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Man of Steel - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Man of Steel
Directing: C+
Acting: B
Writing: C
Cinematography: C+
Editing: C-
Special Effects: B-

If you want to see a great version of Man of Steel, just stick with the one you imagined when seeing the wonderfully edited trailer to the film. Because the actual movie, which is little more than a feature-length MTV music video without the music, does not live up to the expectations.

Superman is the original superhero. You'd think a movie about him would feel original. But we've been living for some time in an era where, if you've seen one superhero movie, you've seen them all. This one is just another in a long, sad line of such movies.

Hell, that long, sad line could be stretched back just a few years from now. There's one scene in which Superman and the primary villain duke it out on the main street of a dingy small town, blowing shit up. It's markedly similar to a scene in which Thor battles a giant robot alien thing in Thor (2011). At what seems to have been the climax of Man of Steel, when the villain would logically have been dispatched, the villain appears again, only to have him and Superman continue fighting all over Metropolis, giving us just more and more of the same shit, destroying everything in sight. The destructive battles just go on and on, just like it did in The Avengers (2012). Been there, done that. Who wrote this movie, anyway?

That would be David S. Goyer, who has story credits on all three of the most recent Batman movies; with co-story credit by Christopher Nolan. This easily explains the dark, angsty tone that was completely absent from all previous mutations of the Superman story -- with good reason. Superman is about optimism, wholesomeness, and perhaps most importantly, a good sprinkling of light-hearted humor. Goyer and Nolan apparently felt these things have no place in a 21st-Century, post-terrorism world.

Granted, the world is a lot different now than it was in 1978 and 1980, when the great Superman and Superman II were released, respectively, but come on. Clark Kent still doesn't have to take himself so seriously. This movie could have used a little more levity. I got one genuine laugh out of it, very near the end, and honestly by then it was too late.

The one great thing about Man of Steel is how well cast it is. It could easily be argued that no better Superman could have been found than Henry Cavill (so what if he's British; it's called acting, people); and Amy Adams is a charming Lois Lane. It's also a relief not to see Lois completely incapable of recognizing Clark Kent just because he has glasses on, one trope from the Superman universe that is outright idiotic.

But the good stuff kind of stops there. Kevin Kostner is surprisingly palatable as Jonathan Kent, and Michael Shannon is serviceable as the villain, but these are hardly ringing endorsements. Shannon, in fact, has a recent cumulative history of standout performances in film, and yet here, honestly, he kind of phones it in.

The film opens on Krypton, which anyone who knows anything about Superman knows is a doomed planet. Russell Crowe is Jor-El, Superman's father. He and his wife (Antje Traue) send their newborn baby out into space in the nick of time as Krypton is destroying itself. No one ever mentions why Kal-El (Superbaby) is the only child anyone thinks to do this with. There is a later reference to Jor-El being the planet's leading scientific mind; maybe that has something to do with it.

But, from the beginning, Goyer packs in far more special effects and action than he does story. There's never any time in this movie for the story to breathe, to allow the audience to absorb the meaning of whats going on before another sensory overload of digital effects. And it all looks digital, by the way -- Man of Steel never looks so much realistic as it does like a succession of effects shots done by people whose primary justification for it seems to be, "Because we can." In the climactic battle, not just one, but several skyscrapers get toppled, which I found curious. That never would have flown (pardon the pun) a decade ago; instead, the news now focuses on a decision to keep a tornado scene in the film. At least there was only one tornado in it.

And then there's the cinematography, by Amir Mokri, who is trying to -- well, I don't know what he's trying to do, really, with all these quick-zooms during action sequences and shaky hand-held camera work elsewhere. If he's trying to make the action look nearly as incomprehensible as it was in Transformers, then I guess he succeeded.

Once upon a time, even something as pure pop as a superhero movie made a deep and lasting impression, something audiences remembered and loved for years afterward. Superman in 1978; Batman in 1989; even X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2002. Now, movie studios have run the gamut to such an extent that we're in the midst of franchise reboots for all of those films: newer, younger faces re-telling essentially the same story, over and over again. It's still possible to do that in fresh and exciting ways; Christopher Nolan certainly did with Batman. But in the long run, even though it was entertaining if nothing else, Man of Steel is not going to be one of those movies still beloved years from now. It will be completely forgotten soon enough.

Super-meh: Henry Cavill has some big red boots to fill in MAN OF STEEL.

Overall: C+
1 comment or Leave a comment
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: December 18th, 2014 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Awesome music. When I come to power I shall put Hans Zimmer in charge of the national anthem.
1 comment or Leave a comment