Man of Steel by director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) starts with an impressively strong sequence set on the desolate planet of Krypton that features the birth of Kal-El (Superman), political conflict, and the destruction of a planet and a people. It is dynamically shot and edited, and Russell Crowe is quite good as Jor-El, the father of Kal-El, who sacrifices everything to ensure that his son is safe, and perhaps can one day flourish. Unfortunately, this may be the high point of the film, and the first half is stronger than the rest, detailing Clark Kent's past and his own discovery of where he came from. It also features Earth's introduction to villain General Zod in a fantastic sequence that shows people all over the world glued to their television sets as only darkness and ominous extraterrestrial messages surround them. It is in these quieter moments that we see the best of Snyder's directorial style and distinctive visuals, where tension is allowed to build organically.
Unfortunately these moments are few and far between, and Snyder can't seem to help but make this movie a longwinded string of CGI-laden action sequences. When a whole movie tries to sustain an exhaustingly high level of drama, the sequences that are supposed to be the most impactful don’t work. There’s no way to increase tension when it’s so high to begin with, and the whole affair just gets tedious.
To be fair, the visuals are very good, and the style distinctive. The acting by all of the supporting characters was also solid, and I like the idea of trying to “Nolanize” Superman in theory. However, Man of Steel simply turns insipid. There can only be so many “cool” fight sequences in a row before it becomes a one-note bore.
**½ out of ****
I understand that people like Zack Snyder. I get that. I have heard many a person (nearly always male) extol the merits of 300. Yet, to be honest, I have never understood it. Sure, his films have a dynamic visual punch, but they lack any subtlety, making the stories they carry plastic and uninteresting. I found 300 to be akin to a high-concept WWE production and while I loved Watchmen as a graphic novel, the film simply cheapened the material. (I have not seen Sucker Punch, but really, who has?) Man of Steel is no different from Snyder’s other projects, steadily filled to the brim with the testosterone-laced operatics that have come to define Snyder and now feel tired and uninspired.
|Those pecs have gotta be CGI.|
** out of ****
Henry Cavill certainly is a good-looking guy (extremely handsome, really), but you’re right that his performance was stale. I wouldn’t necessarily call it bad – it just seemed like he wasn’t given much to do outside of appear heroic and handsome, and voila, that’s all he did.
|In another film altogether, really.|
|Jor-El would make a pretty intense history lecturer.|
To change gears, I noticed that the film is rife with Christ-figure metaphors. Kent is 33 when he puts on the cape (the age Christ was when he was crucified), Kent’s mother wears a cross necklace, both Kent’s mother and father seem to believe in a higher power, Superman has been sent here to save the world, etc. etc. What did you think of all this?
|Mary and Joseph, naturally.|
This is a problem I see with many Christ figures in films, and it is disappointing to see so many churches jump at opportunities to say, “Hey look! Jesus is like that!” The reality is that Jesus is like no one but Jesus. If anything, I think an effective sermon would be on how Jesus is far better than Superman. Who knows, maybe this is what the studio pamphlets say, so I could be off base. What did you think about the Christ parallels in the film?
Theology notwithstanding (even if he wanted to, I don’t think Snyder could accurately capture the nature of the Trinity on film), I am with you in your disappointment. I mean, I think it’s interesting to talk about Christ metaphors in films, but we don’t need to jump on the bandwagon of support only when there are obvious references to the Christian story. Mostly, it seems cheap. This did, however, at least give me something to think about when I had mentally checked out from the action onscreen.
|Seemingly, Superman doesn't not mind destroying entire cities and their inhabitants.|
Two-as-One Rating: **¼ out of ****