For today’s Genre Grandeur entry, I bring you another review by Niall of RagingFluff, this time his review is of last years Man of Steel (2013) which re-imagined the way we all will look at Superman and his origin story (for good and for bad). If you don’t already follow Niall, I suggest you do so especially with his new Royale with cheese-a-thon currently underway.
If you also are interested in submitting a review for this months Genre Grandeur – Comic book/Superhero, it’s real simple, just send me your review to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post it. be sure to send it to me before 25 June.
Here’s Niall’s review of….
Man of Steel (a.k.a Super Christ)
Summary: After Planet Krypton is doomed because some idiots decided it would be a good idea to mine the planet’s core (please take note, BP), Jor-El sends his newborn son Moses Kal-El to Earth in a bullrush basket escape pod. By the way, an entire planet implodes and there’s only one escape pod? Even the people who built the Titanic weren’t that stingy. Kal-El grows up as troubled misfit Jesus Christ/Clark Kent in Kansas with Ma and Pa Kent and Dorothy and Toto … no, shit, wrong movie, but there is a tornado which kills Pa Kent (even though Clark could have easily saved him: what the hell? … but don’t worry, the dog is okay. Fucking hell, why can’t a fucking dog die in a movie for once?) Jesus Clark disappears after he turns water into wine saves some people from a fire on an oil rig, and spends several years mooning around the Pacific Northwest, no doubt listening to depressing Pearl Jam songs, before he winds up in the Arctic and discovers that he is in fact the Son of God Superman. And that’s only the first hour.
Number of times watched: Twice (just to confirm it really is awful)
Directed (if that`s the word) by Zak Snyder
Starring: Fat Maximus, Too Old To Dance With Wolves, Discount Nicole Kidman, Your Man from The Tudors, Morpheus
Okay, let`s make something clear from the start. I like the Superman myth, but I have never read the comic. Outside of the Christopher Reeve films, the only contact I had with the caped crusader was a poster I got as a child from the Irish Health Department, which used the superhero in an anti-smoking campaign: he fought the evil Nick O`Teen. So I am not steeped in Superman lore. Perhaps the first thirty minutes of Man of Steel is faithful to the comic: all I know is that I had to rewind the DVD to confirm that I did just see Russell Crowe on a flying dragon.
Man of Steel is not your father`s Superman. It isn`t even your grandfather`s Superman. Apparently moviegoers today are just too cynical to accept a flying man in tights who likes to help the police catch crooks, rescue kittens, and pretend to be a cowardly nerd. Now Superman has to be dour and whiny and troubled. Man of Steel is not terrible: it just isn`t any good.
It`s way, way too long. The script is woefully contrived, particularly in bringing together Clark and Lois Lane. The last thirty minutes is little more than a slam-bam CGI fistfight set to a very typically thumpingly loud score by Hans Zimmer. It has no sense of humour. The film is quite good at depicting Clark`s Kansas childhood, and very good at depicting the pastoral setting and nostalgic, pastoral mood; Metropolis, by contrast, is ill-defined. It`s just another movie city with no real identity. At no point does the film ever come close to showing any affection for the place, and it has none of the breezy fun that Richard Donner`s version had.
I have to think that this is mostly due to the film`s producer, Christopher Nolan. Having bleakly reimagined Batman, he must have loved the chance to drain the colour and life out of DC Comics other marquee name.
There are some bright spots, though, mainly whenever Michael Shannon is on screen. He plays the traitor General Zod, and his performance almost saves the film. His version of Zod is more muscular and aggressive than Terence Stamp`s, and it helps that Shannon has an imposing physical presence. I think that Shannon is one of the most interesting screen actors of his generation, and although I suspect he knows he`s in a pile of crap, he gives it his all. At one point he says `I will harvest the Codex from your son’s corpse and I will rebuild Krypton atop his bones` and manages to keep a straight face.
Russell Crowe, however, fares worse. If his role had been a brief cameo he would have been okay. The script, though, brings him back again and again for the purposes of exposition, and so we have to suffer his plummy tone and pompous presence far longer than any audience deserves.
And as for Amy Adams as Lois Lane, well, how many Pulitzer Prize winners need to remind people that they are indeed Pulitzer Prize winners? I thought she was outstanding in American Hustle but here she falls back on her standard pushy-perky thing. Lois isn’t given much help from her boss at the Daily Planet, Perry White (the always dependable Laurence Fishburne). When things go bad and the FBI come looking for her, he tells her “this is no time to fall back on journalistic integrity.” And people wonder why newspapers are in trouble.
Henry Cavill does what he can with the title role, but he’s given no place to go with it. He’s either depressed or enervated; seldom angry, except at one point when when Zod tries to hurt Ma Kent. And at several points the film veers into unsubtle religiosity (Jor-El has been on Earth for 33 years; he floats in space and holds out his arms to form a crucifix). At least he looks the part. He has the eyes, the jaw and the physique.
Verdict: Send it to the Phantom Zone
Thanks again to Niall for this great review.