Genre: Action, Superhero
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe
Released by: Warner Bros.
Run time: 143 minutes
It’s a puzzling paradox that has plagued comic book lovers, rabid film buffs and observers of pop culture alike: why has Hollywood been unable to create a truly great portrayal of Superman, the international icon and perhaps America’s first transcendent superhero? While the last attempt, 2006’s “Superman Returns,” debuted to healthy box office returns and generally decent reviews, it has been largely forgotten and consigned to the dustbin of cinematic history.
Enter “Man of Steel.” Directed by Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen“) and produced by Christopher Nolan, who knows a thing or two about big-screen comic book adaptations done right, Man of Steel aims to revitalize the Superman franchise once and for all. The result is decidedly mixed.
You won’t find any trace of the cornball campiness of previous Superman films here – this is a serious Superman movie. Snyder has clearly decided to imbue his creation with an all-pervading solemnity that, ultimately, threatens to spoil the mood entirely; while the recent Batman trilogy also operated in the same bleak atmosphere of portent, it never failed to bring the thrills in large order. In electing to eliminate every vestige of levity from the movie, Snyder is playing a very dangerous game with the hearts and minds of his audience. How else do we engage with action movies if they simply aren’t fun (à la the Iron Man franchise)? While the special effects are truly impressive, even by today’s standards, they aren’t enough to overcome this central shortcoming.
Each member of the cast turns in a respectable performance. British heartthrob Henry Cavill does a serviceable job of donning the blue and red suit (he’s sure to delight female audiences in his many shirtless scenes), but ultimately fails to breathe new life into his character. Amy Adams supplies perhaps the film’s brightest spark as Lois Lane, although she too isn’t given many memorable lines to work with. The film even falls short in the bad guy department, as Michael Shannon’s General Zod oozes the requisite amounts of menace and psychopathy but doesn’t quite boast the screen presence and malevolent charisma that makes for a great villain.
Will “Man of Steel” rake in hundreds of millions at the box office? Undoubtedly. Will it go on to spawn a string of sequels? Most likely. But is it a great addition to the pantheon of superhero movies? Not in the least, and that makes for a huge disappointment.
Reviewed by Michael Gately
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