Man Of Steel (2012)


Okay, first of all, nobody goes any further without looking over this.

It’s time for someone else to have a go at reinvigorating the big boy scout AKA Superman for the big screen. This time it’s Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, working from a script by David Goyer (from a story by Goyer and Christopher Nolan, who also has his name attached as producer).

Henry Cavill is the actor this time playing Clark Kent/Superman, Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner play the two father figures (with Crowe being the Kryptonian and Costner being the Earthling), Amy Adams is Lois Lane and Michael Shannon is the notorious General Zod. All of the cast do great work with what they’re given.

Let me start with what Man Of Steel gets right. It’s an origin film that doesn’t feel bogged down by what it has to convey to newcomers. In fact, after an unsteady start on Krypton, the movie gets the first half hour or so just right. Putting Superman front and centre straight away, while interspersing his current situation with some past incidents that lef him to where he is. It’s promising stuff, and there’s a fantastic, brief sequence on an oil rig that shows that our hero, while obviously conflicted, is a man who cannot leave people to die whenever he has the chance to help.

Then things start to slide into place for the main plot details. General Zod is seeking Superman and Earth is in danger. Lois Lane, sorely under-written but well portrayed by Adams, is also seeking Superman. Superman doesn’t really want to be found. His human father figure always warned him that he would have to wait until the time was right, otherwise the human race just wouldn’t be ready to accept him.
Then a big set-piece is shown. And another. And another. And another. Which stops the spectacle being spectacular and, instead, makes the whole thing rather tedious. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I was SO bored by a big blockbuster in the cinema. Sorry to say it.

Superman Returns, as flawed as it is, remains a better movie than this. Why? Because at least Bryan Singer knew that Superman should still have a sense of occasion, should still serve up spectacle that feels like spectacle. People complained about the film not having enough action, but that’s because when the action DID occur it was more satisfying. Action sequence after action sequence after action sequence can go one of two ways. You either get something as great as The Raid, or you can get something that becomes dull and tiresome. Like this.

If you watch the film, or have just watched the film, then do reply immediately if you disagree with the following brief overview of the style:

Frenetic camerawork.
Shake, shudder, shake.
BIG set-piece.
Zoom in – zoom further in – zoom out AKA the 300 shot.
Have Superman yell out: “yeeeeaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh.”

Okay, the last part only happened on about three occasions in the last hour, but even those who try to claim this film as the new, definitive Superman movie that audiences have long deserved won’t be able to argue much with me. Because I am not having to exaggerate.

Is the film full of great visuals and are there action moments that really deliver some impressive stuff? Yes indeedy. It’s just a shame that it’s all overshadowed by the never-ending attempt to keep throwing more and more bigger and BIGGER moments at viewers. More of a shame because the cast are all so good and able to take over iconic roles and make them their own. Cavill is perfectly noble and muscular in the lead role, Shannon adds another great villain to his roster of great villains (playing Zod very differently from the previous incarnations while keeping the character as badass as he should be), and then there’s Adams. Poor Amy Adams. When I saw that she’d been cast as Lois Lane I was very pleased. I thought that she had the potential to be great in the role. She’s good, but the character has been softened and removed of all “fire”. Crowe and Costner are both excellent, Diane Lane is also very good as Martha Kent, Christopher Meloni and Harry Lennix are military bods, Laurence Fishburne is okay as the new Perry White and Michael Kelly plays nobody that notable, but I like Michael Kelly, so that was a plus. Oh, I don’t want to miss out Antje Traue, who made quite an impression as Faora-Ul.

I’ve only got myself to blame. All the signs were there. People said that they were worried by Zack Snyder being at the helm, and many of the stylistic problems are down to him. Goyer can be a good writer, but he can also be a clumsy one, and this sees him providing material that’s a little from either end. Then we have the presence of Nolan, that seems to have assured that any shred of humour is removed from the whole thing.

I have no doubt that over the next few days and weeks you will see extreme reactions to the movie, people will be pre-determined to love or hate it. The reality, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle. Is it a terrible film? No. It’s just not the great film that it could have been if only everyone involved had been reminded that sometimes . . . . . . . less is more.


Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

  1. insanislupus says

    Lies, all lies! Okay, I gave it a 7, but mostly agree with everything you have written here. The action scenes were tiresome, and in a movie that is over 2 hours long, that’s a bad thing. I also think the lack of humor may have made this film feel strange. Still, I really liked this Zod better than most villains. I felt bad for him with his lines about how he was bred to protect the people of Krypton and that everything he does is for them. Good stuff.

  2. Tue Sorensen says

    I continue to disagree with you about Superman Returns, Kevin, which I think is very weak. But we’re not far apart on Man of Steel; I am in fact itching to demote it from 7 stars to 6; it has so many inadequate elements. But, I’m withholding judgment until I’ve seen it in 2-D as well, perhaps sometime during the coming week.

    A damn shame that this year’s two major sci-fi releases – Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel – both turned out to be such disappointments to me. At least Iron Man 3 was fairly decent, and of course there’s still Pacific Rim to come. And After Earth, which is still ten days away from its Danish release.

  3. Kevin Matthews says

    No problem, most people disagree with me on Superman Returns hahaha.
    That recent rewatch really highlighted a lot of the positives though, and I was surprised myself by how much it went up in my estimation (or, at least, didn’t drop anyway).
    Yeah, we spoke earlier in the year about it being a potentially great one for sci-fi, but that hasn’t happened yet.
    There’s always Pacific Rim, as you say, and Elysium. 🙂

  4. Tue Sorensen says

    I also rewatched Superman Returns recently, and had the opposite reaction. I rated it a 6 originally, down to a 5 on the second watch, and then down to a 4 on the third watch… I don’t think it works, but in hindsight I do actually think that Brandon Routh is a slightly better actor than Henry Cavill. Cavill is almost a complete cipher; he doesn’t DO anything, he just stands there. There’s no expression. Such a shame. A Superman movie really needs a good Superman actor first and foremost. Apparently, there’s no one who can really pull it off. Unless the movie companies just suck at picking actors, which is entirely possible.

  5. Kevin Matthews says

    I think a couple of the actors were probably left out to dry by the script. I liked Cavill, but if you saw him as not do anything i SUSPECT that’s the scripting letting him down in the way that I felt Amy Adams was let down.

  6. Olly Buxton says

    Good review Kev. Just saw this on a plane yesterday. Kinder than I would be about the script. Just the whole concept was so z grade 1950s but executed with no ounce of wit or sly humour. And I reckon Hollywood should declare a truce in the CGI arms race – it is just so tedious watching big things explode. Now we know anything is possible with graphics, I just can’t see any point in bothering to portray it.

    Golden Turkey territory for me.

  7. Kevin Matthews says

    Thanks, Olly.
    The more I discuss this one as people look back over the year, the more puzzled I am by my generosity.

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