DCEU Chronicle of a Disaster: Man of Steel (2013)

In Frustrated Moviegoers we start a cycle with a high load of fandom dynamite: a review of the five films that made up the initial iteration of the so-called DCEU o DC Extended Universe: Since its inaugural Man of Steel to the bizarre pastiche of Justice League. We start with that Iron Man which achieved mixed reviews, acceptable success and some doubts about the treatment of a character like Superman. Let’s start!

The so-called DCEU, started back in 2013 with Man of Steel, was surrounded almost from its incubation by a huge shadow coming from the neighbor’s house: Marvel, after establishing itself as a studio, had initiated an ambitious plan of films for each of the main superheroes for which it still retained film rights with an eye on in a group film for all of them under the emblem of The Avengers. Those early films were lucky at the box office, with hits like Hombre de Hierro Y Iron Man 2lukewarm receptions like those of Captain America Y Thorand even piñazos like The Incredible Hulk. but when it came avengers, in 2012, everything changed for the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe: a monumental success and the conversion of that universe into a machine to generate tickets and endless movies. By then Warner had already started production on a new iteration of Superman under the tutelage of Christopher Nolanthen director of the most popular trilogy of the genre, and the direction of Zack Snyder. A temporary channel that largely avoids suspicions about Warner’s intentions: Man of Steel is, along with wonder-woman, the least contaminated film of the entire DCEU.

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Nolan’s choice as a guru, with a classic producer role, was obvious: the commercial, social and critical impact of his Batman films catapulted him to the level of untouchable director and putting him at the helm of the new iteration of Superman was the move. apparently suitable. We say apparently because… Because one could attribute to this wise woman (without irony, who in those years was not going to give Nolan the keys to the new Superman after the results of Batman?) choice the first of Warner’s great mistakes: the tone realistic, sorrowful and emotionally content of Nolan in his Batman was not a formal choice. Not even a creative bet. It’s his way of making movies, like it or not, so his Superman had many issues of going the same way. Despite all the project was studio, and eventually delivered to a director, but the Nolan patina was going to be there. Formally, these ingredients appear almost from the film’s conception, some choices in the team and the tone: the use of flashbacks batmanbeginssoundtrack by hans zimmer and, of course, a film of realistic tone and gloomy air. And here we hit the target of the majority of criticism towards a film that, on the other hand, It usually comes out quite unscathed from the harassment and demolition of this erratic universe.

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In large part it is due to It is not, by any means, a bad film.. And a portion of those reasons, it must be said, is due to that Nolan touch. We will leave the debate about its adaptation to the character for later, but that sober approach, which shuns lightness, humor and pulp dressings, distances Man of Steel of the inaugural installment of the genre (Superman, Richard Donner1978) and its dull semi-sequel (superman returns, Brian Singer, 2006). So from the outset we win a restart that defends itself and lends itself to the judgment of the viewer without the latter being able to hide behind a more of the same. Man of Steel embraces the technological possibilities of the moment with an exhibition -common in this century- of CGI and media seasoned by Snyder’s talent for achieving clean and spectacular shots, in addition to a photograph tuned to the tone chosen by the creative leadership. The problems come with the final product and can be seen in the first, and endless, first twenty minutes of the film.

The intro on Krypton encapsulates everything good and bad about Man of Steel: It is an overwhelming intro, exuberant in the middle and impeccably well shot. However, he sins narrative hypertrophy to reach a point in the plot that is not worth all that effort: the intro of the original Superman achieved the same result (or better, certainly) without much visual effort. Krypton is going to take wind, Kal El is the last hope, his parents send him to Earth and we are introduced to Zod as the future antagonist of the film. The excess of footage kills the idea and with it we anticipate a problem that breaks the entire film: the narrative does not flow through a plot but it is cut into great moments stuck together as if there were a criminal excess of footage . It is perceived what Nolan, Snyder and Goyer (author of the script) wanted to tell us but the way of doing it annihilates Man of Steel as a pure entertainment experience.

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The reverse of this notion is found in the famous sequence of Jonathan’s death (Kevin Costner): the idea, as a message of the sacrifice of Superman’s adoptive father to preserve his secret, shakes more than that whole highway in the middle of a hurricane. The scene is another great visual moment for Snyder, to be sure, but it ridicules intentionality as soon as most viewers realize the absurdity of that death. Or in the future replica of him: a Clark Kent refusing the physical confrontation in the bar to then create a Picasso using a truck and several electrical poles. We are not in favor of believing ourselves to be smarter than the makers of a film of this size, but we insist on the majority: a good part of the public imagines other situations where that primary idea could make sense.

Man of Steel stands as the origin film, telling us the same as the original by Richard Donner, without this implying anything negative from the outset: it is the genesis of Superman and this was a reboot 35 years later. The casting distills caratsat least in terms of fame, on another Nolan label with the Snyder’s total hit in the most difficult role: henry cavill He is a perfect Superman and above all a Clark Kent adapted to the chosen tone and the obviousness of the moment, since there is no doubt that the comic Clark Kent of 1978 did not make sense here. Unfortunately the treatment of the characters, including Kent/Superman, as well as that of Lois Lane (a Amy Adams whose talent doesn’t quite gel here), or a Zod (Michael Shannon) who wakes up late (his final speech is one of the best in the film although at that point we have deduced what kind of villain he is) they invite us to wonder if they are collateral victims of the aforementioned narrative or someone forgot that they, as always, are the basis of emotions.

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That bet on emotional containment is, perhaps, the biggest problem of a film that, due to its own origin story, already had all the elements: the sacrifice of Kal’s parents, his adoptive parents (Diana Laneyes, she embroiders her role as an adorable mother), Lois and Superman, the adaptation of this among the earthlings… Man of Steelagain looking for great goals and forgetting to execute them in a 140-minute film, comes to interesting ideas but forgets to turn them into something tangible: indeed Superman is a God among mortals, and their adaptation to the planet, mutual mistrust, are of interest. But some soporific talks by Jor-El and a Superman taking off crosswise (in overly exposed symbology) do not achieve the desired effect.

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Man of Steelwe said, is lost in excess and the worst thing is that Snyder and the producers had in their power to invest more in the plot and the characters than in the visual steroids. The proof is the three monumental scenes of total destruction: in Smallville, in Metropolis with the ships and finally the fight between Superman and Zod. An incessant drunken chaos, jumble of iron and urban destruction that, beyond all the victims that all this must cause, there remains a precious space that Snyder and co. could have dedicated to the young Kent, to his relationship with plausible human beings (without military uniforms, go) and above all to his relationship with Martha and Lois.

We cannot speak, at all, of a failed film. There is a strange cohesion in it (could it be Nolan’s formal embrace?), an undeniable casting success with Henry Cavill and although the biggest meme attributed to the film resides in a supposed depressive Superman or a dull tone (like the colors of the suit of the superhero), in addition to the aforementioned scene of Jonathan in the hurricane, the will of the authors does not have anything negative (it would be lacking) since it is always the final product that marks our judgment, not the previous intention. There are probably many who think that Superman does not fit with that murky air, that general blackout that is perceived in photography or in Zimmer’s ominous soundtrack. But none of this brings us, per se, a good or a bad Superman. It is that hypertrophied final packaging and those victims that are the characters, limited in their emotions, that condemn this Man of Steel a product between acceptable and average table.

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Commercially, well, in this cycle we will attest to it to see how that chaos was also noticed at the box office, Man of Steel It was a success similar to that average quality that the film exudes: it raised 668.0 million worldwide291 of them in North America and 377 internationally. They were not bad numbers, not at all, but it was not a resounding success either.: Ranked fourth for the year in North America and ninth worldwide, just beating the sequel to Thor. Posts to compare, Man of Steel started considerably better than Hombre de Hierro but, and here comes the crux of the matter: what was the potential of Superman at the box office? There is literature on the commercial difficulty of adapting an almost invincible and too bright superhero (even in this film) for the present times but the absence, seven years later, of a sequel or the intention of it, betray that success that, maybe it fell a little short.

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DCEU Chronicle of a Disaster: Man of Steel (2013)


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