Man of Steel… Not Substance
*A Spoiler-Free Rant*
I had a chance to see an early screening of Man of Steel last night. To say I’d been anxiously waiting for the big day is an understatement. With trailers galore to stoke the fan fires, by last night I was about bouncing in my seat, waiting for 7pm to arrive.
The movie began with a string of tentpole trailers (White House Down, R.I.P.D., Pacific Rim (2x’s, just in case you fell asleep waiting for the movie to start), The Hobbit 2) to whet the appetite.
Then came the special screening psych out. Not the movie, but two DVD-extra style featurettes, primarily showing me two things: Zach Snyder comes across as smug and he doesn’t know not to look directly at the camera when he’s supposed to be conversing with the guy next to him (so awkward watching the other guy try to keep eye contact with just the occasional camera glance while Snyder is ignoring him in favor of mugging for the camera).
Anyway… the self-congratulatory, thank-you-so-much-for-coming-to-see-our-movie crap ended. It’s about 7:30 now. Fucking hell, someone start the movie already.
The movie starts.
Oh. My. God. What is this crap? I didn’t know at the end of 2 ½ hours, and I’m not certain now, a day later. But I do know that while I liked the movie (I mean, it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen), I didn’t and never will love the movie.
Not like I wanted to. Not like I needed to.
Why? Because it has no heart. The movie is dark and brooding and angsty… And we know this is serious right off, because Krypton has no color. Everything is done in shades of metal (which begs the question, at least it did for me, how the Supes suit ended up with such a dang cheery color palette, but that’s another discussion). Alas, the film lacks charm, humor, wit, or—oh, yeah—story. The actors are good, and for the most part seem well-cast. It’s just hard to tell because they have so little to do or say. Unless one counts endless running, flying, dodging, punching, kicking, falling, and/or extricating oneself from rubble.
Henry Cavill couldn’t look more like Superman with the aid of L.A.’s best plastic surgeons, but he had little opportunity to do more than look the part. I’m pretty certain most of his direction was along the lines of, “Stand here and look awesome,” or “Run here and look awesome,” or maybe “Make pretend flying look awesome.” And he did all of those things. But those rare flashes of Cavill’s acting chops just made me grumpy for more story and dialogue.
Amy Adams’ Lois Lane thankfully doesn’t come across as a damsel in distress so much as a damsel in the wrong place at the wrong time. She’s smart, determined, and um, just kinda there. Her career is more a plot device for her to find and meet the Man of Steel than a critical part of Lois’ character.
The lack of interaction between Adams and Cavill is jaw dropping and criminal to the heart of the Superman story. These two have zero chance to build a convincing connection to each other, but in the few moments they spend together, you can almost see how this movie could have gone.
Michael Shannon’s Zod… well, I’m not familiar with Shannon, beyond a few glimpses of him in other things. But I’ve seen enough to know he can do more than stomp around and chew scenery.
A dozen other familiar faces show up throughout the film, but by the end you only really know them because they’re familiar faces. This is made sadder because some of them are fantastic actors (Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner…) and you know what they can do with a good role.
The non-linear story did the movie no favors when it came to connecting with the characters. Costner did the best, imbuing his Jonathan Kent with moments of raw emotion and uncertainty, but he’s left with an unfinished character like the rest.
Curiously, some of the biggest opportunities to build the story and connect with the characters happened off-screen and then got a mention later to move the story forward. So many great characters played by great actors, and I struggled to care about any of them as the world came crashing down around them.
Which brings me to my least favorite aspect of the film: BLOW UP ALL THE THINGS!
Snyder’s attempt to avoid treading too much familiar ground with his Supes apparently left him with nothing to say, so he decided to just blow up everything in order to keep viewers from realizing this is a movie about nothing. The only message in this movie seems to be if the Kryptonians ever show up on Earth, we are well and truly fucked.
How long have things been blowing up? I’m so bored. Can I be bored at freaking Man of Steel? Fucking hell, someone end the movie already.
Watch it. Mentally guesstimate the “collateral damage” body count and the bajillions of dollars in disaster relief the world will need. Heartless fun to go along with a heartless movie.