Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan
Based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Despite the bad press Superman Returns has gotten since its release, I rather enjoyed it when I saw it. Granted, I haven’t seen it since then, but I thought it was a perfectly fine revival of the series. And I was also rather excited to see the series rebooted with Man of Steel and given a new take. Unfortunately, while there is a new take here, it’s not the kind of view I was looking for.
When Krypton is about to be destroyed, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his baby son, Kal-El, off to Earth. Now grown up, Kal-El (Henry Cavill) has to adjust to the role of Superman and show the world his powers when General Zod (Michael Shannon) attacks.
As usual, we’ll start with the praise. The special effects are pretty breathtaking. All of Krypton looks like a visual effect, and when it gets to the battles, there are plenty of good-looking shots of spaceships and buildings being destroyed. And there is also some good acting here. Both Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent play the mentor roles well. The real treat is Amy Adams as Lois Lane, giving a determined performance that makes me wish the movie had focused on her.
Sadly, this is a Superman movie, and Henry Cavill does not impress me. He has a few nice Superman moments, but too often, he’s reduced to the muscle, and his expressions seemed little more than mild confusion, which is all I could think trying to read what he’s actually thinking. But the big problem lies more on the writing, the fact that the movie simply doesn’t have enough glimpses into how Superman is. It’s hard to get a reading on his world philosophy and his personality, which is a shame, since Superman’s personality is what makes him Superman. Instead, the movie transforms him into the flying brick archetype, who does nothing more in the fight scenes then just fly around and punch things. The movie’s climactic moment hinges on Superman being the savior of the people, yet all we’ve seen of him up to that point is the big strong guy that seems really obsessed with the demolition of Smallville and Metropolis, considering how often he flies the villains into pieces of it. Perry White gets a better scene of trying to save someone than Superman does. And the final battle scene seems to go on forever, without enough good moments to make it worth it.
The movie’s absolute biggest flaw, though, is its constant use of exposition, flashbacks, and a combination of the two. Superman enters the Kryptonian ship and activates a 5-minute exposition scene. Zod explains his plan in an exposition scene that flashes back to his time as a prisoner. Long after the opening sequence uses up its supply of flashing back to Clark’s childhood, the movie continually shoehorns more scenes of it in, and again, we don’t get Clark nearly as much as we get Jonathan teaching Clark a lesson. It’s lazy writing, and it’s spread all over the movie.
Man of Steel is dull and endless. If this is DC’s answer to Marvel’s movies, then I’m sticking with Marvel.