Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Man Of Steel (2013)

Director: Zack Snyder
Notable Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishburne

To give this review a bit of context, I probably should state that I've never been a big Superman fan to begin with. My brother was always the one inclined towards the Superman tale (as one can tell from his reviews of the film franchises) and I was always the Batman guy, yet I felt inclined to see "Man Of Steel" due to some intriguing elements. Firstly, it would be the film to kick off DC Comics lead up to a "Justice League" film. Secondly, it's directed by Zack Snyder who, while I'm the first to admit is usually style over substance, tends to make entertaining films. Thirdly, it's produced by Christopher Nolan. Although I have love/hate relationship with his "Batman" films - can still bring a new level of thought to the super hero genre. So what do we get with all of these unique and interesting elements in "Man Of Steel?" We get a clusterfuck, of course.

 Clark Kent (Cavil) has struggled most of his life. Despite his insane powers of strength, laser eyes, and speed, his father (Costner) taught him to keep it in check in fear that others will try to persecute him for his abilities. So he wanders as a young man, helping where he can and struggling to live a normal life. When he discovers a lost ship in the ice he discovers his past as the last of a race on a dying world. Then he learns he's NOT the last of his race, but that a group of militant rogues are coming to Earth to colonize it. Now its up to Kent to stop them to protect his foster home.

Getting out of that suit had to be a bitch.
In an odd way, "Man Of Steel" is a mash up of the first two "Superman" films with flashbacks interspersed that take the many seasons of "Smallville" and give us the highlights. I love the idea of this film. Let's humanize Superman, take the film in a more serious tone, jack up the action, and - no pun intended - let it fly. Fuck, I'm so down with that! Slap Snyder in the director's chair for some pizzazz, Nolan guiding the flick, and cast some strong elements and "Man Of Steel" should be the blockbuster highlight of the summer.

"Knock knock..."Man Of Steel." That's the joke!"
That is...until it all went wrong.

The biggest issue I had with the film was its pacing and tendency to be oversimplified while treating the audience like children. Yeah, we get some humanization of Supes with some oddly placed flashbacks of artistic intent (any random shot of something small and meaningful will do - how about a butterfly on the chain of a swing set?) that give us some reasons why Supes is the way he is, but for whatever reason the pacing here felt a bit convoluted. It sort of jumps to convenient memories when needed where we are preached to by two different fathers (the other played by Russell Crowe) before it fully succumbs to an odd need to push the film into a straight on science fiction arena. While the exposition was there, it certainly felt like exposition and it never caught me to feel for Superman. Perhaps its because the guy wanders around and saves burning oil rigs, smashes trucks when almost gets into bar fights, and generally acts like a simpleton.

And in this oversimplification, "Man Of Steel" then seems to say "oh well" to all that exposition in the second half and relentlessly pummels the audience with action. The first sequence as Supes battles a pretty creepy henchwoman I enjoyed. They throw one another through buildings, ignite trains, and generally hop around like kung fu experts on crack and beat the shit out of one another. Unfortunately, from there the action never ends. As an action fan, this should be awesome. Too bad its ALL CGI and it becomes a boring flurry of destruction, flying bricks, and tumbling buildings. By the time that Supes and the evil Zod, played to bug eyed hilarity by Michael Shannon, finally duke it out in Metropolis (certainly killing far more people then was probably necessary if Supes had just taken the fight up like a 1000 feet higher in the air) I couldn't give two shits about the action. Yawn. Seen it before for, like, the last 40 minutes, I swear. Where is Zack Snyder's knack for pacing an action sequence? Well, it's no where to be found in this CGI world of boring action. Yeesh.

I'm shocked they didn't just CGI his costume like in "Green Lantern."
Then to top it off, the film pulls out the entire 'Superman = Jesus' card. This has been a trend for Superman for quite some time and often I enjoy some of the clever techniques that writers, artists, and film makers have taken this subtext too. In "Man Of Steel," it's not a subtext. It's beaten into your skull. For the most part I wouldn't have minded it, but it's relentless here. It's like when someone tells you a joke and you politely laugh at it because it's funny. Then they proceed to poke you in the ribs for two hours and say 'get it? Don't you get it? Come on, that's funny. Get it?" YES. WE GET IT. NOW FUCKING LEAVE IT ALONE. That's how the entire religious "subtext" worked on my nerves. I won't get into all the examples here, turns out there are entire articles dedicated to this topic, and I would suggest reading that if you are interested.

"I'm staring into your film...and I see a BIG paycheck."
Overall, the acting was okay - with the highlights being the Russell Crowe/Michael Shannon scenes - and the action has its moments. Although I will admit I was dying of unintentional laughter at the entire "Avatar"/"Matrix" rip off introduction that takes place on Krypton. Something about watching a very serious Russell Crowe riding a four winged lizard and swimming through a sea of "Matrix" babies ticked me pink. Ugh. The rest of the film is a wash. Too much focus on science fiction elements and one trick action sequences to be truly thoughtful in its character work and too much serious character work to be truly an entertaining summer blockbuster. Although there are those who loved this film out there, I for one was not at all enthralled with this latest tale of Supes. The action was boring, the characterization forced, and the "fun" was lost out of the series. A massive summer disappointment is my final verdict.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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