Reviews You Can(not) Use: Man of Steel Edition!

Director: Zack Snyder
Story: David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan
Screenplay: David S. Goyer
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and many other recognizable people (including the gladiator and the guy who danced with wolves)

Do you believe a man can fly? 

Me neither.

Before I get into the review, I will point out that I am not a Superman fan.  You may have guessed from any one of my previous posts (like this one) that I have never been able to understand why people like Kal-El from Krypton.  I mean, I guess that’s not true.  I get why some people like him.  He can fly (or just leap over tall buildings, depending on who you ask), he has super strength, and he can look through walls (by using his x-ray vision or by using his eye lasers to blast a hole in it).  And, on top of all that, he blows really hard. 

So with all these incredible powers, he is essentially indestructible.  Of course, he has his weaknesses.  Like a plant, he gets his power from Earth’s yellow sun (so I guess whenever it’s cloudy he probably doesn’t feel his best), and of course, there is his famous weakness to kryptonite (oh no, green rock!).  My understanding is that there is some type of radiation or something that comes off of it that hurts Kal-El (or is it Kal-L?), but it’s still kinda goofy that the universe’s most powerful superhero is brought down by a jade stone (but I guess it isn’t any worse than old-school Green Lantern having a weakness to wood, or modern Green Lantern having his ass kicked by the colour yellow).

So, you’re thinking “Chris, how can you not like Superman?  He’s really strong and totally invincible (unless a piece of rock from a planet that no longer exists shows up).”  Well, you’re right, he is invincible.

And he’s really boring.

He’s boring because I never believe that he is in any real danger.  The only time he is even slightly challenged is when one of his old Kryptonian buddies comes to Earth and threatens the planet.  But even then, I dislike the big-blue-boy scout so much that nothing would make me happier than if General Zod or whoever would finally take him out (it was a good try Doomsday, if only it would have stuck).

And then there’s the most frustrating thing about Superman:  How is it that no one can figure out that Superman is Clark Kent?  He doesn’t even wear a mask!  His costume is a pair of glasses!  When I take my glasses off, my wife still recognizes me.  You’re telling me that Lois Lane can’t use her journalistic-skills and figure out that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person?  I call bullshit on that. 


Anyway, with the exception of Superman: Red Son (which I enjoyed immensely, largely because it was about an alternate reality Superman that isn’t nearly as lame as the regular one), the only Superman comic I’ve ever been able to tolerate was the year that Action Comics focussed on Lex Luthor trying to get a Black Lantern ring (and Superman was nowhere to be found).

As you can probably guess from my little diatribe, I had really high expectations for Superman’s latest cinematic adaptation (nope).  So without further ado, here is what I thought of Man of Steel:

It was pretty terrible.

It didn’t start out that way, though.  The opening scene shows Krypton before its inevitable destruction, and how little baby Kal-El makes his way off the doomed planet.  I’ve never seen the lead up to the end of Krypton presented in such a fashion, and it makes for an interesting origin to the Superman mythos.  The first 20 minutes or so are pure gold. 

After that everything takes a pretty big dump.

Once baby Kal-El becomes Clark Kent, the film seems to take a hurry-up-and-get-to-the-next-action-scene-so-we-can-show-more-pretty-things-and-have-more-stuff-blow-up approach to pacing.  You would think with a running time over two hours you could fit everything in nicely, but all of the character development moments feel rushed, and all the action scenes are way too long.  The most offending scene is one where Superman learns to fly.  Yup, he figured out how to fly… about 5 minutes ago.  How about we move on and show something else?

Oh, we’re going to move on to visuals meant to show Superman as an allegory for Jesus?  Great.  Never seen that before.  Why does Superman always have to float there looking like he’s hanging on a cross?  It doesn’t make any sense.  And that wasn’t even the worst of the ridiculous Superman is Jesus imagery. 

Zack Snyder makes really pretty movies, but yet there are some instances when even the visuals don’t look good.  Often when Superman is battling someone (or something) it looks exactly like what it is:  Computer characters fighting each other.

In terms of the script (which I imagine is mostly descriptions of action sequences with the occasional bit of dialogue in between), Goyer and Nolan clearly tried to separate their version of the Superman universe from previous incarnations.  I think the changes they made are reasonable enough (Lois Lane isn’t quite the dummy she appears to be in the comics, and Clark Kent’s adoptive father isn’t as perfect as he’s typically portrayed), but there is one big thing that Superman does (near the end) that will probably drive a Superman-purist crazy (if such a person exists).  By that point, given the countless other plot points that drove me nuts, I didn’t really care what Superman did.  And I really needed to pee.

There were also a few attempts at humour throughout the movie that fell flat (except for the woman who sat a few seats down from me.  She loved every single stupid joke).  The only part that I thought was funny was the first time Superman put on the blue and red (what happened to the red underwear?).  Before he gets the outfit he has a beard, and afterwards, he’s clean shaven.  Did he really need to take the time to shave?  Where did he get the razor from anyway?  It’s not like he found the suit in his bathroom in Smallville.

Now to be fair, I usually need to watch a movie more than once to get a sense of whether I really like it or not, but I don’t think a second viewing will help me like this film any better.  As Man of Steel progressed, I liked it less and less.  If you enjoy pretty pictures flashing on a screen for more than 2 hours, you’ll love this movie.  If you want a good film, I think you’re better off watching something else.  Unfortunately, this film does little in the way of making me change my opinion of Superman.  It’s a shame, really. 

I’m still waiting for something to make me believe a man can fly.



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