Friday, June 21, 2013

Jofo @ The Movies: Man of Steel

It's not a bird, it's not a plane,'s really boring.

Superman has always been a character that I mostly only know about from crossover comic events like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, etc, having not really read his solo series extensively, but if there is one thing I understand about Supes, it is that he is the very symbol of hope in the DC universe and his adventures are epic, colorful, and very fun, though occasionally dipping into the darkness a bit; so when I heard Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder were attached to a Superman movie, I instinctively rolled my eyes, considering Nolan's obsession with realism, logic, and grim material, and Snyder's inability to make a movie that goes beyond just being "okay". As the third and fourth trailer launched, I started to gain a little hope for this movie, and even decided to catch it at its midnight release. Did it make me believe that a man can fly again, or is this movie just another piece of kryptonite weakening an iconic character's legacy?

Plot Synopsis

We open on Krypton with the noted scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara giving birth to their first son whom they name Kal, however this happy moment is stifled by the impending doom of the planet thanks to the rulers' careless actions of harvesting energy from the planet's core and triggering a devastating chain reaction. Seeing an opportunity, General Dru-Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to stage a coup on the government and goes after Jor-El whom has taken a valuable artifact known as the Codex, and sent it with the baby Kal to Earth in a last desperate attempt to preserve both his son, and the Kryptonian race. Enraged, Zod murders Jor-El before being captured by the government and banished to the Phantom Zone along with his followers as Krypton begins to crumble and eventually explode.

Years later, Kal-El (Henry Cavill) has been taken in and raised by the Kent family (Kevin Costner) in Smallville, Kansas and is renamed Clark and, despite some difficulty with his developing abilities, is raised to be a pillar of moral integrity. Clark however decides to live a nomadic life, traveling from place to place under different identities trying to discover his place in life, and seems to find it when he unearths an alien ship that seems to provide all of the answers to his questions about his purpose.

Essentially, this is a(nother) origin story for Superman, and boy is it incredibly disjointed, horribly paced, and filled with plot holes. There are several instances where the plot just completely vanishes for long stretches of time only to resume for a bit, then disappear again, rinse repeat until the film's third act when all semblance of plot just completely vanishes until the last three minutes There are also so many downright stupid moments in this movie that make absolutely no sense (that I unfortunately cannot call out in this review specifically for fear of spoilers), and more than a few subplots are resolved haphazardly with some not being resolved at all. Not all is bad though, there are a few genuinely good scenes in the movie, particularly ones when Cavill is actually allowed to act like Clark Kent instead of being made to endlessly brood like a certain OTHER popular DC hero.

Speaking of acting, with the exception of Cavill who gives a very heartfelt and well-studied  performance (and DANG does he look the part of Superman) almost everyone in this movie looks and feels almost like they are ashamed to be in it at all and give very phoned in, mediocre performances with Russell Crowe and Amy Adams (Lois Lane) being the worst offenders in a sea of complete blandness. If the actors don't care about their performance, then why should we be invested in their characters, especially when they are already completely two-dimensional and boring in the writing department?

Art Direction know, when a Batman movie has more color than a Superman movie, we're going to have a major problem here. Everything is either dismally gray or a heavily muted yellow and blue, which when you're trying to tell a story about the symbol of hope in the DC universe, isn't really going to set the proper tone. Even Superman's outfit looks completely wrong since it lacks the great balance of bright colors found in the classic outfit and makes the character seem gloomier than he is supposed to.

But now we get to one of the most infuriating things about this movie...not since Cloverfield, have I seen such huge levels of unnecessary, and unpleasant shaky-cam! Even during tranquil scenes and dialogue heavy moments, the movie opts for a pseudo-documentary style where the picture CONSTANTLY jumps around like it was filmed on a hand-held camera by some amateur instead of a trained and studied Hollywood camera crew with top of the line equipment. And if it wasn't hard enough to see a clear picture of dialogue exchange, the just imagine how the action sequences unfold. The fight and action scenes are indeed spectacular...when you can tell what is going on, which in my experience was almost never, and with movies like The Avengers showing just how coherent an action movie can and should be, this is a huge weak point that puts Man of Steel way below its competition.

And since its a Nolan related film, we get the "pleasure" of hearing the bass heavy, boring tones of Mr. Hans Zimmer, who decided just to stick in the leftover tracks from Inception in this movie and hope it'd fit. Get used to hearing the same few meters of music over and over because the music is more repetitive here than any other Zimmer scored movie to date.

With the success of Marvel's Cinematic Universe, it is hard to shake off the feeling that this movie was cobbled together by WB with the express purpose of combating Marvel (and boy are they late to the party) instead of existing to tell a great story from a different perspective about the most iconic superhero of all time.  At the same time this movie also feels like it is trying too hard to be like Nolan's Dark Knight series, which in itself is a major mistake since Superman and Batman are two WAAYYY different characters; it is almost like people think that superhero movies have to be "edgy, gritty, and dark" in order to be good, which is a woefully misguided perspective in my opinion, a superhero story can be compelling, well written and thought-provoking, while still being fun, colorful and fairly true to their source material.



  • Great performance by Henry Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent/ Kal-El
  • Action scenes are spectacular to behold (when you can tell what is going on)
  • Interesting re-imagining of Krypton and its technology.

  • Horribly paced story that lacks any semblance of structure.
  • Phoned in performances from the majority of the cast.
  • Arbitrarily changed elements from the source material that serve no purpose (Nitpick)
  • Lackluster cinematography and editing
  • Repetitive yet forgettable musical score 
  • Weak, two-dimensional characters. 
  • Dull, dreary, and boring overall plot

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