Review: Man of Steel
As their planet expires, a heroic couple sends their newborn child to Earth in the hopes he will have a brighter and more significant future. The child earns super-human abilities from the sun’s radiation, and while he may be an outcast forced to hide on Earth, he is also the only person who can stop a threatening enemy from his past.
Who’s in It?
Henry Cavill looks the part of Clark Kent, smiley and buff, but it’s the supporting men that are more fun to watch. Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner are fathers biological and adoptive, while Christopher Meloni (L.A. Law) and Richard Schiff (The West Wing) are their own offbeat comedy when given a chance. As well, Michael Shannon is the evil General Zod, allowed to have fun and be yelly, while Amy Adams is Lois Lane, attractive and forgettable.
When he’s not wearing the famous tight blue and red caped costume, what really is Superman? Well, he’s the same buff, moral, attractive, and incredibly powerful mythic figure, just without a cape. Take all of the stylish dressing off the latest Superman film iteration, the grandiose, loud, and special effects-laden Man of Steel, and all you find is something meek and forgettable.
Clark Kent remains the most uninteresting character on screen, morally sound as an adult but without wit or charm. His moralistic nature was shaped throughout his childhood as we learn through flashbacks with his adoptive Kansas parents. Costner and Diane Lane play the Kents, offering up the only emotional sequences in a film that has surprisingly little at stake. Only during an intense tornado scene, and perhaps a bus accident, do we feel anything in our hearts – the rest of the time it’s our eyes and ears that are getting assaulted.
Filled with way too many snap-zooms (ahem, Mr. Snyder), that action, detracted from by 3D, is another way to cover up for a story that pretends to be substantial. Michael Shannon is fun to watch as the cartoonish villain General Zod. He supposedly puts Earth in perilous danger, but it’s clear early on this world is perfectly safe in moviedom. It would seem the body count is high considering the chaos wreaked in Metropolis, but we’re never taken so far as to care for any individuals.
A talented cast does for the most part disguise the flaws in this Zach Snyder epic, a film that evokes Avatar early, Independence Day later, and Tranformers 3 (or Iron Man 3) in its destructive and explosive (and lengthy) conclusion. Not that clever dialogue is something one expects from a summer blockbuster, but the lack of wit and the prevalence of banal exposition is startling. Barely saved only by the talents of Crowe and Costner, who as fathers do much of the explaining and educating, the script is devoid of laughter, menace, and even meaning.
It’s not about being yourself, it’s not a dissection of ‘the other,’ and it’s certainly not about the American way. In a feeble attempt at humour, one of the few times the film actually tries to make you smile, our hero says he is from Kansas, and can’t be more American. Yeah, not many Americans look that physically fit and act that ethically, but that’s another story.
The story here isn’t much. A bombastic spectacle, complete with flying creatures, brunette warriors, gravity manipulating machines, and cumbersome costumes, Man of Steel falls right in line with other summer blockbusters, looking to be safe and attractive, and looking to many, many sequels in the future.
Should I See It?
If you’ve seen Avatar, Independence Day¸ the recent Batman trilogy, any of the Transformers, Iron Man 3, or planning to see Pacific Rim, then no, because this is nothing new. Otherwise sure, knock yourself out.
“We will look to the stars,” says Russell Crowe in what is the closest he comes to singing as he did in Les Mis. Alas.