Okay, first of all, nobody goes any further without looking over this.
It’s time for someone else to have a go at reinvigorating the big boy scout AKA Superman for the big screen. This time it’s Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, working from a script by David Goyer (from a story by Goyer and Christopher Nolan, who also has his name attached as producer).
Henry Cavill is the actor this time playing Clark Kent/Superman, Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner play the two father figures (with Crowe being the Kryptonian and Costner being the Earthling), Amy Adams is Lois Lane and Michael Shannon is the notorious General Zod. All of the cast do great work with what they’re given.
Let me start with what Man Of Steel gets right. It’s an origin film that doesn’t feel bogged down by what it has to convey to newcomers. In fact, after an unsteady start on Krypton, the movie gets the first half hour or so just right. Putting Superman front and centre straight away, while interspersing his current situation with some past incidents that lef him to where he is. It’s promising stuff, and there’s a fantastic, brief sequence on an oil rig that shows that our hero, while obviously conflicted, is a man who cannot leave people to die whenever he has the chance to help.
Then things start to slide into place for the main plot details. General Zod is seeking Superman and Earth is in danger. Lois Lane, sorely under-written but well portrayed by Adams, is also seeking Superman. Superman doesn’t really want to be found. His human father figure always warned him that he would have to wait until the time was right, otherwise the human race just wouldn’t be ready to accept him.
Then a big set-piece is shown. And another. And another. And another. Which stops the spectacle being spectacular and, instead, makes the whole thing rather tedious. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I was SO bored by a big blockbuster in the cinema. Sorry to say it.
Superman Returns, as flawed as it is, remains a better movie than this. Why? Because at least Bryan Singer knew that Superman should still have a sense of occasion, should still serve up spectacle that feels like spectacle. People complained about the film not having enough action, but that’s because when the action DID occur it was more satisfying. Action sequence after action sequence after action sequence can go one of two ways. You either get something as great as The Raid, or you can get something that becomes dull and tiresome. Like this.
If you watch the film, or have just watched the film, then do reply immediately if you disagree with the following brief overview of the style:
Shake, shudder, shake.
Zoom in – zoom further in – zoom out AKA the 300 shot.
Have Superman yell out: “yeeeeaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh.”
Okay, the last part only happened on about three occasions in the last hour, but even those who try to claim this film as the new, definitive Superman movie that audiences have long deserved won’t be able to argue much with me. Because I am not having to exaggerate.
Is the film full of great visuals and are there action moments that really deliver some impressive stuff? Yes indeedy. It’s just a shame that it’s all overshadowed by the never-ending attempt to keep throwing more and more bigger and BIGGER moments at viewers. More of a shame because the cast are all so good and able to take over iconic roles and make them their own. Cavill is perfectly noble and muscular in the lead role, Shannon adds another great villain to his roster of great villains (playing Zod very differently from the previous incarnations while keeping the character as badass as he should be), and then there’s Adams. Poor Amy Adams. When I saw that she’d been cast as Lois Lane I was very pleased. I thought that she had the potential to be great in the role. She’s good, but the character has been softened and removed of all “fire”. Crowe and Costner are both excellent, Diane Lane is also very good as Martha Kent, Christopher Meloni and Harry Lennix are military bods, Laurence Fishburne is okay as the new Perry White and Michael Kelly plays nobody that notable, but I like Michael Kelly, so that was a plus. Oh, I don’t want to miss out Antje Traue, who made quite an impression as Faora-Ul.
I’ve only got myself to blame. All the signs were there. People said that they were worried by Zack Snyder being at the helm, and many of the stylistic problems are down to him. Goyer can be a good writer, but he can also be a clumsy one, and this sees him providing material that’s a little from either end. Then we have the presence of Nolan, that seems to have assured that any shred of humour is removed from the whole thing.
I have no doubt that over the next few days and weeks you will see extreme reactions to the movie, people will be pre-determined to love or hate it. The reality, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle. Is it a terrible film? No. It’s just not the great film that it could have been if only everyone involved had been reminded that sometimes . . . . . . . less is more.
DIRECTOR: ZACK SNYDER
WRITER: DAVID GOYER
STARS: HENRY CAVILL, MICHAEL SHANNON, AMY ADAMS, ANTJE TRAUE, RUSSELL CROWE, KEVIN COSTNER, DIANE LANE, LAURENCE FISHBURNE, HARRY LENNIX, CHRISTOPHER MELONI, MICHAEL KELLY
RUNTIME: 143 MINS APPROX
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