peck.

Peck had starred in the sci-fi flick Slipstream opposite Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, so I was pretty excited. He later went on to star in Jurassic Park as doomed game warden Robert Muldoon.

My first scene was shot in the morning. All I had to do was grab Bob’s suitcase from a limo and lead him up some stairs. My other scene had dialogue so a few days later I dutifully practiced my lines and waited in the dressing room for my call to work with Mr Peck. Eight hours later, an assistant knocks on the door and informs me that they are running late and my scene had been cut.

What a bummer. Oh well, if it was good enough for Robin Hood, The Wrestler and that guy from Star Wars, it’s good enough for me too.