Earlier this month, DC's latest superhero film excursion Man of Steel earned a fairly strong 4* score here at On-Screen. However, the distinction between a 4* score and either 4.5* or 5* reviews can often make all the difference, and with regards to this ambitious reboot, this difference is absolutely crucial.
More than anything, with hindsight Man of Steel's narrative ramifications lead me to question the necessity of Christopher Nolan and his team initiating an all-out reboot of the DC movie universe. With this in mind, below you'll find a guide to the top five reasons that this budding superhero motion picture perhaps shouldn't even exist...
- THE DC UNIVERSE WAS FINE WITHOUT IT- Although some fans took qualms with the way they concluded, few would attempt to argue that the Dark Knight films were not both a critical and financial phenomenon in themselves. Quite why, then, in releasing Man of Steel their creator Christopher Nolan chose to completely reboot this new envisioned DC universe, instead injecting more layers of fantasy and god-like superheroes into their world, is beyond this writer. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises laid strong foundations of a more gritty, realistic DC universe just as films like Thor and Iron Man did for Marvel, which makes the decision to scrap their mythology all the more bewildering. Granted, Green Lantern didn't help matters in 2011, but that misfire could easily have been ignored had Nolan and his team elected to integrate Man of Steel into the impressive realistic storyline that The Dark Knight had skilfully created.
- SMALLVILLE DOES EMOTIONAL MOMENTS BETTER- No matter how far we attempt to argue that the CW television drama Smallville was over-stretched in its decade-long broadcast, it is damn near impossible to contest that the show featured its fair share of dramatically effective emotional setpieces. Man of Steel, however, is virtually devoid of these tear-jerking segments beyond the raw emotion present in its visually stunning opening scenes on Krypton, with Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent failing to fill the shoes of his Smallville predecessor John Schneider by a fair margin. If Man of Steel's writers hoped to summarize what Smallville did in the opening half hour that its protagonist makes all the same leaps and bounds his ten-year counterpart once did, then they could have done so more effectively by injecting some of the empathy and heart that their CW colleagues did for Clark Kent over the course of a decade.
- SUPERMAN CONTRADICTS HIS OWN COMIC BOOKS- This naturally may be something of a controversial matter among fans of the Man of Steel. For instance, the Dark Knight trilogy took several liberties with its source text in order to bring across its thematic messages. However, the steps Man of Steel takes to differentiate from its comic predecessors are arguably steps too far, as Superman (spoilers ahead!) elects to kill General Zod during a battle which decimates much of the city of Metropolis. Both the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel have a aversion to murder, an aversion which the former hero upholds in his own trilogy, so for the writers to have their Kryptonian protagonist break that rule so swiftly in the first instalment with little true justification seems a somewhat unruly decision on their parts.
- THE VIEWER DOESN'T CARE ABOUT SUPPORTING CHARACTERS- Remember how we all felt a degree of empathy and attachment to the characters of the Batman world, such as Alfred, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent? Now, compare that with the instantly forgettable renditions of Lara-El, Lois Lane, Perry White and any military characters in Man of Steel. There's a hugely noticeable contrast of character appeal between the two franchises, a contrast that makes this writer far less excited to return to the world of Superman than he was to rediscover Nolan's Caped Crusader every four years. This issue needs to be sorted out if the Justice League motion picture ever has any hope of coming to light.
- MAN OF STEEL POSES NO CONCRETE CONNECTIONS- Considering that Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan and Henry Cavill have made clear DC Studios' intentions to have Man of Steel kick-start a chain of events in a rebooted universe to ultimately lead to a Justice League film, it seems completely bizarre that this first intended instalment features virtually no proper connections to the wider DC universe. Sure, there are references to STAR Labs and Wayne Industries, but these have very little meaning in terms of major narrative events, especially when compared to the initial strong Avengers links posed in the original Iron Man. There's virtually no sign of seeds being planted here for Justice League, which is a true shame, as had there been some, perhaps Man of Steel would have resulted in a more effective overall film experience.
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