Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe
, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff
Writing Credits:, Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel (Superman created by), Joe Shuster (Superman created by)
A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
$116.619 million on 4207 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Chinese (Disc One Only)
Runtime: 143 min.
Release Date: 11/12/2013
• “Strong Characters, Legendary Roles” Featurette
• “All-Out Action” Featurette
• “Krypton Decoded” Featurette
• Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short
• “New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth” Featurette
• “Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel” Documentary
• “Planet Krypton” Featurette
• DVD Copy
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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
Man Of Steel [Blu-Ray] (2013)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 7, 2013)
After 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace essentially killed the franchise, WB waited 19 years to bring Superman back to the big screen. A lot changed in the meantime, as a few superhero flicks like 2002’s Spider-Man and 2005’s Batman Begins jump-started the genre.
In addition, Begins demonstrated that fans would return to a franchise damaged by a crappy film. 1997’s Batman and Robin hurt that series just as much as Quest for Peace harmed its own, but Begins showed that viewers would return for a “reboot”.
Which 2006’s Superman Returns provided – in a way. Unlike Begins - which retold Batman’s origins - Returns acted like a semi-sequel to 1981’s Superman II. That was an odd choice – and a fairly unsuccessful one, as the movie turned into a moderate disappointment.
Rather than continue along the Returns path, WB went back to the drawing board and came up with a true reboot via 2013’s Man of Steel. This one follows the same oath as the 1978 film and tells the character’s origin story, albeit with some twists.
On the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) warns folks that the place will soon go kablooey, but they ignore his message. In the midst of a coup staged by General Zod (Michael Shannon), Jor-El struggles to save the planet’s “Codex”, a repository of genetic information that could allow Krypton to begin again on another planet.
While stuck in a struggle with Zod, Jor-El and wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) manage to jettison the Codex away from Krypton – along with their infant son Kal-El, the planet’s first “natural-born” child in centuries. They send Kal-El to Earth, a planet similar enough to Krypton to allow the child to survive – and prosper, as its yellow sun will give him strengths and powers above those of ordinary humans.
Before Krypton goes boom, its leaders punish Zod and his followers with banishment to the Phantom Zone, a form of prison in an alternate dimension. When the planet’s destruction alters their path, they eventually head to Earth, where they can attempt to use the Codex to restart Krypton.
And deal with Kal-El, as the vindictive Zod promises to do before his banishment. In the meantime, we meet Kal-El as an adult, a drifter named Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) who attempts to find his purpose in life. Via flashbacks, we learn that when he landed on Earth, he wound up in Kansas and lived with adoptive parents Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane). They raise him as their own and teach him to keep his powers hidden lest the world freak out when they learn of the super-being in their midst.
Back in present day, newspaper reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) goes to the Arctic Circle to investigate a mysterious object buried beneath the ice. Along the way, she encounters Clark when she sees him walk in the deadly cold without protective clothing. Eventually all these stories interconnect as they lead toward Clark’s status as Superman and a fight with Zod to protect his adopted planet.
It’d be a mistake to say I went into Steel with high expectations, as I admit I had a bad feeling about the project. Nonetheless, I did maintain high hopes for a variety of reasons. For one, I loved the Dark Knight Trilogy, and Steel featured a number of its primary participants in significant roles. Christopher Nolan worked as both producer and co-author of the flick’s story, and David S. Goyer created its screenplay.
The presence of Zack Snyder as director caused some apprehension, but given that I liked what he did with 2009’s Watchmen, I hoped he’d rein in the excesses that marred 2007’s 300 and do right by Superman. Add to that a solid cast and Steel should’ve been very good, if not great.
Unfortunately, Steel isn’t great. Or very good. Or good. Or even mediocre. It’s awful – ding-dong, stinkin’, doo-dah awful.
How did this disaster go so wrong? From the very start, something seems amiss. Krypton looks like a combination of Middle-Earth and Naboo, with an odd mix of science-fiction items and flying lizards. We wonder more why the Kryptonians wear such goofy clothes than we think about the characters or their fates. No, Marlon Brando and company didn’t look great in those flowing robes, but at least they didn’t come across as quite so goofy.
Matters don’t improve from there. I’ll say this for Steel: at least it avoids the standard “origin story” of the 1978 Superman and most other comic book films. Once baby Kal-El lands on Earth, it jumps around different time periods to illustrate his life while it avoids the straight chronology we’d usually find. That adds a little creativity to the movie.
But just a little, as the remainder of the story becomes a mess. Many folks criticize the Dark Knight films due to their alleged lack of humor and self-seriousness. I defend the series because a) I think there’s more levity than many want to acknowledge and b) it’s Batman – he’s supposed to be grim.
The same can’t be said for Superman, a character who was always supposed to be the straightest of straight arrows. We don’t expect such gloom from this franchise, as Superman should deliver a certain lightness and positivity.
As they say, this isn’t your father’s – or grandfather’s – Superman, and I don’t regard the change as a good thing. Who thinks it makes sense to turn the relentlessly optimistic Supes into such a monotone mope? Nolan’s sense of darkness and reality worked great for Batman, but a similar tone just doesn’t fit Superman at all.
Indeed, one might wonder why they bothered to call the character “Superman”, as they take so many liberties. No, I don’t require that a movie remain totally faithful to the source; I’m fine with changes from the prior mythology as long as they make sense.
Unfortunately, none of the alterations in Steel seem even vaguely logical. In this universe, Lois learns Superman’s real identity right off the bat, and this robs us of much potential fun. The comic and earlier movies used Lois’s quest to find out Superman’s alter ego to great effect, but Steel completely undercuts that tension, and for no purpose I can discern.
In addition, the characters bear little resemblance to their predecessors. Instead of the emblem of truth, justice and the American way, this Superman seems more like a brooding whiner. Lois is a total waste as well; instead of the daring, intrepid reporter, we get a dull nobody who shows no investigative skills whatsoever.
Never mind that Adams seems entirely wrong for the character. She’s a perfect Lana Lang: she looks like Lana and could do the “sweet girl next door” thing in her sleep. But the hard-bitten, cynical Lois? That’s not Adams; she sleepwalks through the undeveloped part.
Cavill looks great as Superman but can’t do anything to expand the role beyond his muscles. Granted, as is the case with all the characters, the script undercuts any possible exploration, as it makes Superman generic and without personality. Nonetheless, Cavill seems like a cipher and he makes next to no impression. He’s handsome but free from charisma or a heroic vibe.
Once again, the story bores. Sure, it gives us a literally apocalyptic scenario as Zod wants to incinerate all humans, but we never feel much real threat. It doesn’t help that the narrative often seems like a warmed-over rehash of Superman II; heck, the Faora-Ul and Dev-Em roles provide obvious substitutes for Ursa and Non.
Even with a better plot, the film would be undercut by Snyder’s visual choices. By five minutes into the flick, I wanted to yell “hold the frickin’ camera steady!” Steel doesn’t suffer from the relentless “shakycam” that marred movies like Battle: Los Angeles or The Bourne Ultimatum but it still uses way too much handheld.
Why? I have no idea. As annoying as that style can be, it makes sense for some films, especially those that work within the faux documentary framework.
But it seems illogical for the world of Superman. As I’ve mentioned already, Supes doesn’t fit within a context of grit and darkness, so the choice to give the camerawork a hyperactive sense of “reality” flops.
Instead, we’re left with a camera that can’t stay still for even the most sedate, simple scene. It jerks and jumps in basic dialogue shots, and none of this makes a lick of sense. Not only does it fail to fit the material, but also it becomes an active distraction. When I can’t focus on the speaker because the camera bobs and weaves, I find it tough to invest in the material.
Steel comes packed with similar visual miscues. When it should get exciting, Snyder’s choices doom it to failure. The action sequences end up as a mix of bad CG, weak fight choreography and terrible camerawork. What should excite instead annoys and disappoints.
Steel ends up as a long session of foreplay that never goes anywhere. For the first hour, I thought to myself “this is terrible – when will it get good?”
As the movie continued, I realized the answer was “never”. The film starts poorly and doesn’t improve. I never imagined a Superman movie could make me look back fondly on Returns, but Steel achieves that goal, as at least Bryan Singer’s film “felt like Superman”.
Steel nods in the direction of the Superman series but doesn’t connect with it in a meaningful way. It winds up as a slow, messy, boring, pointless dud.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A/ Bonus B+
Man of Steel appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Virtually no problems manifested themselves during this strong transfer.
Sharpness excelled. Only the slightest smidgen of softness ever appeared in wide shots, and those instances remained marginal. The vast majority of the flick looked tight and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. In terms of source flaws, I saw no specks, marks or other issues.
Hello, teal and orange! Or teal, at least; the movie came with some orange overtones but tended more toward an amber feel in the non-blue shots. As tiresome as those visual choices may be, the Blu-ray reproduced them well. Blacks demonstrated good depth and darkness, and shadows were solid. I felt quite impressed by this consistently terrific image.
I also found a lot to like via the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Man of Steel. I figured the movie would come with a pretty dynamic soundfield, and it often came through with the anticipated vivacity. Shots of flying elements – ships, Supes - were the most consistently involving, as these swooped around the room in a convincing manner.
Other elements fared well, too. Fights and explosions used the various speakers to add (literal) punch to the package, and the track featured nice involvement from all five channels. Music presented nice stereo presence, and we even got a bit of directional dialogue.
Audio quality worked nicely. Speech was natural and distinctive; no edginess or other issues affected the dialogue. Music was lively and full, while effects presented the expected clarity. Those elements demonstrated good accuracy and range; low-end was powerful and tight. I found a lot to like about this fine soundtrack.
We get a good set of extras across two Blu-ray Discs. On Disc One, we open with the 25-minute, 59-second Strong Characters, Legendary Roles. It features comments from director Zack Snyder, DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, screenwriter David S. Goyer, production designer Alex McDowell, producers Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder, co-producer Wesley Coller, visual effects supervisor John “DJ” Desjardin, composer Hans Zimmer and actors Laurence Fishburne, Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner, Amy Adams, Michael Kelly, Diane Lane, Ayelet Zurer, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, and Richard Schiff.
“Legendary” looks at the characters and their adaptation for Steel in addition to cast/performances and the depiction of Krypton. It gives us a pretty solid overview of the parts and lets us understand what alterations came along for the ride.
Next comes All-Out Action, a 26-minute, two-second piece with Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Coller, Cavill, Roven, Shannon, Crowe, Desjardin, Adams, 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Damon Caro, trainer Mark Twight, cast trainer Michael Blevins, stunt coordinator Tim Rigby, stuntmen Ryan Watson and Guillermo Grispo, unit production managers Jim Rowe and Gregor Wilson, special effects coordinator Joel Whist, 2nd unit director Pete Romano, supervising location manager Bill Doyle, military technical advisor James Dever, and actor Antje Traue. We learn of the actors’ physical preparation for their roles, stunts and various elements required to bring the action scenes to life. “All-Out” follows “Legendary” with another good examination of its topics, a piece abetted by lots of useful footage from the shoot.
In the six-minute, 42-second Krypton Decoded, we hear from Dylan Sprayberry, the actor who plays young Clark Kent. He meets with Desjardin as they look at the design and execution of some Krypton-related elements. While brief, “Decoded” offers a nice array of notes and proves to be an efficient show.
After this we find a Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short. It fills two minutes, three seconds and shows the visual evolution of Superman over the years, including cartoon versions of live-action depictions. It’s a cool way to breeze through the variations.
Connected to 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth runs six minutes, 35 seconds and provides notes from writer Philippa Boyens, writer/director Peter Jackson, production designer Dan Hennah, Hobbiton movie set and farm tour owner/operator Russell Alexander, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, actor/2nd unit director Andy Serkis, 2nd unit 1st AD Liz Tan, and actors Richard Armitage, Mark Hadlow, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood, Jed Brophy, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, Sylvester McCoy, Dean O’Gorman, Peter Hambleton, James Nesbitt and Stephen Hunter. The program gives us some info about the sets and locations used for The Hobbit.
On its own, “Home” offers a glossy but decent look at its subject matter. The bigger question relates to its inclusion here, as I have no clue why a Blu-ray for Man of Steel goes behind the scenes of The Hobbit. I assume it intends to promote Hobbit but it still feels out of place; if WB wants to advertise the Hobbit, why not toss in the trailer for The Desolation of Smaug, the second chapter in the trilogy?
Disc One opens with an ad for Pacific Rim. No trailer for Man of Steel appears here.
On Disc Two, the main attraction comes from Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel. The two-hour, 54-minute, five-second program uses the same format as the “Maximum Movie Mode” found on older WB Blu-rays. This means that as the film runs, we get various forms of behind the scenes material as well as comments from different cast and crew. Those mix standard “talking head” interview sessions with “walk-ons” in which folks wander onto the screen to chat during the movie.
Through “Discovery”, we hear from Zack Snyder, Roven, Coller, Deborah Snyder, Goyer, Crowe, Zurer, McDowell, Shannon, Romano, Caro, Desjardins, Wilson, Cavill, Lane, Sprayberry, Rigby, Schiff, Fishburne, Adams, Traue, Doyle, and Zimmer. We also get new participants: graphic designer Kirsten Fanson, linguistic anthropologist Dr. Christine Schreyer, supervising art director Helen Jarvis, costume designer Michael Wilkinson, executive producer Lloyd Phillips, special effects supervisor Allen Hall, singer Allison Crowe, property master Jimmy Chow, senior carpenter Brian Sammartino, USAF Entertainment Liaison Office superintendent MSGT Chris Stagner, C17 Loadmaster Staff Sgt. Paul Garcia, and actor Ian Tracey.
The program covers the depiction of Krypton, story and characters, cast and performances, sets, locations and costumes, various effects, stunts and action, music, camerawork, and other areas.
While I’d probably prefer a standard audio commentary, “Discovery” works well as an examination of the film. We don’t find many lulls in the discussion, and we get a nice array of subjects across its long running time. This becomes one of the better "picture-in-picture” pieces, as it investigates the movie in a satisfying manner.
Planet Krypton runs 17 minutes, 18 seconds and views the events of Man of Steel as though they actually happened. It creates a faux TV documentary that looks at what the humans know about Krypton. This makes it a fun way to learn more that subject.
Disc Three delivers a DVD copy of Man of Steel. It lacks extras other than the animated short and the “Middle-Earth” featurette.
When I saw A Good Day to Die Hard, I opined that it’d probably end up as my biggest cinematic disappointment of 2013. Perhaps I spoke too soon, as Man of Steel may earn that “honor”. Flawed in almost every possible way, the film craps all over the Superman legacy. The Blu-ray boasts terrific picture and audio along with a fairly solid roster of supplements. As a Blu-ray, this package excels, but the movie itself leaves me cold.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1875 Stars|| Number of Votes: 32|