Movie Review: Man of Steel

By Stephen Rebello

<p> The most iconic, upstanding and noble of all comic book heroes gets smothered in a cape of <i>Dark Knight</i>-style psychological complexity.<br></p>

Director: Zack Snyder

Rating: PG-13

Studio: Legendary Pictures / DC Entertainment

Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

The most iconic, upstanding and noble of all comic book heroes gets smothered in a cape of Dark Knight-style psychological complexity, angst and high seriousness in the glum Man of Steel.

As directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) from a story developed by producer Christopher Nolan and a script by David S. Goyer, this attempt to bring the Superman myth into our post-Nolan era works—at least for its first hour or so. Our hero, born on dying planet Krypton, wracked by civil war instigated by troublemaking General Zod (Michael Shannon) and about to erupt into oblivion, gets jettisoned to earth by his father, played by Russell Crowe acting comically super British and oddly remote. The superstrong, lonely, misunderstood boy matures into a haunted young guy who drifts from job to job (fisherman, bartender) and keeps himself apart and anonymous by necessity. His Midwestern adoptive parents (nicely played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) wisely warn their wonder child that he must keep his identity secret or risk being hunted and feared by those who don’t understand him. How else to explain his ability to lift a school bus full of his drowning classmates from a river after it’s toppled off a bridge?

Our steely hero is played by strapping, square-jawed, blue-eyed Henry Cavill, an actor who looks every inch the part but whose forehead worry lines get more of a workout than his charm or acting range. That becomes a problem with the introduction of Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a character elevated by the movie’s makers from plucky, pert reporter for the Daily Planet to a Pulitzer-winning journalist investigating a military operation involving an alien craft encased in a block of ice. Lois Lane’s job promotion aside, though, Adams’ role is left so slapdash and sketchy that, up against Cavill’s sullen, walled-in gravitas, she doesn’t get much chance to sparkle, let alone engage our emotions. We’re left wondering what in hell this pallid duo see in each other and, for a Supes flick—pardon us, a Superman film—that leaves a big, gaping maw. Into the vacuum, the screenwriter and director stuff a carnival of CGI sequences.

We get bombarded by endless, aggressively noisy fight scenes, fireball spaceships, insistent religious symbolism and scenes of terrified city workers racing from collapsing office buildings that shamelessly exploit our collective memories of September 11th. Long before the final fadeout, the big, ambitious, admirably intentioned movie gets crushed under the weight of its unearned grandiosity. The hooey and absurdity begin to seep out. Overlong, full of itself and joyless, Man of Steel has kryptonite programmed into its own DNA.


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