(image caption) – Sorry, Notebook Doodle Superman. The cowl doesn’t fit on everyone.
When faced with my first review for Pantheon Magazine, I was presented with a quandary. What do I do for my first article? Common sense would dictate something cool and arty, a film an audience of “godly good” fiction would react to and possibly want to go see. So what do I review? A comic book movie directed by the hack who made Sucker Punch. Smooth move.
But maybe I was on to something. The very title of the magazine is sourced from Greek mythology and if you believe some of the literary elite, comic books are our modern day fables. Morality tales featuring larger than life characters, the world of comics is rife with the same themes and ideas you find in classic myths. On the superhero roll call, Superman is more Mars than Apollo. Sure you may have heard of him, but nobody can exactly remember why. In the hands of writers David S Goyer and Christopher Nolan, there was chance this adaptation may have finally washed our mouths out from the bile of Superman Returns. Unfortunately, despite some impressive yet hollow visuals and a few good ideas, Man of Steel fails to raise pulses or capture the imagination. In short, it’s a cinematic flatline.
Right off the bat, there’s the little things you expect from a Zach Snyder feature. From the tech on Krypton to the sheen on Superman’s modern suit, the film has an interesting look to it. Unfortunately, you can’t see it as Snyder pulls a George Lucas, throwing everything his computer can muster on screen. The result is an exhausting spectacle of bad CGI and hyper kinetic fight scenes.
Another hallmark of a Zach Snyder joint is the complete lack of character building, and in that respect, Man of Steel is par for the course. Superman isn’t a terribly interesting character to begin with, and despite some honest attempts to flesh out his back story, he’s still an invincible guy who can fly and shoot heat beams from his eyes. It’s hard for us to relate to somebody who can’t be harmed and as a result, can never truly be in danger. The monotonous scenes of young Clark Kent attempt to flesh out some of his more human qualities but they choose to tell us why we should care rather than show us. And as you literary types know, that’s Writing 101.
Sadly, all this dreck was penned by usually dependable David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Triolgy). The script, in a word, is horrendous. Ignore the cheeseball one liners. Look past the utter lack of character building. The main issue? Nothing makes any damn sense. Like the famous “show don’t tell” axiom, the other well worn cliché is “let your characters drive the story, not the plot”. Goyer’s script is full of plot contrivances, blatant attempts to keep things moving and utter storytelling incompetence. For every moment of almost fun, a story related question pops to mind. Why is Lois Lane on a plane during a military operation? Why does the film’s villain, Zod (Michael Shannon), imprison her in the most militarily sensitive area on the entire ship? How come Superman, played by the appropriately chisel chinned Henry Cavill, needs to kill thousands of people 9/11 style just to fight one baddie. Couldn’t he just throw him into space or something? The film’s story provides a barrage of questions so constant, it ruins any chance for the audience to sit back and enjoy.
When buzz of a new Superman movie hit the Internet, my feelings were mixed. Far removed from the campy flicks of yesteryear, I didn’t know what kind of Superman movie I wanted. After seeing the mess that is Man of Steel, I still don’t know, but I know it isn’t this. In the end, you can’t Batman-ize everything and despite the best intentions of the Nolan / Goyer team, Superman, at the core, is an escapist character, light on depth but strong in pure fun. Nothing’s worse than a brooding muscle guy who can lift entire oil rigs.
But I’ve learned one thing from the disappointing Man of Steel and its failed origin story. Some myths are better left unexplained. We don’t need to know how Zeus became a god. The mystery of it all is half the intrigue. Maybe the Superman we all needed to see had more in common with tight red underpants than the darkly adult cape and cowl. A film of good intentions and poor execution, Man of Steel is yet another messy entry in the superhero catalog. Here’s hoping the eventual sequel gives up on the pretense and keeps things simple and fun.
Score – 40%
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Jersey born, New York based and Austin bound, Bill Tucker is a writer of short fiction, film reviews and articles across a variety of media. He currently writes bi-monthly reviews for Pantheon Magazine and his micro fiction story, K, was recently accepted for publication in Solarcide’s flash fiction compilation, Flash Me. When not writing, he works as an IT Trainer for a fashion software company. Check out more of his work atwww.thesurrealityproject.com.