Monday, December 2, 2013

Movie with Abe: Man of Steel

Man of Steel
Directed by Zack Snyder
Released June 14, 2013 / DVD November 12, 2013

A busy summer season prevented this reviewer from seeing this film during its theatrical release, and an international flight with no other appealing film choices was the ultimate catalyst for this screening. The trend these days is to reimagine well-known superhero stories through a darker lens with the same general plot but a few important modifications that make this one unique. That’s exactly what’s happening in “Man of Steel,” the Superman reboot from distinguished director Zack Snyder, which takes a fresh look at the hero but doesn’t offer anything compelling in the way of originality or storytelling style.

Snyder has a short resume with some very noteworthy projects on it. His three biggest films, “300,” “Watchmen,” and “Sucker Punch,” have all been very visually stark, gritty, and stylized, with special emphasis put on character movements and extensive action. That theoretically makes him the perfect candidate to direct this franchise entry, the follow-up to the lackluster 2006 Bryan Singer-directed effort starring Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey, “Superman Returns.” While there are some visually strong scenes in the film, it just doesn’t feel all that complete or coherent.

This is both an origin story and an isolated chapter of Superman’s life, beginning with Kal-El’s birth and his parents’ final act of sending him to a better world and then finding him on Earth later in his life with a few formative moments sprinkled in. In this version, however, Clark Kent is not Superman, and his acts of heroism have mainly gone unnoticed and certainly unconnected. His attempts to find out about his heritage and the subsequent arrival of General Zod (Michael Shannon), along with the intrepid journalistic spirit of one Lois Lane, act as triggers to unmask his true nature and help the world to learn about just who he is.

This film tries to put a lot into two and a half hours, and the result is that it feels like events are seen from far away and with little to no depth. Positing Superman as an unknown in the eyes of the public and therefore a potential public menace like the Dark Knight is intriguing, but it’s not terribly effective in this particular film. As has been the case recently, the title character is played by a relatively unknown actor, Brit Henry Cavill, while the supporting cast is littered with Hollywood names like Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Laurence Fishburne, and familiar TV faces like Shannon, Christopher Meloni, Harry Lennix, and Richard Schiff. There’s so much involved, but it just doesn’t add up to anything compelling. This take on the Man of Steel falls flat, unsure of what it wants to bring to the table and not delivering anything too worthwhile in the process.


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