The New Superman Film Isn't All That Super, Really.
Man of Steel.
Director: Zack Snyder.
Writers: David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan.
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe.
Where's it playing? Various Metroplex megaplexes, although we advise cinema purists to check it out at the Texas Theatre, the only movie house in town showing a 35MM print of the film.
It's been seven years since Supes was last seen on big screen being confused for a bird and/or a plane. That was in 2006's Superman Returns, a film generally deemed by audiences as lackluster at best, considering that, among other flaws, it didn't contain enough of Superman being Superman (read: punching stuff and throwing stuff and shooting stuff with his laser eyes).
But now The Dude With The S On His Chest has returned, beefed up both literally and figuratively by director Zach Snyder (Watchmen, 300), who has some help here from writer David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan, the guys that turned the story of Superman's superpal Batman into one of the most successful and critically acclaimed comic book film franchises of all time. And, certainly, if Snyder & Co. took one lesson learned from Returns and implemented it into Man of Steel, it was indeed that fan desire for more action.
While this undeniably lends an epic scope to this franchise reboot, though, all this action ultimately works against Man of Steel. They didn't just turn things up to 11 here; they broke off the knob while attempting to do so. The whole film plays out like one big attempt at erecting an action boner. There's sequence after sequence of mass destruction as Superman and the film's Kryptonian baddies battle thing out from suburban streets to city landscapes, destroying everything in their path as they do. There's no leaping over tall buildings here at all. Buildings just get straight-up destroyed.
It's a little weird to take in. If Superman is humanity's only hope in this film, well, he sure has to break a lot of our shit in order to save us.
Alas, there's a reason for all this carnage and action. It's here to distract viewers from the film's story, which is weak and uneven and features hollow, inconsistent characters.
Consider the following: 1.) A young Clark Kent has no problem saving a bus full of schoolmates, but he doesn't hesitate to (spoiler alert!) let his Earthly father die. 2.) An identity-less Superman wants to save the world, but he has no concern for collateral damage or any code to live by, for that matter. 3.) Our villain, General Zod, far too sympathetic a character. 4.) I know this is kind of her bit, but Lois Lane, a Pulitzer Prize-winner here, is always in the right place at the right time, even if that means being aboard an alien ship in the Arctic. Later, she's entrusted with a very major part of the plan to save Earth. 5.) Lane's editor, Perry White, seems totally fine with not running the biggest story in human history because of how people might respond.
These are just some of the major head-scratchers in this film's story. No one here is motivated by genuine or organic means. Instead, their actions serve as incoherent devices that force the story into whatever direction the writers want to take it.
Sure, this is a comic book movie, which sort of implies that there should be some suspension of disbelief from the audience's perspective. That's no excuse for bad storytelling, though. We've passed that point in time where comic books (and their big screen adaptations) are seen as pulpy, soulless stories. Credit some of the very people who helped make this movie in particular if you must, but we've made giant leaps in the realm of comic book tales being told in believable and thoughtful ways.
And, more than anything, it's a lack of thought that harms this picture. No, this ain't our dad or granddad's Superman. But, to be honest, I'm not really sure who's Superman this is at all.
In this post-Dark Knight comic book movie cinematic landscape — where, for better or worse, every modern take on these classic characters must be dark and gritty and grounded because “that's what makes money” — we're seeing these characters evolve. There's nothing wrong with that; any seasoned, avid comic book reader is use to different takes and the same story. But sometimes these changes come with too much force.
Are the performances here good? Sure. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that some of them are pretty great, even if Amy Adams was miscast as Lois Lane.
Does the movie look pretty? Definitely. It's beautiful.
Is the action astonishing? Absolutely. Overwhelmingly so, and, as previously noted, sometimes to a fault.
Is it a good movie? Not really. It aspires to be something greater than it is. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's an all-out awful movie, though. It does a few things very right, and I'm sure some people may even love Man of Steel for those things.
But the things it does wrong are too substantial to discount.
In the Malick-esque trailer (seen above), Superman tells us, “My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, it'd reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn't ready.”
Unfortunately, this line's all too fitting. At least in the context of the Man of Steel's failings as a film.
Score: 6 out of 10 symbols that look like an “S” on Earth but that mean “hope” on Krypton.
Also new to area theaters this week…
This Is the End.
Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen.
Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg.
Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride.
Where's it playing? Various Metroplex megaplexes.
What if every funny person in Hollywood that has ever starred in a Judd Apatow movie attended the same party? What if, on this night of celebration, it just so happened that the end of days happened? Well, then you'd have the hilarious This Is the End — absolutely the funniest movie of the summer. Highly recommended.
Big Easy Express.
Director: Emmett Malloy
Cast: Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show.
Where's it playing? Friday and Saturday at midnight at the Inwood.
What happens when you take three indie folk bands and have them tour six cities while riding a train? You get Big Easy Express from the dude that did that The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights film. If you like these bands, you'll probably dig this film. If you don't, you're better off playing Oregon Trail. Good luck with that dysentery!