Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: "Man of Steel" Overstuffed with Spectacle

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 41 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Man of Steel (2013)
Running time: 143 minutes (2 hours, 23 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
WRITERS: David S. Goyer; from a story by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan (based upon the Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and published by DC Comics)
PRODUCER: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, and Emma Thomas
EDITOR: David Brenner
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer


Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Ayelet Zurer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Kelly, Dylan Sprayberry, and Cooper Timberline

Man of Steel is a 2013 superhero movie from director Michael Bay. Ooops! I mean…

Man of Steel is a 2013 superhero movie from director Zack Snyder. The film is co-produced and co-written by Christopher Nolan, the director of “The Dark Knight trilogy” (yep, that’s what they’re calling Nolan’s Batman films) with a screenplay by David S. Goyer, who co-wrote Nolan’s Batman films. Man of Steel is a reboot of the Superman film franchise and is the first Superman movie since 2006’s Superman Returns.

Man of Steel focuses on Superman living as a young drifter and itinerant worker. He is forced to confront his destiny and secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race. That sounds warm and dramatic, but the actual film is an over-produced event movie that loses its heart and soul in a tsunami of computer-generated imagery and special effects. Once you see the movie, you might also think that this loud movie looks like something Michael Bay made, especially his Transformers films.

Man of Steel opens on the planet Krypton, where renowned scientist, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), and his wife, Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer), celebrate the arrival of a son, Kal-El. Their world, however, is dying as the rebel, General Zod (Michael Shannon), and his followers attack Krypton’s ruling council. In order to save Kal-El, Jor-El launches him in a spacecraft bound for Earth. The infant Kal-El lands on Earth in Smallville, Kansas, where he is found and adopted by Martha and Jonathan Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner), who name the baby, “Clark Kent.” Clark’s alien physiology gives him superhuman abilities on Earth, but also causes him to feel confused and isolated.

As an adult, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) lives a nomadic life. He does not realize that Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Daily Planet, is tracking him. Both Kent and Lane discover that Kent’s alien past is about to return in a way that could mean the end of humanity and the world as we know it.

Man of Steel is half-good, half-ridiculous. First, the ridiculous: the movie is all over the place. It jumps back in forth in time from occasionally overly-sentimental flashbacks to over-charged, present-day fight scenes. The characters are either under-utilized or underdeveloped. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams are actually good as Clark and Lois, but every time they seem about to really bond as characters, Man of Steel runs over to action scenes that look like they came out of the Transformers films, Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon.

Some of the set pieces depict levels of destruction that are practically impossible to fully comprehend. Fight scenes and aerial battles happen in a whirlwind of computer-generated imagery; sometimes, I couldn’t make out much of anything, even the combatants. In fact, much of Man of Steel is one big tornado of special-effects crap thrown at the screen. There is so much destruction going on in Metropolis that it began to annoy me. After ten minutes of this, I realized that the movie had crossed the line of relentless triteness that now defines big-budget Hollywood event movies.

Even this post-human movie offers moments of genuine humanity. The scenes in Smallville, present and flashback, offer some poignant character drama, if not the occasional tedious homily. There is a good moving and emotional set piece with Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet Editor in Chief Perry White, as he and some of the Planets’ staff fight to survive the destruction of Metropolis. Michael Shannon is brilliantly demented as General Zod, in way that makes the character alluring.

The filmmakers and (more likely) the studio do not seem interested in Clark Kent’s humanity. They seem obsessed with the spectacle of the superhero and his adversaries as videogame wrecking balls, tearing apart the world in visuals created by computers, software, and cinema technology. Sometimes, that looks quite good, as in Marvel’s The Avengers. Sometimes, it looks like a preposterous overstatement, as in Man of Steel. I found this movie to be a mostly unpleasant viewing experience. Is this what future Superman movies are going to look like? I hope the intriguing, interesting character bits that really left an impression on me and are the reason for my “B-“ score can have a bigger place in the next Man of Steel.

5 of 10

Sunday, June 16, 2013

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