I have a confession to make – I’ve never really liked Superman. He’s a morally simplistic, invincible alien who always does the right thing and is never in any real danger. So imagine my surprise when I was blown away by the trailer. This looked amazing. I’ve already written that the movie could never live up to the trailer. So was I right? Is this more Man of Shit than Man of Steel? (Sorry, I can do better than that)
Man of Steel is director Zack Snyder’s version of the familiar origin story of Superman (Henry Cavill) but with a few embellishments. The Planet Krypton is about to go boom so Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his son Jesus, um I mean, Kal to Earth in a spaceship where he is found and raised by a couple in Kansas USA. The boy becomes Superman. When he begins to learn more about his past, a bad Kryptonian called General Zod (Michael Shannon) comes to earth looking for him.
First impressions are good with the writers wisely choosing to show Clark growing up in intermittent flashbacks meaning the first half isn’t a chore. So far, so good. But things begin to unravel when the bad guys show up. Where the film should soar it becomes bogged down in exposition and messy action involving super powered demi-gods.
For all the massive smackdowns and over the top battles the action at times resembles a fight between two rubbery action figures. This might have been acceptable during Matrix Reloaded days but it’s disappointing in 2013.
Add to this the problem that it’s difficult to see what’s going on in these action scenes. Snyder has received flak in the past for using too much slow motion in fight scenes in his films but MoS could do with some of it. Fights basically consist of characters flying at each other through buildings with presumably a civilian body count in the thousands which doesn’t seem right in a Superman film and there are too many painfully 9/11-esque collapsing skyscrapers.
Cavill is great as Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman even if he does have more names than a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. He’s a charming, nice guy and displays good chemistry with Lois Lane (Amy Adams). This brings up a problem for those of us who aren’t Superman fans – Superman is quite boring. He starts the movie as a nice guy who does good things and he spends the rest of it as a nice guy who does good things. There’s nothing wrong with this but post Dark Knight it seems a bit dull.
Shannon is suitably evil as Zod and sports an even more evil haircut. You get the sense that he is a very angry, easily frustrated guy. You can say a lot of things about him but you can’t say he isn’t patriotic. The movie picks up when he’s on-screen but he gets relegated to standing on a ship shouting and not getting involved in enough action which is a huge waste of his talent
Other good performances come from Kevin Costner as Clark’s adoptive dad and Russell Crowe as his real one (Crowe is in it a hell of a lot more than Brando in the original). But when the only memorable thing about a bombastic superhero film is the acting then something has gone wrong.
The one word I would use to describe Man of Steel is ‘disappointing’. For all the good performances there’s nothing interesting or exciting for the characters to do. The plot is overly complicated, the film’s internal logic doesn’t make sense and the reliance on explosions and noise to cover up poor choreography is unforgivable. We never get to understand the Superman character or what he learns from the events of the film. Even for huge fans of Superman this just isn’t good enough. Man of Steel? More like Man of Stale! Ah that’s better.
Have you seen Man of Steel? Can you let me know what Superman fans thought of it? Maybe I’m missing something. Let me know in the comments below.