Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by David S. Goyer
While waiting for the film to start, my friend and I were discussing the originality of movies these days. My comment on the matter was that there are plenty of great, original ideas and films out there; they just aren’t existent in the Hollywood blockbuster anymore sadly. Everywhere you look over the past decade, the summers have been crowded by comic book superheroes and their rehashed, moneymaking sequels. The technology is finally here to deliver the worlds and visuals imagined by the artists at their initial release, but why do we need another new Superman? As I not so fondly remember, the last time a Superman movie hit theaters, it marked a personal landmark for me: the first, and only, time I have ever fallen asleep during a movie. It was late at night and Superman Returns was pretty dreadful after all, but the filmmakers this go around made sure there was enough action that I wouldn’t dare fall behind heavy eyelids.
I readily admit that I am not a comic book aficionado; I have never read the comics. However, I understand the charm of the superheroes and have enjoyed a handful of those unoriginal blockbusters from the past decade. Superman might hold the closest place in my heart, however. As a child, my bedtime was always 8:30, every night of the week. Except one, Sundays. For on Sunday nights there was Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain to entertain my brothers and I as Lois and Clark, allowing us to stay up late, all the way until 9pm! Man of Steel is sure to allow kids to stay up late as its two and a half hour runtime slogs on, updating us on the latest adventures of the man from Krypton. As has been popular in recent times, the filmmakers deliver us the origin stories of Clark Kent, or Kal-El.
The first thing that struck me about the film was its visual explosiveness, which should come as no surprise given director Zack Snyder’s track record with films like 300, Watchmen, and the beautiful animated film The Legend of the Guardians under his belt. However, for as sharp as the graphics and effects were, Snyder ultimately falls on them as the crutch to carry the film, leaving any character development either on the cutting room floor or out of the picture altogether, which is a shame. In fact, the finale of the film is so full of unconscious action that it recalled the latest Transformers film, filling a good 30-45 minutes of mindless, dizzying special effects action that adds nothing to our story. Unfortunately, the weird camera zooms and high speed “super” fights come off as headaches and even have the feel of a video game on a couple of occasions.
Snyder seems happy enough hitting his audience over the head with a blunt instrument, forgetting to pace the story, or even tell one to begin with. The script is so thinly handled that, aside from Clark, I never felt like I got to know any of the characters. And what was more, none of the actors really got a screentime’s chance in Kyrpton to bring anything to the roles. Michael Shannon, a great actor, is left with just enough time as the principle villain, General Zod, to shout every so often at us. Kevin Costner, who plays Clark’s Kansas father, pops up just enough to give Clark a philosophical musing from time to time, while never establishing an actual relationship with his son. Even the relationship between Clark and Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, is sped through at lightning quickness. Henry Cavill does show us charismatic promise in the title role, but even he is pulled left and right into a fight. I was left wondering why Ayelet Zurer was the best performance of the film, by a mile.
I cannot say I had the highest expectations of the film going in, and I am not a fanboy, so I cannot comment on the films service to the beloved fans of the franchise (though there were definitely a few nods throughout). But I can definitively say that I did not enjoy this film. There were promising moments where I was hopeful. Cavill especially showed flashes of being a great Superman, moments of charm and wit that unfortunately felt uneven from a boy who supposedly had a dark and lonely life, drifting from job to job, from identity to identity. There are no signature moments to hold on to, no elements to set it apart on its own, away from the generic and well-tread upon blockbuster conventions. The bloated action led to a bloated runtime for a story so thinly conceived and presented. Summer will certainly have better to offer.