Friday, June 14, 2013

'Man of Steel' review (no spoilers, but not much good to say either)

"It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's ... well, not really Superman, is it?"
The name "Superman" is barely mentioned in "Man of Steel." It comes up briefly in a single scene, is uttered three times, and we never hear it again.

That's a sign, no doubt, on several levels that director Zack Snyder wanted to create his own Man of Tomorrow legend. At that, he has succeeded.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way he forgot to make a good movie about his own version of the most iconic of all superheroes.

"Man of Steel" feels a lot like director Ang Lee's "Hulk." That's far from a compliment. The 2003 "Hulk" was a mess. Lee tried to mold Bruce Banner and his green alter ego to match his own vision for the character(s). Snyder falls into the same "Steel" trap (see what I did there?) with his movie.

This is not the Clark Kent/Kal-El of Christopher Reeve. Or George Reeves. Or even Brandon Routh.

Instead, Snyder has given us a generic, brooding super-powered alien in search of his destiny. And we are left to wonder why we should care.

The story is familiar to anyone who has seen "Superman II." General Zod and his Kryptonian cronies, banished by Jor-El to the Phantom Zone, escape and hunt down Kal-El so they can have revenge on the son of their oppressor. But the story lacks any semblances of the wit and charm that made Reeve so likeable in the role. Michael Shannon chews up the scenery as Zod well enough. As Superman, though, Henry Cavill is not given much to do but act like an overgrown teenager who is too caught up in his self-pity to take proper notice of the world around him.

Great special effects? Sure. But they should have invested more into the script. In "Superman II," Superman flies away after his initial fight with Zod because he can see the destruction that their brawling is causing for his beloved human friends. In "Man of Steel," they fight without regard for their surroundings or human life, destroying entire towns, skyscrapers and, demanded by logic if not actually depicted in the film, killing thousands of innocent bystanders.

Toward the very end, Cavill flashes the famous Christoper Reeve-like smile. It's about the only sign in the entire movie that a living, breathing character lives beneath the supersuit.

As Ang Lee told an interviewer several years ago when discussing his regrets about his "Hulk" movie: "My problem is that I took the whole thing too seriously. I should have had more fun with it, instead of all the psychodrama!"

It appears obvious that Zack Snyder did not come across this quote in researching "Man of Steel."

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