Even without the booming success of the super hero genre, it was inevitable that Superman would enter the serious, dark arena of “gritty” reboots. Especially with the underwhelming reception of Bryan Singer’s sappy attempt to continue the series paired against Christopher Nolan’s Batman success; Man of Steel’s arrival has been in the books for some time now. Rearranging the classic Superman man tale, Man of Steel fails its action oriented final act with two thirds of sloppy story telling, atrocious dialogue, and contradictory melodramatics.
Though there are some changes made, the main story of the death of Krypton, Zod (Michael Shannon) trying to overthrown the high council, Jor-El sending his only son to earth; it’s pretty much intact. It’s easy to point at the first films based on famous comic characters, such as Superman and Batman and say, “They were great films for their time, but they are dated, a little silly, and very comical in ways.” Yes, looking back at Marlon Brando in the first Superman with his glow in the dark outfit and foam surroundings does play off as a little corny at this point, but it holds much more depth and emotion than any second of Man of Steel‘s opening. Looking like cut footage from George Lucas’s additions to the original Star Wars films when they were re-released, the Krypton section in Man of Steel is more about punch, punch, shoot, yell; than the true dire distress of a dying world. Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, and everyone in the room couldn’t seem more passionless about issues that literally drive their characters’ soul.
Moving to Earth, the film’s timeline unhinges into a non-linear sequence of the troubled Clark Kent as his torn mental state is explored, jumping between the ages of 5-33; starting with the older Clark. While I highly appreciated Zack Snyder’s ability to ditch his signature style of ramping slow motion shots (something his contemporary, J.J. Abrams can’t seem to shake with his constant lens flare boner), the first 45 minutes of the movie see him desperately trying to emulate the style of the film’s producer and Batman mastermind, Christopher Nolan. While the pieces fit without much confusion, the pacing and exploitation of it all is frustrating. Most worrisome of all is the fact it took the film makers about 25 minutes to clearly paint Kal-El (Superman’s real name if you didn’t know) as Jesus. Superman was created by two Jews as a symbol of pro-immigration that then quickly turned into the power to fight Hitler. The religious overtones of Man of Steel leave a nasty aftertaste throughout the film, leaving the mind poisoned by the time it turns into a hyper fast beat-em-up.
There’s a general mist of plot follies throughout all points of the story that do just as much damage as thinly veiled Jesus aspects. When Clark finally finds the answers of what happened to his world, the computer generated visage of his father explains that all the inhabitants of Krypton were born and engineered to hold certain positions in their society. Kal-El was the first naturally born child of Krypton in ages, and Jor-El wanted his son to be free to choose what he wanted to do with his life. Yet, when it comes time for Kal-El to make any pertinent decision, the memory of his father that lives as a fancy hologram tells the boy, “You make the choice, ” all while blatantly pointing and coaxing him instead, to one specific road. The child he birthed to choose for himself is in the end, beholden to just listen to what his dead father tells him to do.
The entire first half of the film is about Kal-El’s struggle to decide which of his fathers’ is right. His Earthly father compels Clark to hide his powers. He believes people are not ready to accept who Clark really is, and they will only fear him, so Clark should suppress the urge to even help those in distress. He tells him this flat out immediately after telling the 13 year old kid who literally just learned he was an alien, that he’s the answer to to the question, are we alone in the universe?(Sup Jesus) Jor-El however, believes his son should put himself out there and be a savior to the people of Earth. The inner battle actually plays out well as it’s told, and while the argument that the tiny piece of the film’s actual immigrant message is intact, it’s insanely hard to believe that Kal-El truly would decide to help the people of Earth. Everyone he has ever come in contact with, with the exception of his parents and Lois Lane, treat him poorly. When I say poorly I mean, Clark Kent through his life has been the door mat that Earth has wiped its feet on after stepping in dog shit, for 33 years. Yet, it takes very little to urge him to be the moral compass he becomes. Now, I’m not saying he should let everyone die or take vengeance on anyone, but his total complacence to except the world on the calm and even level he does, is bothersome.
Honestly, I’m happy that the film took a different angle in delivering a tale everyone is so familiar with, but at the same time, a lot of the changes felt strange. Sure, the name Metropolis is mentioned once (literally once), but the city (while featured heavily in the finale’) feels like it doesn’t even exist. Metropolis itself is a character in the world of Superman, I like that it wasn’t built up here, but feel cheated in ways because it was shoved under a rug in so many ways. Every major location and character in the Superman canon is alluded to in some way (except Jimmy Olsen, fuck that kid); the large Smallville sign on a water tower, the Lexcorp emblem on a tanker truck, all work well in their confined spaces, but Metropolis feels like it was cheated somehow. Even the traditional Clark Kent as the bumbling loser is missing. Again, it’s great that they went for a change, but by the time his official alter ego steps on screen, 75,000 people know who he is by name. Besides the fact this Superman’s looks are the most poorly hidden by a pair of glasses, the name Clark Kent along with his face is a secret to no one, leaving it pointless to have the newspaper reporter side of his life, at all.
All the insane fighting and flashy action at the end of the film is not powerful enough to save the half sunken ship that starts the entire process. Whether it’s bland acting, clashing messages, or just strange dialogue delivery; nothing gels for over an hour. It seems everyone also referred to him as just Kal throughout most of the film, making him sound like the neighbor down the street who borrowed the lawnmower and has not returned it; “Hey Cal, I really need that bag of sugar back, Nancy wants to make a shit load of cakes tonight.” Man of Steel is going to make a crap ton of money and it will please droves of people who are not as critical and picky as I am, but if you ask me, Man of Steel is strange, flimsy, and just plain awful.
Rating: 1 and a half out of 5 ‘Staches