IN TWEET: IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE! IT’S A MESS! “MAN OF STEEL” NOW RANKS AS THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR.
I sat on this review for a few days just to make sure I felt as let down by MAN OF STEEL as I did when I left the theater. Yep, it’s as much of a loud, depressing and confoundingly messy train wreck today as it was when I saw it this past weekend. What the hell happened here?
Let’s dispense with the good stuff. This will be quick because there is so little of it.
Henry Cavill is not only beyond hot, he was born to play Superman. He looks the part and has the requisite masculine physicality. Cavill is also incredibly warm and appealing, despite every effort by the filmmakers to suck the fun out of any scene he is in. If there is goodwill to be had here, Cavill is the reason for most of it.
The supporting cast is filled with great actors who try their damndest to do something with the scraps they are given. God bless Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Schiff and Christopher Meloni. They each give it the old college try but are working against daunting odds here. There is also a tiny nugget of geek joy early on in a mini-reunion of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA vets. Both Tahmoh Penikett (who played Helo on BSG) and Alessandro Juliani (who played Lt. Gaeta) have brief cameos.
Beyond this, MAN OF STEEL is a series of bummers. The tagline for the 1978 big-screen outing was: “You will believe a man can fly.” Here it should be: “You will feel every second of the 143 minute running time.”
MAN OF STEEL is set up for failure thanks to a bizarre narrative structure that shoots forward momentum in the foot at every turn. It’s a clunky mishmash of flashbacks, random interactions and generally lazy storytelling that keeps things terminally grounded even when Superman takes flight. Throw in a gratingly wordy script and a few dubious casting choices and you have a watch-watcher of a summer movie.
Russell Crowe is now two for two in the “grossly miscast” department. He can’t sing a note but somehow got a part in LES MISERABLES. Here, no singing is required but he just won’t shut up. Crowe plays Jor-El with a single facial expression and emotes incessantly. It’s as if he’s auditioning to be the male counterpart to Siri. To make matters worse, Crowe keeps showing up throughout the movie like some uninvited guest you can’t get rid of. He brings the already labored proceedings to a screeching halt every time. When General Zod (Michael Shannon) finally hits Jor-El’s off button (literally), I wanted to cheer.
That’s not to say Shannon fares much better as the head baddie. He’s also way too chatty; a villain full of gas-bag bluster about re-creating Krypton, a genetic codex and other mumbo-jumbo that I never cared a whit about. Shannon is also upstaged by Antje Traue, who has quite a bit of fun playing bad-ass evil henchwoman Faora-Ul. She’s a blast to watch. He just looks like an actor with a few missing chromosomes who is earning a paycheck.
To be fair, it’s hard to hold any one actor in the cast accountable for all that is wrong with MAN OF STEEL when the film is built on such a shaky and shady foundation. Make no mistake, this isn’t an “origin tale” or a re-imagining of the Superman mythos. Instead, it’s a horribly misguided attempt to cash in on the superhero craze by grafting a well-known comic property onto a mutant hybrid of AVATAR, cutscenes from MASS EFFECT 3 and a Michael Bay production. The film has zero confidence in the source material and even less interest in trying anything new or imaginative with it. It’s a “been there, done that” buffet of stuff you didn’t enjoy the first time around.
MAN OF STEEL strings together a series of loud, obnoxious and incomprehensible special effects sequences. Each one a depressing digital shit-storm more boring than the one before it. Things go boom, mayhem ensues and you look at your watch wondering when the whole thing will be over. The inane opening set-piece on Krypton looks like something JOHN CARTER threw up. The closing bombast in Metropolis is almost a complete lift from the leveling of Chicago in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON. Note to Zack Snyder: taking your cues from sci-fi films everyone hates isn’t a smart career move.
The near fetishistic attention paid to mass destruction means that whole “Superman thing” gets shoved by the wayside. How else to explain the careless, bare-bones approach to Clark Kent’s youth, his romance with Lois Lane (Adams) or anything else we know and love from the comic books? It’s all here, sort of, in the most “just because” fashion (don’t even get me started on the asinine ending). Too much of the movie feels like it wants to be anything but a Superman adventure. Too bad the thing it wants to be is such a massive pile of steaming crap.
The trailers show very little of what MAN OF STEEL is really all about and I suspect that is by design. This is not a film with an ounce of magic, majesty or awe. It’s a sucker punch that feels like a hollow shadow of something you loved as a kid. In the end, it amounts to little more than a total rip-off and slap in the face.
RONTHINK RATING: D+