Hi all. It’s been a while since my last “Weekend Movie Preview” column, I know. Things have been busy for me, so I’ve been publishing one review at a time lately. However, I was thinking it would be nice to spice things up and use this format to share my reviews of two films that came out this weekend. Check out my thoughts on the Superman reboot “Man of Steel” and the apocalyptic comedy “This Is the End.”
MAN OF STEEL
Clark Kent is no ordinary boy. After the shocking discovery that he’s an extraterrestrial with extraordinary powers, Clark (Henry Cavill) grows up carefully hiding his abilities from those around him, as he tries to uncover why he was sent to Earth. It takes an invasion by hostile aliens from his home planet though, to help Clark realize his true destiny: to protect mankind and to serve as a symbol of hope for Earth’s citizens.
Writer: David S. Goyer (“Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) with assistance on the story from Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Inception”)
Based On: The superhero Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Notable Actors: Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Christopher Meloni, Richard Schiff, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer
MY TAKE: Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” does for Superman, what “Batman Begins” did for Batman: it successfully rejuvenates the hero’s image and reconnects him to viewers. It should come as no surprise then, that the same scribe behind Batman’s rebirth, David S. Goyer, is the one who reimagined Superman for “Man of Steel.” So how does Goyer make the superhero interesting again?
First, he washes away the stench of the character’s previous film outing, by scrubbing Superman (Cavill) with a thorough backstory. Goyer takes The Man of Steel’s mythology in an exciting new direction: science fiction. He doesn’t concentrate much on the fantastic nature of Superman’s origins. Instead, Goyer focuses on the technology and culture unique to Superman’s home planet Krypton, that helped shape the hero and his people.
Quite fittingly, most of the opening act takes place on Krypton. There we meet Superman’s birth parents Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van (Crowe and Zurer), as well as the movie’s villain General Zod (Michael Shannon). While on Krypton, we witness Zod’s crimes and the heartbreaking events that push Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van to send their son Kal-El (Clark) away. For the remainder of the movie, Superman’s history is recounted through flashbacks while we follow the adult Clark Kent. Goyer gives Clark and Zod depth by slowly unraveling the sci-fi elements that have shaped their intertwining destinies through exposition in the present day.
The second major thing that Goyer does to cleanse the picture, is take a different approach to Superman’s love interest Lois Lane (Adams). Lois isn’t just a typical damsel in distress, who’s a liability for Superman. She’s written to be a sassy, driven woman who becomes a partner to Superman, assisting him in his mission to stop Zod. There are definitely times when Superman needs to save her, but you get the sense that if she didn’t absolutely need his help, she would rather do things herself.
Unfortunately, there are still some areas where this flick gets covered in mud. Lois is a bit underdeveloped and Adams’ chemistry with Cavill is lukewarm. The talented Michael Shannon is also not utilized to his full potential. At two and a half hours, the film feels excessively long and the action sequences are monotonous because most of the fighting involves people ramming each other through buildings at high speeds. In these fights, Snyder’s frenetic camera and cutting further detract from their ability to engage you.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing for me though, is how the “Man of Steel” trailer ruined many of the film’s wonderful heartfelt moments. The trailer was shown excessively on television and at screenings before the premiere, so by the time I finally saw everything in context, scenes that could have been touching and original, already felt cheap and tired.
In the end, after Goyer’s wash, Superman doesn’t come out squeaky clean and Dove soft, but he’s much less stinky than he was in Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns.” The story is sound, Cavill gives a delightfully even keel performance, and there are some fun supporting characters played by Christopher Meloni and Laurence Fishburne. This is actually a Superman flick I don’t want to rinse from my memory.
MY GRADE: B...as in Basically Decent. Brought Down by a Few Bad Things.