Monday, April 7, 2014

Man of Steel

Last Summer the movie Man of Steel was released. I have always been a fan of Superman movies, since my early childhood. My first memory of a movie theater was when I was three years old. My favorite aunt took me to see the original Superman (1977) with Christopher Reeve. I was captivated from the beginning, but unfortunately, my aunt decided to take me during the time I would normally have my nap, and I fell asleep. But, years later, I watched it over and over on TV and on VHS.

That franchise unfortunately was never destined for much success, and in my observation faded into what would eventually be little more than a cult following. Die hard Superman fans enjoyed it, but critics and I think the general public wasn't really impressed, especially in 1987 when they tried to reboot it with Superman IV:  The Quest for Peace. Lex Luther (Gene Hackman) creates his own evil super-man during the height of The Cold War prompting Superman to gather up all the world's nuclear weapons and throw them into the direction of the Sun. Pretty lame.

Then there was Superman Returns (2006, Brandon Routh) in which Superman actually died! (And was later resurrected.) Killed by Lex Luther (Kevin Spacey). I felt a little lukewarm about this one. I found it interesting how everything was updated; modern. They had the internet and computers and digital devices and all. But what really made this film stand out was, (aside from the fact that he died and was resurrected, and the plot was much darker) Superman had a son. 

Man of Steel however, was the best incarnation of Superman I've seen yet. The plot was much darker than the originals, even darker than Superman Returns, but seemed to reflect the current state of reality. The aerial scenes of Metropolis were awesome. The scenes of Krypton were awesome. The technology was very well done, reflective of an organic inspiration. Yes the film was heavily dependent on computer generated artwork, but not so much that you lose the story or get sick of it.

Jor-El, father of Kal-El (Superman).

The story was very well told. Sort of a combination of the events in Superman (1977) and Superman II, it dealt with both the discovery and raising of Clark Kent and the arrival of General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his minions. But in this film, you see first contact, which of course like any good movie with an alien, was between he and The United States Military, in particular DARPA. And there are flashbacks. All through the film you see Clark Kent flashing back to his childhood, starting with before he knew he had his super powers. We get a unique insight of what it's like to grow up different; to have a secret that must be protected until the right time; to learn your destiny; to learn your potential. All the while he manages to fall in love with Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

Truth be told, I loved this movie, and someday I will buy a copy. But....there were two very big rip-offs. The victims were The Matrix; Aliens, and Prometheus. Thankfully they didn't rip-off the plot lines, but they did borrow from the artwork.

The first rip-off was from The Matrix: The inhabitants of Krypton, over thousands of years, somehow managed to sterilize themselves, thus relying on technology to create clones to sustain the population. This takes place in what they call a Genesis Chamber, which is a pool that contains vines with human beings growing on them like tomatoes. You'll notice the similarities to The Matrix's "fields"  in the following pictures.

Genesis Chamber

"Humans are no longer born; they're grown." - Morpheus

The second and biggest rip-off was from Alien 1979), Aliens (1986) and Prometheus (2012). Some of the artwork appeared to be taken from HR Giger's work on the Alien series. Zod and his cronies could not breath Earth's atmosphere, so while on Earth, they had to wear a specialized helmet with what looked like a SCUBA apparatus. Notice that with the helmet on, the characters looked a lot like Giger's "Space Jockey," the way the mask tapers down to a tube that connects to the chest. Notice the similarities in the following pictures. (I have Googled this several times. Giger was not involved in the production of Man of Steel, but one article states that the artists were "inspired" by Giger's art.)

General Zod in battle gear.

Space Jockey

Disembodied head of an "Engineer" (Prometheus).

Also, notice the similarities in the detail, construction, and general shapes and colors of alien environments. Both have these organic shaped tunnels that look like they have a spine running down the center of them. You could also say another similarity was that Krypton was a dark, black place, like it was all made of volcanic basalt; and their technology which was devoid of color and always seen in low light; was sort of reminiscent of the technology the humans discovered on LV-223 in Prometheus.

Corridor inside alien structure on LV-223 (Prometheus).

Corridor inside "Scout ship" on Earth (Prometheus).

Rip-offs and all, I totally recommend Man of Steel. The film as a whole makes up for all it's follies and is enjoyable.

IMDb gives Man of Steel 7.4 stars; The toast:  a strong 8, maybe 8+.