Man of Steel: Better than you remembered
Zack Snyder’s take on Superman (played by Henry Cavill) film is upfront with its feelings, unmistakably campy, and knows exactly what it wants to be: a hammy film celebrating superhero bombast.
Man of Steel: Better than you remembered
Lanz Aaron G. Tan (The Philippine Star) - June 9, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Hollywood director Zack Snyder recently hosted a watch party of Man of Steel, the film that launched the DC Extended Universe.

No one is making the case that Man of Steel is a carefully constructed auteur film — at least, I hope not. It’s easy to see why Snyder’s film was met with such a mixed critical response upon its release in 2013. Christopher Nolan had just concluded his Dark Knight Trilogy the year prior, and had succeeded in flipping the superhero genre on its head with hefty themes and well-paced noir mysteries.

Snyder’s take on Superman was markedly different. It was loud beyond belief, populated with one-dimensional characters (who always seemed to be frowning), and was so grey one could burst a vein in their eye trying to identify colors.

But beneath all its ostentatious self-importance, there was also endearing charm. Snyder’s film is upfront with its feelings, unmistakably campy, and knows exactly what it wants to be: a hammy film celebrating superhero bombast.

I’d go so far as to say that the 20-minute prelude on Krypton represents the best filmmaking in Snyder’s career with sumptuous visual storytelling of Biblical proportions, innovative art design and unapologetically cheesy dialogue. Who doesn’t want to see Russell Crowe decked out in alien armor riding a four-winged dragon? It’s the perfect setup for a film that throws everything but the kitchen sink at the screen.

Snyder tells a banal story, but it’s also one that’s easily elevated by Hans Zimmer’s beautiful score, which takes us from the quiet euphoric piano in Flight to the discordant mysteries of DNA to the adrenaline-laced percussion-mad I Will Find Him.

Perhaps most emblematic of this tone was Michael Shannon’s General Zod. Shannon has always shone as a villain. Duplicitous and sly in Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, and unflinchingly callous in Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, he’s in his element as the calculating, merciless Zod. What he says often doesn’t make any sense, and would be humorously unrealistic in less skilled hands. But his rendition of a screaming, apocalyptic villain is as self-aware as it gets — and a perfect fit in Man of Steel.

As a cohesive well-written story, Synder’s film stands on quicksand. But as a campy superhero adventure with over-the-top villains and a fantastic score, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Man of Steel is streaming on Netflix.

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