Sunday, June 16, 2013

Roll Over Superman, Here Comes Your Hollywood Look Alike

Man of Steel (2013)
Dir: Zack Snyder
**

Like many other big summer blockbusters that have come out post-Dark Knight, this revamp of Superman tries too hard to be a cynical, modernist take on an icon. Man of Steel is not a Superman movie, but rather, a generic, bloated, and predictable Hollywood action movie that features Superman, but even then it seems like he is barely in it.

Back in 2006, Bryan Singer directed Superman Returns, a great tribute to the Richard Donner Superman movies of the late 70's. However, apparently I'm the only one that liked that movie enough to want to see it's story continued. Now we have the first Superman movie since the original that is completely new. This gave Superman the chance to be refreshing and revitalized, but instead we are given a massively overblown film that offers nothing new other than trying to make Superman, well, less like Superman.

The film starts on Krypton, and from the get-go we are assaulted with heavy, unoriginal computer animation, over the top action, and a convoluted-as-hell story. Jor-El, Superman's daddy, is trying to convince the leaders of Krypton that their planet is doomed, due to the fact that they used up all of their natural resources. However, he barely has time to finish explaining, when General Zod shows up and stages a coup against the leaders of the planet. Meanwhile, Jor-El and his wife have just had the first naturally born child on Krypton “in centuries”, and to save his life and perhaps the Kryptonian race, they send their baby to earth. After this, we see Clark Kent all grown up, and living a life in exile, still not knowing who he is. We get flashbacks of his childhood throughout the film, which are fine in and of themselves, but the constant back and forth gets old fast, and creates a lopsided mood to the movie. And it seems to take forever before we finally get to see Superman appear.

The movie is covered head to foot in action, and it is overblown, loud, and often ugly. When General Zod shows up on Earth, he and his cronies use spaceships instead of flying around, and when Superman is fighting them, there are also military planes shooting at them constantly, creating an overwhelming and chaotic scene that ends up being little more than headache inducing. The final battle between Superman and Zod is well done, as they fly through the city of Metropolis, even though they ridiculously crash into seemingly every possible building they can.

And if that weren't bad enough, the film's dramatic moments are often rushed and half hearted. The romance between Clark and Lois is virtually non-existent, and what the hell is up with her knowing Clark is Superman from the beginning? Lois and every other Metropolis character get shortened, undeveloped roles, and Metropolis itself is reduced to nothing more than a backdrop for the bad guys and Superman to destroy. We don't even see a shot of the Daily Planet logo, or get a feel for what this city is like, something that very important even in The Dark Knight.

Zack Snyder, who has directed the overblown 300 and Watchmen gives this rendition of Superman an ugly, loud, drawn out touch that is reminiscent at times to the Transformers movies in their blandness and lack of aesthetically pleasing visuals. At times Snyder's chaotic direction almost works, but he never allows for a moment to breathe, and the camera work is so sloppy that we barely see anything that goes on. When we do get a brief glimpse at Superman punching a villain, it seems weightless; there's no power behind any of the action, and as a result it becomes boring, monotonous, and annoying to watch.

The acting is decent, Henry Cavill does good with the lines he has, but Superman is never made into a character; instead he has a few lines here and there between scenes of action and the occasional heavy handed dramatic moment. But mostly he stands there, looking like a superhero should. Amy Adams is decent as Lois, but she is hardly in the movie at all. Russel Crowe does a very good job as Jor-El, and Michael Shannon is great as Zod, but none of this can make up for the script's lack of intelligence. Lines seem like they were ripped from a textbook for Screenwriting 101, and the movie can never find a good pace.

Some people may enjoy the never ending explosions that this movie offers, but the film fails to capture the essence of Superman (who happens to be this reviewer's favorite superhero). Instead, the movie gives into the cynicism of modern day, and tries to cover up Superman's beliefs, ideals, and image in a vast array of computer animation and loud noises. But at least we get to see a man fly, if only for a little bit.

NOTE: I rate movies 1-5 stars and never use half stars because they are pointless.

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