Thursday, June 20, 2013

Man of Steel, Feet of Clay

I just saw Man of Steel and I can’t decide if I like it or not. Going into the movie, I didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm to see it. Odd, I know, considering the fact that I work in a comic shop surrounded by people who can’t stop talking about this particular movie. Honestly, I didn’t plan on seeing it in the theater at all. I was going to wait for it to come out on video, because I just didn’t care that much about it.

Having seen the movie, I have to admit that my ambivalence for the film remains firmly in place. Don’t get me wrong. The movie is engaging. It’s a long movie but it doesn’t feel like a long movie. The pacing is fine.

Director Zach Snyder’s imprint is apparent throughout the film. It is not The Dark Knight but the film feels somber. This is only enhanced by the starkness of the cinematography; colors are muted and washed out, there is a preponderance of black and white in the pallette. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the scenes of Metropolis and Krypton. These two locales appear to be grim, joyless places. Overall, visually, I found the movie dull and flat.

The story is interesting. The plot is cohesive. Scenes are engaging. I felt that the performances, though, were uneven.

Henry Cavill portrays Superman/Clark Kent as the outsider and he does this very well. However, there is a rigid plasticity to his performance that I felt did not jibe with the character.

Lois Lane, in this movie, actually has a brain. Amy Adams does an admirable job of bringing the character to life. However, I think Adams is still too much the ingenue to really portray Lane accurately. She’s a little too wide eyed, a little too accepting of Superman and she falls for him far too quickly.

Michael Shannon’s General Zod is written as a complex character and Shannon’s performance, I think, stands out in this film as superior to his co-stars. As the villain of the piece he could have taken Zod completely over the top, but that does not happen until the last part of the film, when it felt appropriate.

The movie is full of action and if I have a major critique of that, it is that the ultimate battle between Superman and General Zod is shot too quickly. It all just happens in a blur of CGI fisticuffs.

Overall, the movie felt very slick. However, I think it lacks depth. As a foundation movie for a trilogy, I can see it working. As a stepping stone to a Cinematic DCU, I think it will accomplish that goal admirably.

But, on a purely personal level, Man of Steel lacks heart. It is entirely two-dimensional. You don’t care about any of the characters, not because they are unlikable, or because the actors in the roles do bad jobs, but because the characters remain two-dimensional.

And that, I think, may be Man of Steel’s greatest weakness. It’s a visually impressive movie, but it takes more than special effects to make a good Superman movie. It takes heart and soul and a sense of wonder that, I think, is lacking in this film.  It uses big budget CGI fights to conceal the fact that Man of Steel is a joyless experience and one that I have no desire to repeat.

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