Thursday, June 20, 2013

Man of Steel

Henry Cavill as Superman
*1/2 out of ****
I don’t know if I’m a true Superman fan, but I love the 1978 Richard Donner movie, which set high standards for making a superhero movie. In my opinion, that film, flawed as it may be, went unmatched in the genre for decades. I might say Donner’s epic angle on comic book materiel was genius. Then, it may have been Christopher Reeve's perfect performance as the man of steel. In the end, the most winning element of that film was the John Williams score, which still brings joy to my heart.

So here comes a serious, de-saturated, Hans Zimmer-scored Superman movie. While the Dark Knight influence seems wrong to impose on Superman, I keep an open mind and go in with neutral expectations. 

Man of Steel was like making a new friend who seems really cool at first –but eventually gets drunk and starts breaking things. The opening segment featuring the Planet Krypton is the most lavish mythical costume drama you’ve ever seen, showing off director Zack Snyder’s knack for rich stylized visuals. Then there’s Clark Kent’s early life on Earth, told in a non-linear form, with execution meeting the realism standards of producer Christopher Nolan. This retelling of the origin story is quite interesting but never really takes off. It aims to be simple but seems a little jammed, especially when Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is introduced too early. Henry Cavill is a great-looking Superman, but seems to be missing something in terms of direction. These problems were tolerable given the strong tone of the film, but I wasn’t prepared for how loud and dumb it would eventually become.

When General Zod (Michael Shannon -of course) goes head to head with Superman, the final forty-five minutes of the movie consist of computer-animated figures slamming up against one another and skyscrapers that crumble and fall –all while the real and virtual cameras capture the action in that well-worn shaky style (I really miss the smooth well-composed slow-motion shots Snyder is so notoriously known for).

Is destroying a city a requirement for all big budget action movies? It’s as if they’re all trying to top one another. Superman is all about stopping the bad guy from killing lots of people. Are we supposed to assume there was no one inside or below the buildings being leveled? Where’s the drama in Zod threatening a family near the end of the film when he’s already killed thousands of families off-screen by this point? I hated the last third of Man of Steel so much, I don’t care about anything admirably creative in the first two thirds.

It's not that mass-destruction in the movies offends me. What does offend me is treating it like an action movie element that has no consequences. 

As always, here's a great spoiler discussion from Red Letter Media

1 comment:

  1. Yep, won't bother to spend my hard-earned on this turd. Hollywood has been particularly bothersome in the last couple of years to me... All the CGI overkill is shallow and its like when their trillion dollar budgets FINALLY start to run out, they just slap some ending on that doesn't make sense, or just goes all-out explosions and they say "meh" to continuity or even respect for the original (because they're all remakes). Hurumf.