It’s a little known fact that the Man of Steel is actually my secret husband. (I’m also related to all members of Steel Panther). I try not to make a big deal of it, otherwise hoards of women (and probably a good few men too) would hunt me down in the streets and take me out, all due to their lust for ‘Fat Cavill’. (Seriously, ‘Fat Cavill’? I think there’s a very good reason why there’s no photographic evidence of our Henry as a chubster, and I for one am not buying it). Anyway, I digress. The superhero fever is apparently not going away any time soon, which is why Superman has followed in the suited and caped footsteps of Batman and Spiderman, to be reinvented in the first of at least two new feature length films. I was a bit sceptical at first; if I’m honest, I think this born again movie obsession with superheroes is already getting a little old, and there’s countless more to come yet – probably another Spiderman, more Avengers, Thor, Captain America (I think)… and of course a Superman sequel was announced before the first film had even been released. They’re all trying to do ‘something new’ with the characters apparently, to show them in a new light, reinvent them, create more of a human side and a back story, show us all their origins. Well they can do that until the cows come home, but it’s all essentially the same saving the world while wearing a funny outfit scenario, and there’s only so many changes that can be made before faithful comic fans cry foul. So, superhero overkill, I thought. But that was before I really paid attention to the fact that Henry Cavill would be taking the starring role.
Oh Henry Cavill. Lovely, lovely Henry Cavill. I don’t want to turn all shallow and hormonal here, but he really is astonishingly beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I actually found him to be quite a major distraction. There were definitely a few bearded moments in the film (I have to say I’m not such a fan of his clean-shaven chiselled jaw) where I realised I’d missed the dialogue completely because I was too busy staring at Henry Cavill’s beautiful face. This is not necessarily a good thing. Obviously his face is an incredibly good thing, but as much as I appreciated the eye candy, I suspect the fact that I missed out on part of the film because of it was not necessarily what the studio had in mind. Unless, of course, they were purposefully using young Henry as a distraction from their cheesy dialogue, which is not altogether implausible. Perhaps they realised their mistake fairly on, and that’s why the stubble was sacrificed. I must admit I found it easier to pay attention to the general plot once Henry had had a shave.
I am still digressing. Tremendous eye candy aside, I do actually have some valid points to make about the film. But firstly, a rather silly point – as far as villains’ names go, I think ‘General Zod’ just about tops the list as the most ridiculous. I wouldn’t expect an alien name to be familiar, but Zod?! Really?! I completely cracked up the first time I heard it uttered in supposedly menacing tones, in fact I distinctly remember turning to my friend in the cinema (who was also in stitches) and both of us mouthing “Zod!” at each other and trying not to snort loudly with laughter. I was also really surprised by how old Russell Crowe and especially Kevin Costner looked. I don’t really know why I was so surprised, but I haven’t really paid much attention to Kevin Costner since his role in one of my all time favourite films, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which I always think is just a couple of years old and is in reality over twenty. To be honest, it’d be more surprising if he didn’t look like he’d aged at all in those twenty years, but he played the role of a slightly downtrodden and yet determined father well, and I rather liked the way he chose to play Clark’s dad.
Now, valid points! I did have a few problems with the film. The first issue I had was the length. For an action type superhero movie, I did think two and a half hours was a bit too long to sustain the pace, and there were times when it definitely felt like it was dragging. Considering the studio seemed to be going for quite an intense and angsty vibe (I’m yet to decide whether that was successful or not, which probably suggests it wasn’t), it was kind of bleak which made watching it for such a long time a pretty exhausting experience. I thought the final fight sequence especially was far, far too long. It seemed to get a bit carried away down the Avengers route; there are only so many buildings I can watch getting smashed up before my attention wanders. Plus the destruction of practically an entire city seemed pretty out of keeping with Clark’s motivation to save the world and protect everyone. You could claim it as collateral damage, but on that scale I’d say it’s pretty damn careless. This sequence really did remind me of the Avengers Assemble movie though, because exactly the same kind of thing was happening plotwise at this particular moment, and I had the same feeling that the filmmakers just wanted to use this part of the film as an excuse to showcase all their special effects and their CGI technology at the expense of pacing and plot. But even though I disliked this part of the film, I also thought it was wrapped up too easily in a way that didn’t quite make sense to me. General Zod’s death just seemed too simple in the end. They spent goodness knows how long flinging each other into buildings, throwing architecture on top of each other and causing a truly ridiculous amount of damage to the surrounding environment without really hurting each other in any significant way, and then Clark quickly and calmly snaps Zod’s neck? Well why on earth didn’t he do that twenty minutes ago and make a better film! And, more to the point, why did he have to do that in the first place? Why wasn’t Zod sucked into the black hole along with everyone else? (That is a genuine question, if anyone actually does have an explanation for that I’d be very intrigued to hear it, because I really don’t understand how that happened and I really wish it had and then everything could be wrapped up in a neat two hours, relieving both my attention span and the hassle of destroying a city).
Issue number two: the whole Superman identity package. Let’s face it, they’ve gone for a butch and masculine actor, provided a hot and sexy love interest in the form of Amy Adams as Lois Lane, tasked butch and masculine actor with saving the world and defending humanity, and yet somehow it’s all still a bit camp. The costume is hardly the most masculine of all superhero outfits. Thank goodness the highly controversial decision was made to drop the red knickers, but any man at ease in a pair of tights is still a worry in my eyes. Let’s face it, the costume is ridiculous. There’s no way round it. It looks like it’s been given some kind of armour finish, perhaps to butch it up a bit, but now it just looks like the sort of nasty material that’s used to upholster car interiors. The cape has no real function and, let’s be honest, is just an excuse to show off and be noticed. Okay so all of this is part of the Superman canon, and it caused enough fuss when the pants were dropped so imagine what would happen if the cape was shunned too, but I’m sure there would be ways around the campness without sacrificing the rest of the costume. Superman’s flying method, for example. I think the campest thing about Superman is the technique he uses for flying. Surely, surely there must be some other way round that? Iron Man doesn’t have to stick both his arms in the air like he’s partaking in an aerobics class, he just pushes off from the ground and flies! And has anyone ever accused Iron Man of looking camp? I think not, he’d blast you through a wall for suggesting it. I think a major trick was missed here. At the start of the film there are shots of Henry Cavill, covered in sweat and dirt, with a bit of a beard and a bit of ripped clothing, muscles on display, saving people’s lives and looking damn hot and manly doing it (Exhibit A). And then cut to the end of the film, and there’s shaven and sparkly clean Henry Cavill in a pair of tights and a cape, looking like he’s about to launch into the YMCA mid-flight (Exhibit B). It’s just such a shame, it’s an action film and it had the potential to be gruffer and manlier and sexier, but the end result is a bit metrosexual really. Give me a Wolverine any day.
Onto my final issue with the film, and this isn’t to do with this Superman film specifically, but with the whole Superman canon/franchise. It has to be, of course, the Clark Kent/Superman disguise. It is RUBBISH. I’m sorry, but there is no other way of putting it. It’s just absolutely bloody godawful! Give a guy a pair of glasses, and suddenly no one knows who he is! Slick back his hair and he’s a master of disguise! Oh please! Did the inventor of Superman really create his characters with such a low IQ for us to believe that they wouldn’t notice? What if Clark had dirt on his glasses, took them off to clean them, and suddenly “oh my god, it’s Superman!” What if Superman got caught up in a storm and came back with his hair ruffled, would fellow reporters suddenly look at him and say “Hey, you’re the spitting image of Clark Kent!” Or did the creators really think that we, as an audience, are so dim that we couldn’t cope with following a better disguise? It’s lazy and ridiculous, and I’m just not buying it.
But it’s not all negative, there were some parts of the film that were really positive for me (eye candy aside). I was pleasantly surprised with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, she’s not how I particularly pictured the character because her portrayal of is quite different to what I’ve seen from other actresses in terms of both looks and also her interpretation of the role. I like that her character is pretty feisty and independent, and that she doesn’t always end up as a damsel in distress but is able to demonstrate her guts and intelligence too. I also like that she knows Clark’s identity as Superman from very early on, so we’re not sucked into thinking she’s naïve and easily fooled, but we also don’t have to see the ridiculous love triangle of Lois/Clark/Superman that was so popular with the TV series. (Is it really a love triangle if two of the people involved are actually the same person? This is potentially getting Freudian). I liked that we got to see Lois as a developed, independent character, rather than just as a love interest. I also liked that we got to see Clark’s more human side, and the conflicts and dilemmas he has to face about his real identity, angsty though it occasionally was (any excuse to see a Cavill pout. I was also a big fan of his injured, puzzled and occasionally offended expressions too, by which I mean I’m a big fan of his face in general). But I have to admit, if you asked me for my absolutely favourite moment of the film, it would be the scene were young Clark is being tormented by his peers in front of his father, and mangles a fence in frustration rather than retaliating. But I don’t like that scene for the moral message, or for Kevin Costner’s portrayal of a caring and proud father who feels his son’s humiliation, and I certainly don’t like it for the acting on the part of young Clark which, if I’m honest, left a lot to be desired in most scenes (as cruel though that sounds, he is a young actor and I’m sure he’ll get better). So, what is it about that scene that I really liked? Young Clark is pictured reading a copy of Plato and, as a former Classics student, that’s the one thing that helped me to warm to such a self-absorbed and angsty teenager. Okay so the guy wears tights, I thought, but he can’t be that bad. Or can he? We’ll just have to wait for the sequel (and a potential showdown with Batman!) to find out.