Director Zack Snyder, I banish you to The Phantom Zone.
Don’t let its poetic and evocative trailers fool you, Man of Steel is a complete dud of a film that not only fails to live up to its hype, but
misfires in almost every respect along the way.
Despite the endorsement of Christopher Nolan, this reboot features none of the brilliance that marked his Dark Knight trilogy.
This is a plodding, dark film with little humor and no genuine thrills. Action sequences are endless and incomprehensible and the
characters are shockingly underdeveloped.
The meaningful, introspective tone of the film’s marketing is almost wholly absent from the finished product.
There was a great opportunity to explore Superman’s role with a more realistic tone. How would humanity react to him? How does Clark
deal with his isolation? All these opportunities are squandered.
Director Snyder has appeared uninterested in this type of intelligent, subtle filmmaking throughout his career and it’s abundantly clear
nothing has changed. He turns the film’s opening on Krypton into a stock sci-fi action sequence involving Superman’s father, Jor-El (A
barely interested Russell Crowe), and Michael Shannon’s General Zod.
Zod is the film’s primary villain and Shannon’s performance ranges from shouting to yelling.
I would make a comment about how much better the Krypton sequence is in Richard Donner’s 1978 classic, Superman: The Movie, but you
could pretty much apply that statement to every scene in the film.
After Snyder blows up half of Krypton in this overlong, mindless introduction, the other half explodes anyway and we’re rocketed forward to
Clark Kent in present day. This begins an awkward series of flashbacks to Clark’s childhood that are completely underdeveloped. You’ve
seen them in the trailers…and that is pretty much all of them.
These flashbacks are very brief and seem to be inserted into the story at random. They end up having very little impact and feel like they
only exist because it’s an origin story and, therefore, expected.
British actor Henry Cavill looks every bit the part as the Man of Steel, but his lifeless performance reduces him to a footnote in his own film.
That’s not to say anyone else steals the show. Amy Adams is equally dull as ambitious reporter Lois Lane.
These are good actors who appear completely uninspired thanks to David S. Goyer’s pedestrian screenplay and Snyder’s heavy-handed
Snyder’s use of handheld cameras, extreme close-ups and frantic editing is a constant distraction. And perhaps someone should tell him
that a ‘darker’ Superman story doesn’t necessarily mean the photography be depressingly dark and muted.
Oh, and remember the lack of subtlety I mentioned? There is a scene where Clark contemplates surrendering to General Zod to prevent
the destruction of Earth. Over Clark’s shoulder in the scene is a stained glass window featuring the image of Jesus Christ. Do you think
that allegory is obvious enough?
At this point the film is already beginning to drag and the final act is the most painful of them all.
And I mean that literally. The oppressively obnoxious sound design is unbearable. Every movement is accompanied by an eardrum
shattering effect. If you thought films like xXx, Van Helsing and Hot Fuzz were loud, wait until you’ve been hit upside the head with Man of
Even the usually overbearing Hans Zimmer’s score is overwhelmed. Zimmer had a daunting task to follow in the footsteps of John Williams’
classic score and he clearly was not up to the challenge. His music is completely generic and forgettable.
Man of Steel’s undeveloped characters and muddled themes all yield to Snyder’s merciless barrage of action sequences and the last 20
minutes of the film are miserable because of it.
And that’s not to mention the senseless plot convolutions. When Superman turns himself over to Zod, the General suddenly demands Lois
be handed over to him as well. May I ask why? He doesn’t interrogate her, he doesn’t torture her, and he doesn’t even use her against
Superman as a hostage.
Even worse is the scene where civilians flee in the street from a collapsing building. Daily Planet editor Perry White turns to see a woman
straggling behind and screams for her to move. So that huge falling skyscraper was going to crush her, but White, standing 15 feet away,
was going to be fine? How did he know that? Seriously, he even runs back and saves her. He’s the real Superman as far as I’m concerned.
And after all that destruction, we get a fight between Superman and Zod ripped straight out of Dragon Ball Z. They fly through more
buildings and streets, then soar into space and fight there and then back again. They fight and fight and fight without either incurring a
scratch. At least in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film they acknowledged how ridiculous fights between immortal beings are.
There really are no redeeming qualities to be found here. This is a miserable experience and the few bright moments (Which we have seen
already in the film’s 2-minute trailers) are completely overwhelmed by senseless action, a complete disregard for these characters and an
outrageous running time.
Man of Steel is a painfully disappointing film and a borderline embarrassment. It almost feels like an elaborate joke before they release the
true version. I suspect Lex Luthor may be involved. As he would say: “If any human being were going to perpetrate such a fantastic hoax, it
would have been me!”
(out of four)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David S. Goyer
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon,
Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by: Amir Mokri
Released: June 14, 2013; 143 Minutes