Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man Of Steel opened last week and has thus far received a very mixed response. Some critics are hailing it as one of the summer’s best movies; an action packed thrill ride which leaves you wanting more. Whilst others are saying it’s shallow, generic and even boring!
Liam Hoofe gave the movie a 4 star review last week arguing that this it was popcorn cinema at it’s very best whilst his co-presenter Bram Welch has not been so kind and here’s why…
Amy Adams seems to playing a different character here. Lois Lane is an optimistic, plucky, feisty journalist with the potential for strong feminist themes. In Man Of Steel we see a weary young lady who has been brought down by the weight of the world. This caused problems with the development of their relationship. The point is that Clark Kent has been admiring this woman for a while but she’s in love with Superman, not Kent.
The idea to have Clark not working at The Daily Planet was also problematic for their relationship. It means the film constantly has to force Lois into situations she simply would not be in.
It does not allow for the subtle interplay of Kent/Lane and Superman/Lane’s relationship. Ultimately it means that when the inevitable embrace comes it is completely unbelievable.
Plot holes have almost become a natural feature of superhero movies. Whether it’s Bruce Wayne managing to get to the other side of the world and into a heavily guarded Gotham, all this after breaking his back in The Dark Knight Rises or Where is Spidey getting these new suits from? Even in one of my favourite films; Casablanca, “why does it matter about the letters of transit when the Nazis can kill anyone who helps Victor Laszlo?” I barely notice this because I am engaged by the witty and poignant characters and the overall theme of the movie. Whereas in Man Of Steel I found myself thinking “hold on, if he’s a superhero on Earth because of the weaker gravity then how come when he’s in a Krypton atmosphere (such as on the ship) he’s not just normal?” And “Where the hell did that tornado appear from?” I think this happened because the film is not providing something to hold on to, above the plot.
Comic books are humourous, it’s what settles you before the storm, it’s what makes you endear to the characters.
The Dark Knight trilogy is one of the more serious comic book movies and it maintains this tone throughout. It is, however, filled with humourous moments which partly contribute to the positive reaction it has garnered. Lucius Fox’s response when Reese believes he’s worked out who Batman is; “Let me get this straight. You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands; and your plan, is to *blackmail* this person?” Is a particular stand out.
I do also find myself endeared to Bruce Wayne, despite him being disgustingly rich, which owes itself in part to his pithy and, let’s not deny it, badass one liners. Such as “Oh, they should. I own the place.”
Man Of Steel has obviously elected to take the serious approach but has not been sprinkled with some of this essential humour. The few attempts at humour were crass and ultimately misjudged.
The action is entertaining at times, but completely repetitive. I lost count of the amount of times Superman did a last minute flying takedown. The numerous skyscrapers that collapse due to the gargantuan fights were reminiscent of Michael Bay’s Transformers. And how many times can something blow up? Apparently everything can explode twice thanks to Zak Snyder.
The action also ties in with the poor representation of the man behind the power. Am I supposed to believe that, Superman, this protecter of man is more concerned with winning a fight, against a man he’s only just heard of, rather than protecting the people of Metropolis that he’s grown up around for many years? You’d think he’d think twice before smashing his enemy through a huge building full of innocent people. If I remember rightly there’s a moment in Superman II (1980) where Superman see’s Zod wield a school bus as a weapon. Superman’s reaction to this is not to protect himself but to save the children. Showing this moment of humanity gave Zod a momentary upper hand.
Man Of Steel is a reinvention so should be allowed to stand in it’s own right and for me it’s too concerned with the Steel and not enough Man.
Poor Character Development
This movie does not have the down to Earth quality that is key for a good comic book movie. None of us are super bullet proof aliens, but we all deal with inner turmoil and comic book movies should reflect this. Certainly the types of films that Man Of Steel thinks it is. The opportunities to do this with Superman are in his relationships, most notably between his parents and Lois Lane.
The main thematic element of Man Of Steel is his two fathers. Both aware of his abilities, but one, Jonathan Kent, is telling him to hide his powers because humans fear the unknown. Another, his biological dad Kal-El, knew he would be a god to the human race and encourages this. Unfortunately that is all there is to say here. There is great potential with this theme, but the points of connection mostly fizzle out.
Kevin Costner’s character strives so hard to convince Superman to hide his powers, to hide himself from humanity, because of fear of how they will react, that when it comes down to it I’m surprised that Superman doesn’t join ranks with General Zod.
I have no idea what the re-occurring callbacks to the bully he saved, and that bully’s angry mom added to the development of the movie.
The possibility of touching and affecting scenes with the child Kent learning to hone his powers and deal with being an outsider are lost as throwaway flashbacks. The early scenes of development are poorly dealt with, so that when it comes to the action, I don’t care enough. I want to care about Superman as much as he cares about saving us.