16 June 2013
Note from the Editor: Two of our My Cinema staffers saw Man of Steel this weekend and they couldn’t disagree more on whether or not it was actually good. So, in keeping with our grand tradition of writer debates, we’re publishing both perspectives.
You have to give Snyder credit for trying. When The Amazing Spiderman came out last summer, people far and wide complained that it was a completely useless “re-imagining.” Besides reminding us that Andrew Garfield is a charismatic bastard and that Emma Stone is adorable, the movie added nothing new to the Spiderman mythos and mostly just rehashed the same beats as the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire original. I don’t disagree (although I really, really enjoyed it). Snyder’s Man of Steel is the exact opposite- with the exception of the ending (which, coincidentally, was my favorite three minutes of the film). Man of Steel strips Superman of all the things you loved about it, refusing to rehash the gee whiz optimism and “faster than a speeding bullet” mythos in favor of…well…
It’s the “in favor of” that really gets the movie in trouble. I believe there is the potential for a great “dark Superman” movie. A movie that delves into how alienating it would be to have Superman’s God-like powers. A movie that explores the inherent fascism of the Superman ethos. Actually, now that I write that out, that movie was already made, only it was called Watchmen and Zach Snyder made a crappy adaptation of that too.
Instead of a Superman movie, Man of Steel is a disjointed mess. It spends way too long on the Krypton side of the story, stranding us in the middle of a “not acting” fest between Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon. It’s not that either was bad (Crowe acquits himself fine, but Jor El is a boring paragon of nobility. Shannon should have been a more interesting villain, given that he is normally a magnetic and unhinged screen presence, but is saddled with a shitty back story and very little in the way of personality). The stuff on Krypton falls flat NOT because of the actors, but rather because we know already that Krypton gets destroyed. Snyder lingers over unimpressive CGI shots of a dying world that fail to either make a thematic point about civilization’s demise OR prove dramatically compelling.
From there, we meet Clark Kent (played by Henry Cavill). We zip around the world and around his life, never fully connecting with Kent or his family. The problem is exacerbated by random time jumps that serve no narrative purpose. By the time Lois Lane enters the picture, she’s the closest thing the movie has to a protagonist as she’s the only person who ever takes any initiative or who seems to have a sliver of personality. A lot of that is due to Amy Adams, who does her best with the clunky dialogue and tonally off script, proving that all those Oscar nods aren’t a fluke.
The biggest problem with the movie is this lack of connection. The characters don’t act like people, alien or otherwise. Michael Shannon’s genius warrior baddy spouts lines that sound like they came from better villains, but it lacks any weight. He makes truly stupid decisions (like bringing Lois Lane onto his ship FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON, where she unhinges his entire plan). Jor El shows up again because… if you’re going to pay Russell Crowe to be in your movie, then you better get your money’s worth. And Clark Kent lets his father die just so he can use that pain to fuel the rest of his journey. Seriously. He lets his father die for a dog that he could have easily saved.
It doesn’t even look all that good: the big, way-too-long fight sequence resembles nothing so much as an interactive Xbox game. And don’t get me started on the unimaginative version of Krypton, or the absolutely horrible costuming of Kryptonian warriors.
When other movies- say the Bryan Singer X-Men or the Christopher Nolan Batman films– decided to strip away their characters’ signatures in order to get at their heart, they did so by re-imagining what it really meant to be Batman or Wolverine. Snyder’s film completely fails at this.
If you’re noticing a theme here, it’s this: the movie feels cobbled together from cool moments without adding anything to the picture, and the result is a soulless Frankenstein monster that only passingly resembles a Superman film.
Also, Zach Snyder owes JJ Abrams royalty payments for the sheer number of times he needlessly uses lens flares. SERIOUSLY:
…and that’s just the posters!
The Man of Steel drinking game would get you ALMOST drunk enough to forget that the movie just broke your heart.