Saturday, June 15, 2013

REVIEW: 'Man of Steel' flounders instead of flies

After the last Superman movie – you know the one – I think fans were expecting a lot from ‘Man of Steel.’

I think it’s fair to say that ‘Man of Steel’ is much better than ‘Superman Returns.’ But is that really saying much?

This go around, Henry Cavill steps into some mighty big shoes – and while he’s better than Brandon Routh (my cat would be a better Superman, seriously) he’s nowhere near Christopher Reeve. That may be an unfair comparison to make – but it’s still the truth.

As the steadfast hero, Cavill shows an impressive array of blandness. When he’s on screen, he’s most often blown away by the other actors (especially Michael Shannon as General Zod) and the cinematography.

Still, Cavill is not so bad that he ruins the movie. He doesn’t help it though, either.

I have never read a Superman comic – but I’ve seen every Superman movie and I was even a fan of ‘Smallville’ for a time. This version of Superman is missing something for me.

That something is heart.

Superman has always been a tale for the underdog. He’s always been a hero for the masses. And
Superman’s message? That has always been on of hope.

‘Man of Steel’ doesn’t have that. Any of that.

This is not the Superman that learns about human mortality from watching his adopted father succumb to a heart attack – something he can’t stop. This is the Superman that watches his adopted father get swallowed up by a tornado and does nothing because there’s a fear people will see his abilities.

That’s not a hero to me. If you’re going to be that paranoid, you might as well have a big pot field out in corn country – because you might as well be high if you’re going to turn Superman into a coward.

As far as the acting goes, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner anchor the movie as the Kents – while Shannon takes it to a manic level as Zod. Shannon really is the best part about the film.

Amy Adams has a fun introduction as Lois Lane – but then she devolves into a damsel in distress with blowing hair for the bulk of the movie.

The weakest link for me – and no, it’s not Cavill – is Russell Crowe. He shows no gravitas or strength as Jor-El. It’s more like he’s a Kryptonian ninja. It’s a little unsettling.

The film is directed by Zack Snyder – a man who is responsible for one of the only horror movie remakes I can stand (‘Dawn of the Dead’). He’s also responsible for the empty ‘300’ and the unwatchable ‘Watchmen.’ I’m thinking he might have been a little out of his depth here.

The truth is, Snyder tried to make Superman a grittier character. The problem is, Superman doesn’t
do gritty as easily as Batman, Wolverine and even Bruce Banner do. It changes the character when you try to make him gritty.

I’ve seen some complaints about the level of violence in the movie. That didn’t really bother me on a personal level – but that is not the Superman that I think most people would recognize.

Finally, I think my biggest complaint about the film is the plot. The movie runs about two and a half hours – and yet it only seems to have about an hour and a half of plot. The rest is filled with computer graphics and rescue scenes that really only serve to wow the audience with computer graphics.

For right now, I guess I’m going to compare it to ‘Batman Begins.’ To be fair, though, I think ‘Batman Begins’ was better than this. If Snyder can pull something akin to ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ out of his bag for the sequel –  I’m sure he’ll cement his place alongside other qualified action directors.

If he doesn’t, I hope they anchor him to a bench alongside M. Night Shyamalan and never let him up again..

What do you think? Did you like ‘Man of Steel’?


Blogger Chris Utykanski said...

I have seen this movie, and I have read many Superman comics. Your review is your opinion, but in my opinion it is an uninformed one. The way Jonathan Kent dies in this film is every bit as important to this version of the Superman character as the heart attack was on past versions. You claim that you thought Costner was one of the bright spots in the film. That moment informs the audience about the man that raised Kal-El to be Clark Kent as much as any scene could. By the way, revealing such a major plot point in your review, is a huge mistake.

I don't like the "from beyond the grave" use of Jor-El, (that's Crowe's character) but it is accepted in the Superman mythos so it has a reason. If you are looking for gravitas, look in the scenes at the beginning of the movie. Christopher Reeve was good, not great in Superman I. Go back and watch, II, III and IV. I challenge you to point out the great acting he did in those films. Those last 3 are garbage compared to Man of Steel, and I say that as a huge fan of Superman. When you are showing the origin of a character, that people like you have no concept of how he came to be wearing the suit, then you have to spend time giving background. I thought the way the film did that, through flash backs, was pulled off quite well.

Oh and Brandon Roth was asked to channel Christopher Reeve in Superman Returns, and that's what he did. Lots of flaws in the movie to be sure, but he gave the director what he was asked to from all accounts that I have read.

As for your assertion that Lois Lane became a damsel in distress, you must have watched a different film. I don't want to reveal anything, but she was actively involved in the fight against the villains throughout the film.

Lastly, I wonder if you downplayed the computer graphics used in other genre movies like Iron Man and Avengers as you did here. Go back and re-watch Superman II and tell me that the fight between Superman and Zod and his minions was better than that it was in Man of Steel. The guy continuing to talk in the phone booth that was knocked over by the super breath of Ursa really excite you did it? The fight scenes in this movie used today's technology to deliver what was expected given the participants.

If it seems I am defending the movie I am. As a fan of the character for over 30 years I believe that this film has set the character on great footing to build on.

June 16, 2013 at 12:22 AM 

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