'Man of Steel' Review: You'll Believe a Man Can Fly, But Will You Care?

'Man of Steel' Review: You'll Believe a Man Can Fly, But Will You Care?

MAN OF STEEL

Genre: Superhero Action

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 143 mins.

Premise: Kal-El is sent to Earth by his parents right before his home planet Krypton explodes.  Raised as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), he aimlessly drifts from job to job, struggling with his super powers and purpose in life.  When Kryptonian baddie General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives on Earth and threatens to extinguish humanity, an epic battle erupts and Clark embraces his destiny as Superman.

Behind-the-ScenesChristopher Nolan, the mastermind behind The Dark Knight trilogy, co-wrote the story and is a producer.  David S. Goyer, the credited screenwriter, wrote for The Dark Knight trilogy, as well as Blade and Ghost Rider.  Director Zach Snyder previously tackled the comic book/graphic novel genre with his film adaptation of Watchmen.

The Good: Fans who have been waiting for a bad-ass Superman flick finally have one.  The action is on a spectacular, budget-crushing scale, and Snyder does a fantastic job of showing the full extent of Superman's powers using zooming, shaky cam techniques similar to those used on Battlestar Galactica.  It lent the flying scenes a realism they might not otherwise have had.  I like that Man of Steel embraces the property's inner sci-fi geek and lets that freak flag fly.  Aliens, spaceships, and creatures run amok in a way unlike any other Superman or comic book movie.  The extended opening sequence on Krypton is awesome, as is the climactic showdown between Zod and Supes featuring an adrenaline-fueled flying fist fight.  On that note, the action is so huge here, I'm not sure how they are going to top it going forward (challenge extended).  The cast is excellent across the board, with the right actor cast in the right role.  Hans Zimmer's score (used so effectively in the trailer) thumps and soars, and you don't even miss John Williams' iconic theme.  The cinematography, editing, production values - all great.  Warner Bros. clearly spent a boatload, and it shows.  The movie ends on the perfect note, and you exit the theater wanting a sequel.

The Bad: That sterling cast I just mentioned?  They are mostly wasted - nobody makes much of an impression because none of the characters have any personality.  Oh sure, there are character arcs, but I never knew who any of these people were.  The relationship between Lois (Amy Adams) and Clark falls completely flat.  Martha and Jonathan Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) definitely get the short shrift here, and are used mostly in flashbacks interspersed throughout.  I'm not so sure those flashbacks work either - would have been better to knock them out up front, or just let the movie develop organically, so we can identify and fully appreciate Clark's transformation to Superman.  Fans of Smallville and Richard Donnner's 1978 film will be disappointed on that front.  Other than Krypton, I never got a good sense of location; Smallville, Kent Farm, Daily Planet, Metropolis - all are generic and Snyder has no time for establishing shots.  As big and eye-popping as most of the action is, it's also very one-note and exhausting.  The last 45 minutes is all action all the time cranked up to 11, and the movie dulls your senses to the point where you cease to care.  Shades of Michael Bay's last two Transformers films definitely came to mind.  The movie is dour and serious to a fault - there is a considerable lack of fun here compared to other origin stories, even Batman Begins.

Should You See It?: Look, nothing I say is going to sway your opinion if you're excited about seeing it, but yes.  This may not reach the heights of any of the Dark Knight films, which Man of Steel is so clearly trying to ape, or even most of the movies in Marvel Phase 1, but it's a good enough reboot and set-up for what promises to be an even more amazing Part II.  Mission (mostly) accomplished.

Star Rating: *** out of 5 stars.

 

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