Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon
Runtime: 143 min
Man of Steel is my first film experience with the Clark Kent/Superman character. So, I cannot compare this to earlier Superman films. As an origins story, it does introduce this character in a unique way, but not a way that is particularly good.
A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.
As a highly anticipated film, this leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, just not a great or even a good one.
The narrative is fairly unique, I’ll give it that. It just feels random and disorganized. At one minute, the movie is in the present – and the next, Clark is remembering something from his past. I do like flashbacks every now and then to fill in a puzzle of a movie, but this one just hops around like an Energizer bunny. The main story follows General Zod (Michael Shannon) who invades earth with some seriously sinister plans. Initially, this story is intriguing – but it takes long to get into, and the action sequences are big and stupid. This time around, I don’t know if I’d call the destruction of New York City particularly fun – or even entertaining, for that matter. I don’t think David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan write the most impressive tale of hope and superhuman abilities.
When Clark looks back on his past, it is mostly his father (Kevin Costner) repeatedly telling him that the world is not ready for Clark’s powers just yet. They might never be ready. Clark is struggling with his superhuman abilities. This coming-of-age aspect is something that could hit close to home, in the way that people have to adjust to their surroundings and find a place for them, not in the way that everyone has to learn to deal with their superpowers. This part of the story is powerful, poignant and thought out, and I appreciate it. I just do not appreciate the constant, and sudden changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.
Since Superman’s worried about what the world would think of him… Spider-Man and Batman are fairly well-received; it might change the world, but if he just wears a mask, he, Clark Kent, wouldn’t face any backlash or criticism. Masks are good for disguising. Putting glasses on as Clark Kent, and taking them off when the guy feels like putting on his cape and saving the world, is not much of a foolproof disguise. He should also lose the cape, because villains could grab it and throw him around easier. Edna E. Mode of The Incredibles would be sorely disappointed. (“No capes!”)
Visually speaking, this movie is a marvel. The imagined world of Krypton, and the shots of Krypton exploding, are magnificent, and have gone unmatched so far this year. The cinematography is also impressive, it looks very pure and I love the look of the movie. It’s unfortunate that nothing is really going on under the surface, story-wise. These big-budget blockbusters should really focus more on story, and less on visuals. Of course, that’s wishing for something that won’t happen. I don’t like the story at play here, and the film has an exhausting runtime. Only great movies should be allowed to be this long. There’s just very little here that is impressive. Most of it is underwhelming.
I like the cast. I love Amy Adams as an actress, and she’s great as Lois Lane, a character that doesn’t do a lot here. When she isn’t on-screen, I’m okay with it; because I mostly forget about Lane, not because Amy Adams is not a good screen presence. She is a great one. The chemistry shared between she and Henry Cavill is only okay. Henry Cavill is great as The ‘S’ Man, even if he isn’t funny; he’s stone-cold serious. But he isn’t asked to be funny, and he does bring some power to the role. This is a superhero movie that doesn’t have much humour. It has a few jokes near the end, but they feel out of place, and you’ll only catch them if you’re still awake. I’m not saying that the movie is particularly boring, but it’s very long for such an average movie… Diane Lane is sincere as Clark’s mother, and Kevin Costner is a great, scene-stealing movie Dad. His heartfelt performance will speak to you. Some of the best scenes include him.
I have noticed that DC Comics adaptations are much less funny than Marvel Comics adaptations; so maybe Goyer (and Nolan) need to learn how to write a bit more fun into their screenplay. I like a little joking around in my superhero movies; and if the story were more enjoyable and entertaining, the dark tone would be easier to swallow. I do love Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but those are brilliant and aren’t stupid. This one is big and dumb. Don’t misunderstand me, the story isn’t stupid, the action is. There’s punching and heat rays and more punching. It does not feel like a lot of thought has gone into it. This action also feels incredibly repetitive. And the storytelling is ineffective. I know that Nolan and Goyer are capable of so much more. It shows that it can be smart with its aspect of Clark learning to deal with his powers. So its change in narrative makes it go from stupid to smart, and back to stupid.
I enjoy most villains, as long as they are interesting, either menacing if they are meant to be, or funny if they are meant to be. And they have to be memorable. I love this villain. Michael Shannon is my favourite part of the movie. He is a true actor. His portrayal of General Zod is menacing, chilling, and compelling. Not to mention crazy, because he’s either yelling or flaring his nostrils, but I don’t really mind. I think it’s effective and menacing. Zod thinks his actions are noble, because he’d do anything to preserve the future of Krypton. He does not have morals. I do appreciate the writers’ decision to use Zod as the villain for this origins story, rather than Superman’s best known foe, Lex Luthor. The Mandarin of Iron Man 3 and John Harrison of Star Trek Into Darkness would bow down to GZod. I am ecstatic that Michael Shannon will now be a certified household name. However, in the movie, I do not appreciate the fact Superman’s duels with GZod’s henchmen feel longer than his duel with the actual, primary villain!
I anticipated this not as a fan of Superman, not as a die-hard fan of the superhero sub-genre, but as a die-hard fan of Christopher Nolan. Anything with his name on it, I get excited for – mostly because I trust his judgement. If he wants to spend a lot of money producing a movie, and co-writing one, I’ll pay to see it. I don’t love this. And after thinking about it a lot, I don’t like it much, either. The few worthwhile aspects to this movie is the cinematography, the stunning visuals and Michael Shannon. Overall, it’s an incredibly underwhelming and dis-a-pointing endeavour.