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.
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.