- Movie Rating -

Man of Steel (2013)

| June 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

The biggest question going into “Man of Steel,” is whether or not Christopher Nolan can bring the same down-to-Earth psychology to Superman that he did to Batman.  The quick answer: no.  Yes, he and director Zack Snyder have created a well-mounted action picture – they get the fight scenes just right – but in trying to deal with the deep scars of Superman’s origins, they have put together a movie that choppy and disorganized to the point of agonizing frustration.

The movie opens on an over-produced Planet Krypton wherein Superman’s father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is dealing with two problems at the same time.  First, his planet is dying and no one will listen.  Second, Krypton’s military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon) has organized a coup against the planet’s elders and intends to overthrow them.  As you already know, Jor-El’s plan is to send his son, named Kal-El, to Earth where he will be safe.  Zod, who learns of his plan, vows revenge.  Basically, these scenes are gobs of CG capped with a story that was already told in Superman II.

Then for the next hour, or so, the movie is a chaotic, disorganized mess.  Scenes of Superman’s origins as a child are inter-cut with scenes of Superman as an adult so that we never feel Superman’s journey from infancy to adulthood.  One minute he’s an adult working as a crab fisherman, and the next minute he’s a little boy saving kids on a school bus.  We never get the great homages to Americana we did in the 1978 film. We don’t get scenes of Clark’s Kansas upbringing where he discovers his powers. Most of the scenes in “Man of Steel” are so hurried that you feel as if you are just watching a really long trailer.  The movie is in such a hurry to move things along that we never feel that we’re getting to know the man of steel.  Diane Lane and Kevin Costner play his Earth parents who dispatch home-spun advice, but they pop up here and there almost as cameos.

Much of the movie suffers from attention deficit disorder. There’s hardly a scene in this movie that doesn’t contain a special effect and anytime two people come close to having a conversation, the movie hurries past it so we can get to an action scene. There’s wall-to-wall action here, but the characters get lost in the shuffle.

The third act of the movie, when Superman and Zod square off is where the movie picks up.  Zod, now a Kryptonian prisoner, wants to turn the Earth into a new version of Krypton at the expense of the population already residing there.  That idea comes to life mostly due in part to the performance of Michael Shannon.  Shannon is one of our best and most intense actors – check him out sometime in the great “Take Shelter.”  Here he brings General Zod down to Earth, so to speak.  He wants a planet to rule but there’s nothing flashy or erudite about his personality.  Shannon plays the role pretty close to the bone and that’s appropriate.

British actor Henry Cavill in the title role has a great screen presence, but as you watch him, you sense that he will grow into the role if given another chance.  He’s not given a lot to say.

And his relationship with Lois Lane?  What relationship?  Her role (played by Amy Adams) is to be a nosy journalist, follow her leads and smoke out the identity of Superman, but there is nothing resembling a romance here.  Except for one chaste kiss, they almost seem like just good buddies.  There is a suggestion that their love affair is being held over for the sequel, but why not deal with it here?

Of course, the standard for the man of steel lies is Richard Donner’s 1978 classic with Christopher Reeve.  That film was a beautiful four act play, laying out Superman’s origins from Krypton to Smallville to Metropolis and to his adventure in California.  Some of that energy is here, but in trying to give the movie the same tone as Nolan’s Batman pictures, it’s wobby – and that’s being nice.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.