The latest Superman film to come along, Man of Steel, starts with a bang. A few of them actually – it’s rather impressive. Set on Krypton, the planet is crumbling and people are scrambling around grasping for salvation. There are plasma guns and flying monsters and it’s all very sci-fi and rather great. Then it cuts to the real world, and I found my attention wavering. We just had this great planet, now we’re back to Earth? Isn’t this Star Trek? Where have all the monsters gone? I found the credibility of this dumb planet fade further as we see Clark Kent (the handsome, chiselled, broody Henry Cavill) immerse himself in an exploding inferno, and the stupid flames couldn’t even burn his pants off. But really, if that was how distracted from the actual story I was then, I couldn’t see this latest from Zack Snyder taking me off on too hard a ride.
Clark is found by a sweet Kansas couple (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, but it’s cool because his real dad Russell Crowe can appear after death as a conscience spirit, or something, and give him advice and closure) and raised with strong morals and convictions. His powers start developing and he spends his childhood struggling with them and in the end runs away to hide, or find himself, or whatever. The government gets involved and perpetually pissed bad guy Zod (Michael Shannon) turns up and starts a hostage situation deal and things get destructive and smashy.
This story takes its damn time to tell. There isn’t a lot here, it’s pretty standard. Immigrant kid feels distance from domineering white people, goes on a soul search to find himself, meets pretty but interfering lady on the way, finds his people, they think he’s a threat and want to destroy him. Gets lady.
There was a very familiar feel to the whole thing, and that it took its time to tell this familiar tale really impeded the impact it could have had were it a bit more daring or original. Maybe if it were tighter it would have been a better movie, or if it had more to the story I could have allowed this epic-ness.
But it’s OK! Character development! Lois Lane (Amy Adams) was given a backbone, so it’s all cool. She gets to do the man things, she gets to drink the whiskey in one gulp, she gets to say the word “dick”, but unfortunately she is still forever at the behest of the men around her; from her Editor, to some geeky internet douche, to the army people, to the FBI, to Superman himself. She couldn’t even finish the major world-saving thing she started toward the end because she was too busy falling out of planes and spaceships. Lois Lane is a good character, but there is no need to force her feminism, let it speak for itself. In contrast, the female elite bad chick(Antje Traue) kicks ass from start to finish and makes no apologies for whose ass she wipes with whom. Sure, she takes orders from Zod, but she loves it so there’s a difference.
There is this thing nowadays where destruction seems to be key. “Lets completely destroy a city, we can do that with our computers and things! No, you idiot, not just one impressive building crash, ALL OF THEM HAHAHA”. I was so bored by the destruction of the city, I didn’t even care. With every skyscraper that fell, my interest waned a little more. I just think its wasted opportunity for something more inventive. Sure, they end up throwing satellites and trains at each other at one point, and that’s awesome, but it shouldn’t have taken so damned long to happen. Also, there is something to be said for appropriate timing regarding a kiss – that’s all I have to say on that.
I have never been a Superman kind of guy. Being a geeky gay kid, Spiderman and the X-Men were my go-to heroes, while Superman always seemed so…American. This isn’t a bad thing, but the whole immigrant status and acceptance thing is so vehemently American, it is pretty distancing. Not as intense as Captain America, but only a few shades whiter. Also, the whole no one recognising him as Clark thing was preposterous and infuriating (on that note, here is an interesting neurological study of why this is.)
I wanted to like this film more than I did. I wanted to care for Clark and his plight and his ostracism and his desperate need to belong in a world that doesn’t want him, but I found myself fidgeting, waiting for an end that took forever to arrive. I found myself annoyed at one point when he is learning to fly and for no reason disturbs some helpless sheep. The poor things scatter in distress and will probably never recover from the incident. I found myself annoyed at his cape and wondering how he never awkwardly gets tangled in it, especially when on the ground and has to stand up. I bet he did and they just edited it out. And I constantly found myself distracted by Henry Cavill, who is a fine actor by all means, but also a very handsome man, and it seemed like his main job was to mope around and be broody, which kind of does it for me. Also, I found myself constantly reminding myself how annoying it was when the damned fire couldn’t even burn his pants off.