In many circles these are Two of the most disappointing films of 2013, but they’re all we have, so, which is the best Superhero film of the year? – Well, I believe, with a tentative vote, that Man of Steel is the better of the two – and hence inherits the title (mainly because of the lack of any other real competition – Thor 2, yeah right).
This however is a very small victory, based solely on opinion and technicalities.
My angle: just to clarify, I’ve never been a true fan of either of these two Superheroes, so fandom bias doesn’t factor into it and thus I wasn’t as affected by all the bad points of both films, because quite simply, I had no expectations going in. My reasoning? Well let me start by saying Ironman (from the comics) was never an intriguing enough character for me – he’s the lighter version of Batman without the childhood trauma (Stan Lee was initially mandated – almost jokingly – to create a character no one would like, and then make him likeable), apart from that I was never really exposed to much of Tony Stark growing up. Superman on the other hand – also, not such an intriguing character; his super abilities made him almost one dimensional – both I found to be kind of boring.
But that’s just some background to explain myself, to the films then and uh, Spoilers ahead, obviously:
So, my Pick for the best superhero film of 2013: The curios case of “Man of Steel”
- Iffy/weak writing – David S. Goyer is a good screenwriter (perhaps overrated), but he has weaknesses. Between him and Snyder, some of the writing and editing, particularly in the latter half/3rd was really very weak.
- The dialogue was lacking, – (a subcategory of the above) especially amongst peripheral characters, and Superman himself was given very little to say.
- Amy Adams was the wrong casting choice for Lois Lane. Added to that, her romance with Supes felt contrived and forced. There was also little chemistry (Since Adams is a proven talent as far as acting goes, the fault of her boring character must lie with the writing and how they wrote her role.); the film just moves along too quickly for any onscreen chemistry to develop naturally. Although I do believe Jennifer Connolly would’ve been way better suited, apart from looking the part in a traditional sense; she also naturally displays a quieter inquisitive side which softly plays over her deeper strength (not to mention that she’s played an investigative journalistic role before) – Generally though I’d have written Lane more as being fascinated by this super alien, drawn in by his elemental nature – allowing room for a more spontaneous and fun relationship. Lane’s role and characterization in MoS illustrates and confirms that Goyer doesn’t know how to write strong women (Rachel Dawes, Talia Al Ghul et al.).
- “Huh?!? moment’s” – how did the Daily Planet survive the climactic battle sequence when half of Metropolis was either absorbed by the ‘world engine’ or destroyed by MoS and Zod’s fisticuffs? (And at the end everyone seemed pretty okay about working in a city that’s basically a ruin – business as usual – this after an event 5x greater than 9/11)
- Random irritating plot holes. Eg. Obviously when Clark learned to control his super abilities/senses, he inadvertently gave himself selective hearing – how did he not hear Lois Lane following him in the ice encrusted ship in the beginning when they first meet? And, if his senses were dulled by being in the presence of a Kryptonian device, then why did it not affect his laser vision? (again this comes down to writing)
- Cheesiness. For a film intentionally toned pretty darkly, the few lighter moments will tend to stand out. To this I must say it’s a weakness with the writing yet again – “Well, I think he’s really hot” said the army chick at the end – CORNY… I cringed in that moment.
- It lacked subtlety: charm and soul (and humour), and though Cavill may not be the most wildly amazing talented actor to grace our screens (I believe he was the right choice for this film), I level this fault at Snyder and Goyer’s feet again.
- No traditional/hallmark Superman music! If the original didn’t fit,then make a new iconic piece that at least pays homage…
- *And perhaps the biggest one yet: Superman is a murderer (technically).
- The list can and does go on, and with that you must be wondering; how I can rate a film that has bad editing, writing, casting issues etc… above Ironman 3?
Here’s the thing; to a degree I can forgive the whole ‘murderer’ thing – Zod was a loony and it was pretty evident that Clark would have to get rid of him some way or another. The problem is simply the manner in which he does so. The fact is they were in battle – it was a war, so death was clearly very much on the table, but why not just chuck him into the ‘world engine’ barely getting out alive himself, instead they went for ‘blunt and in-your-face’ (contrived scene) involving a neck snapping… (Weak)
Anyway, what it all boils down to is that despite its many flaws, Man of Steel still stands above Ironman 3 as a way better story. In terms of filming on a purely technical level, Ironman 3 wins easily – it’s just a way better assembled product, from sound to editing, snappy humorous dialogue and general writing (logic aside)… but where Ironman faulters, is that it’s not all that memorable because it simply is a weak paper-thin story with superficial villains and its own fair share of nonsensical plot elements. What the Marvel offering had to its benefit was the endorsement of positive hype, whereas DC’s latest headed straight into turbulent waters of a skeptical crowd with the Dark Knight still fresh in mind. Let’s not forget, Ironman had flaws, many of which only came to light when the dust settled and the excitement died down – like how in the final act, Tony Stark/Ironman doesn’t actually save the day, and that he cures himself and thus comes to a point where he doesn’t need the suit anymore (in a similar but less resonant way that Bruce Wayne wrestled with, and ultimately let go of, his Batman persona/the cape). Not to mention the contentious (though refreshing) take on The Mandarin (which Marvel has in some ways sought to rectify with the exploration/kidnapping of Trevor Slattery), and how The SHIELD allowed Stark’s Mansion to be bombed by terrorists etc… Ironman kind of went all ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ on us in that Stark was seldom actually in his Ironman suit.
What I’m getting at is that Marvel’s is a decently entertaining film, but seemingly superfluous – they did a great job in that it is the best in the current trilogy (though Ironman 4 is definitely on the cards), but honestly the first two weren’t exactly cinematic gems now were they (especially not the 2nd)?
So, when you consider how much work MoS had to do compared to the crest of the Avengers wave that Ironman rode in on; dare I say that Man of Steel just about manages to stand toe-to-toe with its Marvel competition, and by that account, since it had to carry more weight and wade through deeper waters, ultimately in my mind, that makes it a slightly better offering.
When I think of MoS, I’m more partial to the Kryptonian elements which were impressive and memorable, and I’d say from this perspective, the first half of MoS resonated more with me than the entire Ironman 3.
Both films are far from perfect, but whereas Ironman 3 kind of reached a certain ceiling with exploring the character of Tony and delivering an action blockbuster, MoS was a passable film with a good story that could’ve been a whole lot better – hence there was way more potential. And that’s strangely what sits with me whenever I think about MoS – I remember it fondly when thinking of what it could’ve been. No doubt it could’ve been a great film in the hands of a different writer/director combo… it’s not that I don’t like either of these men, but they presented the prime basic weaknesses of MoS.
Without being too optimistic in my summations, I’d say with one change in cast, better written characters and some actual proper film editing, Man of Steel could’ve equaled/surpassed anything Marvel has to offer, balancing the darkness and heavier tones carried in the Nolan-verse, whilst also bringing along the CGI-super powered elements (which was impressive at times). With Ironman 3 – so many people were raving about it as “being up there with Avengers”, only Avengers isn’t as good as people think it is – I found both underwhelming, failing to really grab me. They were decent for momentary entertainment value’s sake, but nothing more than blockbusters.
The question is, how do we judge a film? Is it the characters, the story, or is it (ideally) the entire package? Here’s the thing; let me cast your gaze back to the holy grail of comic-book films:
The Dark Knight. A film many have called a masterpiece, and in a general sense it kind of is, but look closer with a forensic eye and you’ll see the flaws (Just how did the Joker kill Gambol, by cutting his cheek/breaking his neck while cutting his cheek? And Did Batman just leave the Joker up there in his penthouse with all those people after Rachel was tossed out the window? – There are more, but you get the picture). The thing of it is, is that the good bits far outweigh the uh, questionable, and some convenient plot points aside, the story was a good one.
In Ironman 3 the acting is good and the trailer looked cool, but they’re all undersold by a basic undercooked story hijacked from The Incredibles (Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian is basically Syndrome playing against a Tony Stark that can’t sleep because of events in NY. But I thought his experience in the cave in the first film seemed more traumatic than fighting alongside the Avengers) that’s basically rather hollow. What they were successful with though is taking Ironman further than anyone thought they could, apart from his alcohol dependence (but that could be because the character is more about money and less about actual depth, so the expectations on that score wasn’t that high). And shall we mention the divisive Mandarin twist, and the patch up job they’ve done in the extended short film – was that planned since the beginning or a tacked on band-aid to appease fanboys?
Man of Steel on the other hand needed to win people over to convince us that another origin story was warranted – I for one wasn’t buying… until I saw the trailer. After that, my and so many others interest was piqued, and though the film lacked a lot, the intent and potential was definitely there to convince me that the reboot was a good idea. Am I judging the films on their story and potential as appose to the composition as a whole? Well, perhaps I’m laying more emphasis on it, but ultimately Man of Steel strikes a deeper chord (all nostalgia aside – but, incidentally, that’s also why the negative reactions were greater). This is why I say it wins, but only just, by a hair’s breadth… maybe. – One writer’s opinion…
Here are the trailer’s, but for a laugh I urge you to look up the “Honest trailers” for these two.