In terms of a blockbuster’s potential,“Man of Steel” has the makings to be a perfect storm in the summer.
300 director Zack Snyder teamed up with writer/producer Chris Nolan and his Batman trilogy team to reboot DC comics most famous property.
This audience member expected a serious, camp-fee take on the origin story of Superman with a penchant for emotional flare and character development that could marry well with the inevitable hugeness of the many actions scenes. I found I was only marginally satisfied by anything Man of Steel had to offer, and left the film wanting more. Here’s why:
Superman’s beginning on the planet Krypton is so succinct it makes the entire narrative seem paltry. In one scene, Superman’s father Jor-El predicts the demise of Kryton, the government is overthrown, and the antagonist Zodd are introduced in about three minutes of screen time. The entire film clocks in at nearly two and a half hours. When you are struggling to get through the many global scale action scenes, not to mention the unnecessary number of times we see a young Superman saving people’s lives, you’ll wonder what the rush was to get out of Krypton. Indeed, they tried to fit everything necessary into the not-overly long running time, but perhaps this was they best option screenwriters David S. Goyer and Nolan had considering the fact that…
We already know that Clark Kent finds out that he is Kal-El, and then becomes Superman. The journey to that conclusion is bogged down by its own weight. Indeed Clark Kent is simply born with his powers, he learns how to use them off-screen, and he is almost never in real danger. The joys of Smallville the TV series, the original comics, and the various films took in making Superman vulnerable are, like many other elements, glazed over in Man of Steel.
Yes, Henry Cavill is perfectly cast as Superman, and same goes for Russell Crowe as Jor-el, but that is about as far as good character work goes. Amy Adams is not really given a fighting chance to bring anything but sulkiness to Lois Lane. We find Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent spewing off clichés that are trying so hard to not be distinct from Spiderman’s “with great power comes great responsibility.” And worst of all, there is General Zodd, who has nothing interesting going for him as a villain, other than the basic screen presence of Michael Shannon. The actors are not to blame, and, ultimately, neither are the screenwriters, because at the root of all the problems lies this essential piece of knowledge:
And I’m not talking about ice. The character himself is an ancient relic of Americana, created in 1938, with an antiquated sense of what people want out of a super hero. His super powers are so contrived that they squash any sense of pathos. Most of his demons are based around him being too powerful to even be a Superhero. Who could empathize with that?
Every element of his being is marred by clichés and excessive awesomeness. Clark Kent, in adulthood, is a blank slate, Superman is a vanilla flavored do-gooder, and his Kal-El backstory reads like the Scientology creation Myth. He works as a comic book character, wherein the more subtle, philosophical nuances of the indestructible man have room to air out, but as a film protagonist, he is simply too much for his own good.