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Movie Review: “Man of Steel” (Barnett)

Oh, where to begin? To say I was disappointed with Christopher Nolan’s Man of Steel would be a gross understatement. Nolan’s re-imagining of the Batman saga with his Dark Knight trilogy was one of the best series of superhero movies I’ve ever seen, so I went in to see it Man of Steel (in IMAX, but not 3D IMAX) with great anticipation, brushing off all negative reviews.superman

Always more of a Batman girl, I never spent much time as a kid reading the Superman comics, but I was really hoping to love Man of Steel, looking forward to a film with as much humanity as superhero derring-do, and as much depth as there were CGI big bangs. I always thought Henry Cavill was one of the best things about the Tudors and I was looking forward to this fine English actor submerging himself in the role with his considerable acting talents (and he’s pretty hot, too).

It all started rather promisingly. A planet, Krypton, to be exact, is about to implode because its people have squandered all the energy and have decimated the planet’s interior (message about fracking here?). Krypton’s inhabitants are genetically engineered, not born of random chromosomal chance, so people are bred to fulfill specific societal roles. (This comes into play in Act III.) So Kal-El (AKA Clark Kent AKA Superman) the non-engineered son of Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is sent off to Earth as the last hope of a dying people to adapt to Earth and someday link the two races and preserve some semblance of Krypton’s genetic line.

So Kal-El lands in Kansas and is raised by adoptive parents (played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) to hide his differentness because he will become an outcast. He must wait for “the right time.” The extent of his reticence to act is demonstrated in a cloying scene in which Clark lets his father die rather than use his superpowers.

Once the bad guys in the guise of super bad General Zod and his group of Krypton rebels enter the plot (what there is of a plot by this point), things go from a two-dimensional drama to a two-dimensional action movie that has “Blockbuster” written all over it in gigantic exploding neon letters. Some of the storyline is simply inexplicable: plot happens with no explanation, coincidence (read: plot device) occurs, not organically but in ways so obvious that they insult one’s intelligence.

There is, by the way, a scene at the end of the movie at the Daily Planet that left me scratching my head in light of all that death and destruction that happens in the two-plus hours leading into it. I don’t want to spoil it, but either the scene is set years into the future or Superman somehow has a machine at his disposal that can either reverse time or undo major metropolitan damage. And there is another scene that is just plain silly: a flashback to a young Clark Kent playing around in the backyard wearing — wait for it — a red Superman cape and jumping around like he can fly. A little Meta, don’t you think?

But these are little quibbles compared to the really sloppy stuff. For example, Clark just happens to be working in the Arctic somewhere right in the vicinity of a Krypton spaceship buried beneath a conveniently nearby glacier, where finds his father? Neat trick. And that’s just the beginning.

There is little plot (besides the aforementioned beginning), characterization is non-existent. It stupefies me that this is the same Christopher Nolan who so humanized not only Batman, but  every other character in the trilogy (including several of the villans).

I am sad to say, Man of Steel is an overlong (it’s never a good sign when I whisper to myself, “get on with it already”) and poorly written excuse for CGI explosions, collisions, air wars and hand to hand combat. If you are all about the CGI, then go for it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money.

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • John Gray

    Christopher Nolan is the producer, this film was directed by Zack Snyder, he of Suckerpunch and 300 infamy.

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      And writer. Still, even with Snyder directing, it was with Nolan’s vision, I’m certain. the movie had a sort of checklist approach: cute dog-check. tug at the heartstrings moment – check. exploding gasoline tanker truck – check. Moment of brooding – check, etc. etc.

  • Dan Baird

    I was really looking forward to this movie and after an hour and a half I was ready to walk. A few folks left but I was going to give it a chance. The action started but even that didn’t help. I don’t know if it was the flashbacks or the cheesy lines but I thought this movie was a huge waste of time and I really wish I hadn’t paid to see it.

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      It’s never a good sign when people are getting up to get more popcorn (or whatever) during the movie. Several people did that during the showing I attended at the local IMAX

  • bawwa

    Babara….you don’t know jack-sh*t about movies…or the REAL superman…….i usually hate CGI,but this movie had realistic cgi…waste of money and time??? Ironman 3 was a waste of money and time..

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      Iron Man 3 was enjoyable, but not as good as the first two. The real standout CGI movie this summer is Star Trek. I’ve been watching sci-fi for decades and I do know quite a bit about sci-fi movies.

      • bawwa

        Ironman 3 was enjoyable…thats because its dumb,why would Tony stark restrain from using his army of suit or ATLEAST 1 of the suits against those 3 helicopters,,without getting himself ALMOST killed……..iron man 3 was dumb and cheesy,totally doesn’t deserve 1billion……i agree star trek was very good,emotions,action were expressed very well,cast was superb too…cgi was superb,
        But man of steel’s cgi was more than superb,action choreography was excellent(its really hard to make superman’s action realistic,but they did it quite exceptionally)..
        .i would pay for that movie,even just to see Russell Crowe’s,shannon’s acting.
        The way they handled the death of zod was amazing,if you think a bit you can see the reality in this movie,greatness of superman-how he chose humans over his race…………….
        .these movies are to think and enjoy like dark knight,not to enjoy for the sake of a movie(like im3,with a joke in every dialog)……………..

        .its not a waste of money at all,it may be only YOUR opinion but,this movie deserves credit.

        • http://mikaelakaimo.blogspot.com/ Mikaela Kaimo

          Maybe that’s YOUR opinion

      • bawwa

        Star trek deserves more than 450 million

  • Abhishek

    Plot inconsistencies are one of the many problems that plague the movie. Many elements of Supes’ origin story have been tampered with. And its really sad since Nolan and Goyer penned the story this time. I mean it worked for the Dark Knight franchise but it fails miserably here. The characters as well as many other plot points are underdeveloped to give way to the CGI filled action spectacle at the end of the movie. Pity, it had a great cast and crew. Really hope that the sequel is better.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    This generation might actually like the movie because they’re not really making comparisons to the real Clark Kent (Christopher Reeves).

  • ChristopherNo

    (reposting) Barbara,
    you wrote, ” Clark just happens to be working in the Arctic somewhere
    right in the vicinity of a Krypton spaceship buried beneath a conveniently
    nearby glacier, where (he) finds his father?” Clark went to the Arctic
    because he heard two soldiers talking in the bar/diner about an object that had
    been found. The overheard conversation was one of those annoying “plot
    devices”. Clark brought the “father figure” with him on his
    Kryptonian thumb drive(TD); Clark had just never had an appropriate device to
    put his TD into! Hard to believe Clark’s original space craft did not have a TD
    interface when all the other craft seem
    to have them. Even the jail cell (or closet) on one of the ships had a TD interface.

    Barbara, what about the musical score? Wasn’t it awful during the action scenes?
    I couldn’t wait to get out of the theater and away from the constant
    drumming. Hearing the movie in a Dolby
    Atmos equipped theater left my hearing a bit stuffy and muffled after the show.

  • Joey Lachica

    I’ve seen all the superman movies, this one for me has a more in depth analysis of an alien living among us. With a very detailed background. I think if you really think about how an alien would live here and aliens attacking Earth with super powers then I reallized that everything in the movie has reason. And very well thought of. Remind you guys its not just a superman movie, it’s the Man of Steel. Just my thoughts.

  • babs

    There are obvious split opinions of the movie depending on the superman people know/knew, those from the 70s: humour filled family friendly boy scout superman, or this modern “more realism” violent version. The plot runs quickly and perhaps over simplistically and conveniently at times, however no one should have expected this to have been a young family outing kind of film, did people expect adam west’s dancing batman to be in the dark knight reboot?
    flashy and big was something that superman films had all previously failed to provide, the action sequences here were coherent, fast and breath taking, that’s what superman is.

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