I don’t really like Superman. I never really understood how a character who is totally invulnerable could be involved in stories with real jeopardy, real stakes – something reinforced by the fact that before Man of Steel was even released a sequel to it was already announced.
As a reboot MoS really does suffer against its obvious blueprint, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Just as Nolan tried (and succeeded) in taking Batman away from the kitsch, campy nightmare of the franchise in the late 1990’s, director Zack Snyder (in conjunction with Nolan) here attempts to give us a raw, almost unrecognisable Supes – away from the smiley, twinkly Christopher Reeve iteration or the moody self-conscious Brandon Routh era.
What they give us in Man of Steel is a film that confronts head on the sheer power of Superman. His initial struggles to hide these abilities as a child and an adolescent, the fears of his step-father (wonderfully played by Kevin Costner) that his adopted son will become a hunted, shunned outcast. Eventually audiences finally get to see Kal-El properly loose it: bowling through buildings like a hijacked airliner, he screams and gnashes and brawls his way through this film a jumped up, jacked up, flying Mike Tyson.
I promise that for about ten minutes you’ll sit there saying shit like “woah” or “shit” or “awesome” or “fucking hell” – but enduring 45 minutes of CGI Kryptonians beating the guts outta each other was more than this correspondent could endure. This is not a film to see with a hangover. I stumbled out of the auditorium feeling as if I had been strapped in one of these for an hour.
Where MoS falls down is (as is almost inevitable with these big summer tentpole movies) during it’s stodgy last hour. Take away the red capes and this could be any other ‘epic’ action movie. Hans Zimmer’s ubiquitously grandiose score doesn’t help in this regard, although in fairness to him it must have been incredibly difficult to live up to the legacy of this. The Clark Kent/Lois Lane romance is fumbled and feels out of place which is especially unforgivable for a Superman movie. In fact the characters of Lois Lane and Perry White feel as if they have been shoehorned into the piece simply because its a Superman movie.
Man of Steel is not the film it was sold as. This isn’t a dark, contemplative and rejected Superman, feared and misunderstood by the world. None of the promise of that idea (which is present at the start of the movie in a conversation between Clark and his step-Dad) pays off. Instead by the middle of the film ol’ Supes is, aside from a bit of vague curiosity, essentially accepted by everybody as the flag wavin’ American icon that he is.
But hey, at least it has Russell Crowe in it. No he doesn’t sing unfortunately.