Man of Steel  (2013)    51/100

Rating :   51/100                                                                    143 Min         12A

This is a pretty major disappointment for what was hoped to be the reboot to the Superman franchise. Helmed by Zack Snyder, whose previous films are often much more notable for their special effects than their ability to engage the audience with the story or characters {‘Watchmen’ (09) and ‘Sucker Punch’ (11), for example}, his Superman suffers from this same central problem – it feels like we’re watching a series of storyboards put together without any thought whatsoever as to what goes between them, or even why some of them are there in the first place, other than as excuses for more explosions. This is a big surprise, given the screenplay is from David S. Goyer, based on a story from himself and Christopher Nolan, both hot off the success of their Dark Knight trilogy, though it is certainly fair to say plot holes abounded in the escapades of their Batman, but Nolan’s skill behind the camera made them much more palatable than Snyder is able to do here.

Even the director’s normal artistic and stylistic flair looks here to be very much aping the work of others – in particular J.J.Abrams’ success with the recent Star Trek films, including his trademark lens flares and the way the camera will hover above the action and then zoom in or out abruptly before a cut, particularly noticeable with ‘Man of Steel’s intro section where we see the birth of Superman, or Kal-El, on his home planet of Krypton. With ‘Star Trek – Into Darkness’ released just a few weeks ago, featuring the line ‘Looks like we have a superman onboard’ at one point, one wonders if this was an acknowledgment of the fact – perhaps the two directors are good friends? Although these same visuals are one of the film’s redeeming features, their unoriginality is a little disappointing from Snyder, indeed the story itself has shades of many recent blockbusters that have gone before it – the changes to the backstory of Clark Kent’s foster parents echoes Spiderman’s relationship with uncle Ben, the present threat of alien invasion mirrors the one that raked in millions at the box office for last year’s ‘Avengers Assemble’, and so on.

Storywise, the biggest let down is that precious little of it makes any sense at all. They try to explain Clark’s powers using physics, and the fact that our sun’s radiation and the gravity on Earth is different from those experienced on Krypton. Nonsense. He can FLY for goodness sake. At one point his foster father Jonathan, played by Kevin Costner {still reeling from ‘Waterworld’ almost twenty years ago now}, suggests he perhaps should have let a bunch of children die rather than risk revealing his identity. There just seems to be no real thought or intelligence in the script at all, to the point where come the end you’re thinking, ‘O, of course that character shows up here out of the blue miraculously in time for the kissy kissy drama shot’. Are Goyer and Nolan trying to sabotage a rival superhero outfit to their own?

The acting is generally fine, and leading man Henry Cavill does well and could easily reprise the role if they find a different team to work on it (I believe Snyder has been given the tentative go ahead for the next one – he may have to reboot his reboot), though to be fair he doesn’t really have to do a tremendous amount of acting. The fight sequences do start to make the film a bit more interesting, but it’s not long before they begin to drag, degenerating into the same super-powered stunt repeated again and again, ultimately leaving the movie bland, flat, silly, and completely devoid of any real character. Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon and Laurence Fishburne appear in support. {Look out for the name on some of the chemical trucks toward the end – also, perhaps the most promising aspect of the entire film is that this is planned as a prelude to a ‘Justice League’ team up of several of DC Comics’ super heroes (again, no doubt spurred on by the success of rivals Marvel, with their ‘Avenger’s Assemble’ box office smash). It will be very interesting indeed to see who makes it into the League (Batman is a DC character, in case you didn’t know, but usually only dabbled infrequently with the League)}

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