Movie Review: Man of Steel has the best Superman ever, but is no fun
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s another dark Hollywood film that believes it can be super just by being dark.
It’s getting annoying, boring, and quite frankly, old, to see movies that pretend to be noir, or in some sincere cases (like this one), try really hard to be, when they can all easily be simplified to being glorified explosion-fests, with stray moments of story and emotion, force-fitted into the screenplay to give it legitimacy as ‘cinema’. Or basically, Transformers spinoffs. Okay, before Superman fans come at me with Kryptonite bombs, let me clarify: Man of Steel isn’t nearly as bad, but unfortunately, it too thrives on the philosophy of self-serious popcorn flicks: ‘Who cares about character development when we get to destroy things in spectacular CGI style?’
Here’s a Superman that could easily have been one of two things: frothy, fun and badass like Ironman, or contemplative, intelligent and rousing like The Dark Knight. It had everything going for it, starting with what is perhaps the best-cast Superman yet: Henry Cavill *is* Superman. In every twitch of his body, every movement, facial expression, neatly-crafted cut in his 40-pack abs and in every punch he delivers from his dhai-sau kilo ka haath, Cavill is everything we ever wanted Superman to be, and if there is any one reason that this movie deserves a sequel, it is this man alone.
The support cast is also pretty darn good: Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Michael ‘Scaryface’ Shannon make for an epic cast for any movie, let alone an epic movie. Even the underlying idea and philosophy of the movie is on song: The movie is not just the origin story of how Kal El became Clark Kent, who became Superman, but about why the world needs saving and why Superman has to be the one to save it.
The problem is, in trying to be both Ironman (albeit, an, ahem, Stark-ly humourless one) and The Dark Knight, these ideas and philosophies are never fully realised beyond one-liner didacticism by the Earth father, Jonathan Kent (Costner), who seems to know the answers to the universe, since he has not a single dialogue that does not preach, or philosophise, or *enlighten*; or from his natural father, Jor El (Crowe), who is, er… a hologram. Even the limited emotions that the brilliant Costner and Lane bring to the table are strong enough to have been the foundation on which the movie is built, but each time we come close to feeling for Kent, director Zack Snyder abruptly cuts away to show something being destroyed.
The film is roughly two and a half-hours long (and I do not use the word ‘long’ lightly), mostly because the climactic battle is as long as a movie of its own. But important plot points of the backstory are so half-baked that you wonder if screenplay writer David S.Goyer replaced his oven with a gas chamber to try and murder Superman fandom. For example, scenes about Krypton’s introduction and subsequent implosion, the relationship between GeneralZod and Jor El, the ridiculous and illogical reason for which Jonathan Kent dies, or how Jor El comes back deserved explanation, more screen time, or just maybe, a strong second thought!
But the one thing that drags Man of Steel down from being an almost-good film to being a snooze-fest is the horribly miscast Amy Adams. Seriously, Jason Biggs had more chemistry with his hand in American Pie than the two independently brilliant leads have with each other in the movie. Adams is too mature, too plain, too dull, and too boring to be Lois Lane, and even Superman’s natural mom (Ayelet Zurer) and General Zod’s sidekick (Antje Traue) are way hotter.
Then there’s General Zod. Like the rest, Shannon gets to mouth ‘epic’ dialogues but his character development is limited to contorting his face in every scene. If we played the 'If you are angry and you know it, clap your hands' game, then General Zod would be clapping his hands like a maniac. All. The. Time.
The one scene that stood out for me in the movie is when Superman beats the living hell out of Zod for threatening his mother.If that emotional core could have been carried out through the movie, we would have had not just a great Superman movie, but possibly one of the greatest Superhero movies ever. Ultimately, Snyder fails – again – to live up to the potential and promise, of the strong premise of his movie. But thanks to the extraordinary Cavill, and an out-of-the-world background score by the legendary Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel is just about worth the price of your popcorn, although it begs for a sequel that will give us the Superman movie we have long deserved.