Saturday, June 29, 2013


It’s not hard to see why Man of Steel has been met with such wildly divisive reactions from both comic book fans and critics (not to mention the average moviegoer). Zach Snyder’s ‘re-tooling’ of the Superman mythos (helped along by writer David Goyer and producer Chris Nolan) sinks on just as many levels as it soars, rendering it a fascinating but frustrating and very schizophrenic viewing experience.

The scenic vistas of Krypton have a wonderful sense of epic fantasy to them, even if they did remind me of Avatar a little too much. The moments in Smallville with Kevin Costner provide the film with it’s most emotionally effective moments, but the film bogs itself right down (and wears the viewer out) during an overlong CGI demolition derby between Superman and his enemy Zod, at the conclusion of which the city of Metropolis is left looking like the remains of New York in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

I was surprised at how little real story there was in Man of Steel. Plot points and dialogue seem to whiz by as Synder races from one big explosive set-piece to the next. It’s certainly not short on action (which, like most other things about this film, works spectacularly well in some scenes, confused and unimaginative in others), but action means very little if you aren’t really given a chance to know or invest in the characters involved first.

Henry Cavill makes a decent Superman, but watching him made me realise just how definitive and iconic Christopher Reeve’s interpretation of the character (and his alter-ego) was. It’s not a slight on Cavill - he has the chin, the blue eyes, and he certainly fills out that (slightly tweaked) red and blue suit impressively. Something about his Superman reminds me of those classic Max Fleischer animated shorts from the 1940s, and I hope he gets the chance to settle into and develop the role over the course of a couple of sequels.

Amy Adams is a terrific actor playing a rather bland Lois Lane, very little chemistry between her and Cavill, there is sadly no “You’ve got me...who’s got you?” moment for these two. But again, the final scene of the film suggests that their relationship could become something fun to watch as it progresses. Michael Shannon as General Zod was mostly empty bombast with the odd moment of genuine menace. He is much more intimidating on Boardwalk Empire. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe - two actors I’m no real big fan of - do decent jobs of playing Kal-El’s Earth and Krypton fathers respectively (Costner being the better of the two, even though Crowe has much more screen time).

Propelled along by one of Hans Zimmer’s best and most rousing scores, Man of Steel is a rocky rebirth for one of pop-culture’s most enduring and recognisable icons. Taken on face value, it’s an entertaining and often impressive enough piece of commercial blockbuster filmmaking. But the character and his world has the potential to be so much more, and the talent involved are capable of so much better (though Goyer desperately needs a co-writer). If Snyder and Co. can lighten up a little on the sequel, develop the Lois/Clark dynamic and learn to take a ‘less is more’ approach to some of the effects and set-pieces, the great film that is potentially hiding somewhere inside Man of Steel might yet come out.