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Movie Review: ‘Man of Steel’

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If you have severe ADD and don’t like to be bothered by silly things like blinking, then Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is for you. But be warned: anyone with even a modest attention span is going to find their eyes glazing overMan-of-Steel-screenshot1 during this action spectacle, which will stand as an example of special effects ruining what could have otherwise been a solid movie.

After an opening segment that shows more of the world of Krypton than was necessary, we finally find Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) as a grown man on Earth, jumping from job to job, obsessively helping those in need. This is actually a very interesting, human approach to the character, one that we haven’t seen in previous Superman films. Clark is a recluse who sees nothing but the darkest sides of humanity everywhere he goes, but still feels compelled to help because of some larger, yet unknown purpose.

His journey leads him to arctic, where an ancient spacecraft is found frozen in the ice. There Clark meets a young journalist, Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who is covering the story for the Daily Planet, and seems completely cool with the idea of meeting an alien. Somehow Lois goes from fearless journalist to damsel in distress seconds after meeting Superman – but it seems like no comic book movie can escape this dynamic; so it’s hard to knock Man of Steel for it too much.

Activating the ship gives Kal-El (that’s Superman’s real name) some insight into the mystery of his extraterrestrial origins, but it also attracts an extremist warlord, Generad Zod (Michael Shannon), who is hell-bent on making Earth his new Krypton, and isn’t afraid to commit mass genocide in order to reach his goals.

From here on out the movie is really just about Superman punching people, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if so much time wasn’t spent building up the drama for no reason. Still, I may have been able to find some popcorn-film level of enjoyment if the Krytonian combat didn’t go completely overboard. If there’s one thing you can say about all of Zack Snyder’s movies, it’s that he knows how to take things too far – but at least this time he didn’t use any of his patented slow motion.

I wanted to describe a specific action scene in detail, however, even though the movie is fresh on my mind, I can’t seem to recall any specifics. There’s a lot of smashing people through buildings, car throwing, rocket launching, and gunfire; I also recall scenes that featured outer space tentacles and world-destroying machines – and all the while Sears and the International House of Pancakes were left with man-of-steel-screenshot-2minimal damage, in what can only be described as some truly terrible product placement.

It’s as crazy and aimless as it sounds. It’s almost as if Zack Snyder is conducting a seminar on how not to use special effects. The special effects do not compliment the film — they dominate it completely. There’s just too damn much going on, and it becomes truly mind-numbing after only a short while.

I’m glad I chose to see this in traditional 2D, because I’m pretty sure the 3D version would render part of my brain permanently damaged.  I don’t even want to imagine what Man of Steel in 3D looks like, but I’m confident that it can’t be very enjoyable.

There’s a bizarre disconnect between the human side of the story and the insane over-the-top action, that blows your mind into mush. Man of Steel isn’t a horrible movie by any means;  I just wish Zack Snyder understood that Superman can be updated and made relevant again without overloading our eyes with warp-speed images of super-human beings destroying entire cities. At some point in time it stops looking cool, and you just begin to laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all.

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About Chad Michael Van Alstin

Chad is an award-winning libertarian opinion columnist. He's done with that now. Having earned himself a B.A. in Mass Communication, Chad now spends most of his time as a wage laborer, killing the pain by consuming as many video games and movies as possible. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadVanAlstin
  • Ash

    Thanks for the excellent review.

    I have to agree with most of the comments you’ve made. While the movie was very watchable I do admit to having fallen asleep in parts. Admittedly I had gone into the film fairly sleep deprived so I can’t blame all of that on the director.

    However I do think the action sequences were an overkill (entertaining as they may have been) and I often found myself wondering why certain sequences were even in the film … It felt like the story was built around the special effects and action sequences rather than the other way around.

    One thing I can say though is that i didn’t find the movie too condescending (which I expected before going in to watch it)