Back in 2010, when Chris Nolan wrote and directed his sci-fi epic ‘Inception’, little did he know that he would eventually oversee the construction of a Penrose staircase. To jog your memory, a Penrose staircase is something that appears in the movie; it’s an impossible piece of architecture that can only exist in theory. Paradoxical architecture, as it’s called in the film, it’s a staircase whose topmost stair meets the bottommost, thereby creating an unending flight of stairs used only to distract the dreamer’s subconscious, as according to the world of ‘Inception’.
In 2012 Nolan along with David Goyer (the writer behind Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy) handed over the keys to the revival of Warner Bros’ holy cow – Superman, under the title ‘Man of Steel’. By now, many of you would have either seen it, or are soon to do so or decided against doing so.
Whatever be your stand, here’s mine: Nobody will ever truly love the film. And here are my reasons why:
Unearthing a superhero’s origins is always an extremely fulfilling task – both to the filmmakers and to the viewers. And this has been effectively proven in Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’ where he sweats it out to draw the details of Bruce Wayne, his traumatic childhood and the reasons why chooses to train himself to fight crime and then put on a mask before doing so. It’s when you see someone ordinary; just like you and I, go through something extraordinary and take a decision to become something more than a man. Effectively, the birth of a superhero.
On the face of it, Man of Steel appears to be one such story – the character sketch of Clark Kent, his sorrowful childhood, his identity crisis and his eventual acceptance into society.
Man of Steel could have been a poignant tale of a human-like alien battling society’s harsh judgement, his loyalty towards two worlds, and choosing between two opposing but equally convincing ideologies. While that would have made it a powerful metaphoric epic on the human spirit and the world we live in, it would have reeked hard of the Dark Knight trilogy. And avoiding that was the primary reason Chris Nolan gave the reins to an equally gifted director – Zack Snyder.
But then, nobody wants to watch a Superman film that’s all about soul-searching and personal crises that belong to petty mortals like us. There’s a certain legacy created by the comics that one has to adhere to. It’s when reality hurts harder that escapism finds greater relevance. And that’s why nobody will ever say ‘no’ to a Superman movie full of super-humans busting buildings and slamming concrete into each others’ faces. And doing that makes it like any other movie (read Avengers). Where’s the legacy set behind by Nolan? Where’s the humanisation of the superhero?
It’s a tough, tough balancing act. A near-impossible task that makes it a great film only in theory. Like a Penrose staircase cast in steel.