That'll teach me to get really excited about a blockbuster.
Alright, how do I put this without pissing you guys off...
Superman Returns was better.
I can't think of a film I was more looking forward to than Man Of Steel this year. On paper: there's no way it could have gone wrong. You had a brilliant cast, kick-ass trailers, some great writers behind it, Christopher Nolan as producer, Zack Snyder: a director known for making great-looking movies...
But it all led to this: quite possibly the most charmless Superman movie to date.
The film opens on the most Avatar-like Krypton you'll ever see (with touches of Dune thrown in for camp value) as we follow Jor-El (Russell Crowe) who is busy worrying about the fact that the entire planet is about to explode, though he doesn't seem too bothered about leaving the dying world himself, or getting his wife to safety somehow. Jor-El also happens to be at the heart of a full-blown coup involving the treacherous General Zod (an appropriately villainous Michael Shannon). Oh, and he's also the first person to father a child born naturally in centuries because apparently Krypton's government relies almost entirely on The Matrix and Antz for inspiration when it comes to their overpopulation-control policies. So you've got about 10,000 things happening, Jor-El riding a dragon (don't ask), underwater baby pods, shit metallic flying phone droids... it's overwhelming but enjoy it because that's actually the high point of this movie. I actually quite like this part despite how silly it gets: it's grand, it's epic, it's fun.
Disappointingly, it's all downhill from there.
We cut to a mere 30 years later and Clark Kent is now Wolverine.
Well, a bearded, wandering, topless fisherman anyway. He attempts to save an oil rig from collapsing and suffers from a severe condition which causes him to conveniently flashback to events that occurred when he was a kid every 6 minutes or so. You get to see his relationship with Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), the man who raised him and taught him that great power comes with a great responsibility to not do anything useful with that power. Incidentally, this is coming from a guy who risked (and lost) his life for a DOG during a full-blown tornado, so I wouldn't take Pa Kent's advice too seriously, frankly. There are some good scenes where Clark's relationship with his Earth dad actually makes sense but in the end you won't feel like any of it mattered. Weirdly, this was all much more moving in the trailers! Mimicking the whole Uncle Ben/Peter Parker arc we've seen a thousand times before really wasn't a good idea and Kent's death just doesn't have the same impact it did in Superman: The Movie.
"The world's too big, mom."
God that line's terrible...
No kid talks like that, not even on Krypton.
General Zod, who was exiled to a phallic ice prison inside a fully functional spaceship through a black hole (aka The Phantom Zone) directly connected to (and controlled by) Krypton, a planet which explodes thereby freeing the super-dangerous villain and his crew, decides to find Kal-El and use him somehow to go all Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon and recreate Krypton on Earth itself. There's also something about all the souls of Krypton's people being INSIDE Superman but I had spaced out by that point so I'll just leave you to figure all that out on your own. It's honestly really hard to care about yet another doomsday machine plot after the likes of Avengers Assemble, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises and probably many others already covered that ground pretty gosh darn well. Which is why the film itself kinda gives up on making that whole thing feel substantial and instead decides to have characters just fly into each other repeatedly until the movie basically crashes but I'll get to that...
We're introduced to Lois Lane (a soporific Amy Adams) who is investigating something random somewhere really cold where, it turns out, good old Kal-El is bumming around inside a spaceship, speaking to his exposition-spouting father's ghost. I should mention that Man Of Steel is essentially exposition: the movie. Every single plot point is repeated to us at least twice, whether it makes sense or not. If you failed to catch the first 10 minutes of the film, don't worry: Ghost Jor-El has a Powerpoint presentation all planned out for you later on. The relationship between Lois and Clark is completely changed in this movie: she knows who Superman is straight-away, hence the irony of Lois' character is lost. I like Lois as a feisty reporter always looking for scoops, always trying to dig deeper into whatever stories she's investigating but who can't see the most obvious thing that's right in front of her. Take that away from the character and what are you left with? Some woman who falls out of buildings/helicopters/planes. Great. Lois' relationship with Clark is the least interesting thing in this movie: there's no chemistry, no connection between the one-dimensional characters, so when they kiss at the end of the movie after sharing all of two conversations it feels about as convincing as Catwoman and Batman's impromptu make-out session at the end of The Dark Knight Rises.
All in all, nothing happens for the first hour. Oh, except Clark puts on the admittedly cool-looking suit and learns to fly and use his powers. Which would make sense if he wasn't 33 years old! And don't tell me he didn't try to use his powers all this time because Jonathan Kent told him not to: he didn't seem too discreet during the whole oil rig debacle!
By the first half-hour, in Superman Returns, a dog had already eaten another dog.
Then, the film becomes one big battle between Superman and Zod (after one big battle between Superman and Zod's henchmen). Of course, that comes after they spend aaaaaaages hanging around Zod's ship, spouting out even more exposition. THEN, the battle begins and that's where audiences will be truly divided. Personally, I felt those fights were about as soulless and repetitive as they get. CGI characters are hammering into each other senselessly over and over, Metropolis is completely and utterly destroyed, reduced to ashes as probably thousands of people perish off-camera. In this movie, Superman cares about Metropolis like he cares about his first diarrhoea. He fights Zod by piercing through buildings over and over, he stands around talking in Kansas when he should be saving countless lives in the one place that needs him. All he had to do was go under the doomsday device and fly into it for f***'s sake! In Superman Returns, same deal: go under and push. Surely they could have come up with a smarter way of having Superman save the day.
By the way, am I wrong or would the real Superman have prioritised human lives and led Zod somewhere uninhabited to fight?
Something about this whole movie and its take on the character of Superman just doesn't feel right. As good as Cavill looks in the role, he's a non-event. He's given nothing substantial to feel in this film. All he does is chat, make faces and scream: that's it. By the end of the film, you have no idea who this guy is or why you should care about him. Another problem we already had in Returns. Looks like you can't beat the instantly likable Christopher Reeve, the only guy who ever truly nailed that character and made you understand the hero. As a viewer, you always felt like Reeve's Superman was taking you along on these adventures with him. Cavill's Superman's nothing more than a buffed-up puppet.
The movie itself boasts a great cast, for sure, but they are given such an empty script to work with that their characters just come off as either unlikable or blank. Visually, Zack Snyder's film is uneven: it has its decent CGI here and there but it also has its share of cartoon-like effects. It has the odd cool shot (poster/trailer fodder) but most of its action sequences are near incomprehensible. The shaky-cam, gritty style proving not suited to this franchise at all. And the shit 3D doesn't help: make sure you see this in 2D if you do decide to see it. Say what you will about Bryan Singer but he made his movie look good and feel spacious without giving you a headache. A darker-toned Superman movie could have worked if it had made a conscious decision to be fun and involving. Which this just isn't. It's like if you made a Spider-Man film where everyone looks miserable, who would want to see that?! The whole brooding act here feels forced and frankly drains the movie of whatever charm it might have had.
To wrap things up: Man Of Steel is not good.
It's not the worst comic-book movie or anything, it's just heart-breakingly bland and the way it changes what we know and love about Superman's story is confused in that it feels like you're watching a big, generic action sci-fi film that just happens to have a dude dressed-up like Superman in it. You've got decent performances: Shannon is entertaining (as ever), Crowe, Costner and Fishburne are solid, but most of the cast is either boring or bored. Even Hans Zimmer's score is lifeless and forgettable!
Hans. Friggin'. Zimmer!!!
If you don't care about Superman one way or the other and just want to see a loud, action-heavy, exposition-heavy comic-book movie then you might enjoy Man Of Steel more than I did, otherwise prepare to be disappointed in a big way. As a whole, I felt like there was nothing to hold onto in terms of character or differentiate the film from any other superhero movie. At least The Green Lantern was somewhat unique and that movie gets panned all the freakin' time. One good thing: this sure wasn't like any of the Superman movies that came before it. I'll give it that.
To sum up, though: what I love about Superman wasn't in this movie.
Yet another missed opportunity :(