Man of Steel is a noble attempt at selling Superman to modern film audiences but it falls short on almost every level. I tried viewing this film as both a former comic book geek and as a cinephile, hoping that one aspect might balance out the other but alas, I was disappointed on both fronts.
As a film, Man of Steel is a jumbled mess. First, the script is bad. I mean plot, dialogue, character development, all of it. This film relies so heavily on visual spectacle that it temporarily numbs the viewer to the asinine dialogue repeated throughout. There were moments where I wanted to cringe at the drivel these characters were saying ("You're a monster Zod and I'm going to stop you.") but was immediately bombarded with explosions and almost forgot...almost. Just about every character feels like a caricature, leaving us indifferent to their onscreen exploits. Lois Lane is about to fall to her death, oh wells. Superman is yelling about something, he's mad, I guess. What should have been a simple origin story gets convoluted with tons of unnecessary "filler." The sci-fi battle sequence on Krypton looked kinda cool (Star Wars meets Prometheus) but was totally out of place. Why was superman smashing the giant spider machine when he should have...nvm. He's gotta smash something I guess.
|Outta the way...I'm fighting here!|
The film's pacing is also totally out of whack. It feels like director Zack Snyder tried making two different movies and spliced them both together...while blindfolded. A series of somber flashbacks show Superman's coming of age in Kansas with the Kent family after he arrives on Earth. These scenes are probably the best of the entire film and are shot in a pseudo Malick style. Imagine Clark Kent testing his super powers on the set of The Tree of Life. Something like that. Then we get to the other half, the Michael Bay disaster porn portion of the film that totally lost me. The action is so fast paced, there's so much CGI tomfoolery onscreen that it's hard to focus on anything in particular. Buildings, jets, trains, Kryptonians, all fly through the air at breakneck speeds, it all becomes a giant exhausting blur. Also, the high octane fight scenes would have been more impressive, if they weren't straight Dragon Ball Z ripoffs. If you've seen the final fight between Neo and Agent Smith in Matrix Revolutions, you've basically seen the battles in Man of Steel.
Watching this movie as a former comic book geek, Man of Steel was even worse.
-WARNING- NERD RANT AND SPOILERS AHEAD:
Superman is one of the most beloved fictional characters of all time. He's been fighting crime and saving the world in the pages of DC comics for 75 years now. In terms of popularity it goes something like, Mickey Mouse, Jesus, and Superman...and not necessarily in that order. Superman has survived through the ages because his character, the ever vigilant boyscout supreme, has remained a consistent symbol of goodwill, truth and justice in a continually dangerous and scary world. From the Great Depression, Hitler, the Cold War and 9/11, Superman has been there. He never falters or waivers in the face of evil, he always does whats right. Hell, he doesn't even age and has outlived his original readers by this point. He's Superman. Calling him an icon, would be an understatement.
Unfortunately, the traits that have made Superman such an endearing figure for nearly a century, also make him extremely boring and one dimensional. Yes, I said it, Superman is boring. He has to be though. It's in his character's DNA. Marvel Comic's Captain America faces a similar problem as Supes, the whole goody two shoes/hall monitor thing. Both characters are displaced loners, (Supes is an alien refugee, Cap is from a bygone era) but only one of them can fly and is indestructible...and that is Superman's main problem, he's too powerful and too one dimensional for audiences to relate to. But why would you? He's that unattainable image of perfection we all secretly yearn to achieve. He doesn't second guess himself or drop the ball, ever. Why would we want to bring him down to our level?
That's Man of Steel's biggest mistake in my book. They try to humanize an alien demigod. Nolan's Batman movies had a certain grit and harsh sense of realism because 1) Batman has serious psychological problems and 2) He's a just a regular dude under that mask. Superman is, well, Superman! He doesn't mope around, he doesn't recklessly endanger innocent lives (demolishing Smallville and half of Metropolis in DBZ fistfights) and he doesn't kill! In trying to make Superman hip for modern audiences Man of Steel totally destroys the essence of who Superman is and why he's endured for so long.