Saturday, June 15, 2013

FILM REVIEW - Man of Steel

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in the early 1930s, they never could have known how iconic the character would become, how the last son of Krypton would inspire countless imitators and make the leap from the pages of DC comics to a myriad of other media. First there was the hugely successful radio drama, followed by an endless stream of animated shorts, movie serials, stage plays, feature films and a vast array of TV productions of varying quality. Put short, DC has never been shy about pimping out Supes' archetypal premise for just about anything, which makes it so strange that we've seen very little of him on the big screen in recent years, even as comic book movies grew into an unstoppable force at the box office. Before Bryan Singer's mildly received Superman Returns in 2006, there hadn't been a single Superman film in nearly 20 years (the 1997 calamity Steel notwithstanding), during which time four different actors donned Batman's cape and cowl. Seeking to borrow some of the gritty credibility Christopher Nolan brought to his Batman reboot, as well as their main competitor Marvel's seemingly Midas touch, Zack Snyder's new Man of Steel aims at reinvention, but largely ends up missing the point.

The film opens, as any Superman movie naturally would, on the planet Krypton, with its final days fast approaching. Not fast enough though; far from just recapping the classic origin story and setting up key elements to unfold later, the film quickly gets bogged down in the conflict between Russell Crowe's Jor-El and the condemned leader of a military coup, General Zod, played by a hammy Michael Shannon. When the rocket containing the newborn Kal-El finally makes its way to earth and we're granted the first glimpse of uber-bland Henry Cavill as the iconic superhero, it's not a red cape flapping in the wind or even the milquetoast mild-mannered reporter, but a bearded crab fisherman and drifter. A series of awkward flashbacks never explain quite how he ended up there, but hammer home how Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) insisted his unusual adopted son never reveal his powers. Working an incredibly dangerous job and hanging around seedy waterfront bars seems like a bad way to go about that, and indeed enterprising gal reporter Lois Lane, played by an underused Amy Adams, figures out Clark's "secret" in seemingly no time at all, but that soon becomes irrelevant when Zod escapes his imprisonment and comes to earth to call out Kal-El.

There's nothing wrong with Snyder, or co-producer Nolan, tinkering with the order of events or the details of the mythology, Superman needs to be redefined for each new generation, but in the process they've thrown out a great deal of what made the character timeless in the first place. What people find compelling about Superman is his immigrant's struggle of trying to fit into a strange culture without sacrificing what makes him special, but without the tension of balancing his dual contrasting personas, he's just a really strong guy from outer space. The perfunctory script barely gives him one discernible identity let alone two, making very little time for characterization or developing any of its subplots, particularly with his supposed love interest. Even the dialogue is stilted and weird, what little of it there is sandwiched between endless knock-down, drag-out brawls; it's basically two-and-a-half hours of shit blowing up, without a trace of wit or a sense of adventure. What's more, product placement spoils what may be the film's best action set piece, tragically taking place between a Sears, an IHOP and a 7-Eleven. Hollywood has done Superman right before, and you've got to hope the figure out how to do so again; the Man of Steel deserves better than this.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. A positive review of a Warner Bros./DC Comics super hero movie. That's rare. I hope I like it just as much as you do! :)

    Dwayne Johnston (Seattle Limo)


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