Man of Steel opens at the biggest screens under the stars
Ponderous but polished
Man of Steel is bombastic from start to finish, and when I came out my ears were ringing as though I’d been beaten around the head with tin trays.
Like Batman Begins, the first Spider-Man, or the original 1978 Superman, it’s an ‘origins’ story, showing how the man with unconventional views on how to wear underpants descended to Earth and persuaded us he was here to defend not destroy us.
The alien bad guy is Kryptonite General Zod (Michael Shannon with mad, staring eyes), an enthusiastic ethnic cleanser from outer space.
Clark Kent, alias Superman (played with maximum handsomeness, a fetching dimple and absolutely no sense of humour by virtually unknown Brit Henry Cavill), has been raised in Texas by salt-of-the-earth farming folk – Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, on good if muted form.
Costner has a vaguely distant look in his eyes, as though wondering why his career went so badly wrong after Field of Dreams.
Superman, formerly known as Kal-El, is the son of Kryptonite scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) who likes delivering homilies about how intergalactic species should all get along, until the principal villain gets as bored as we are, and shoots him.
His son learns the hard way that being different on Earth creates at least as much suspicion as admiration.
Still, at least repeatedly saving the life of pretty investigative journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) earns him a kiss. It’s too bad that Cavill’s superhuman stiffness makes it look as though she’s trying to snog a piece of granite.
Like virtually every other superhero movie, the film takes the form of super-ginormous explosions leading up to a climactic battle that trashes a major city.
If it’s fighting you like, or very loud music, or ultra-simple plotlines that stretch on interminably with characterisation of similar complexity to The Teletubbies, Man of Steel delivers.
Initially, it promises a lot more. The opening 15 minutes on the dying, spectacularly volcanic planet Krypton have a visual imagination that is regrettably not sustained throughout the remaining two hours-plus.
The actors’ talents are pretty much wasted on a screenplay that’s woefully po-faced. It wouldn’t have killed the writer to come up with colourful characters.
And I did miss the light relief offered by Christopher Reeve as a more accident-prone Clark Kent.
Screenwriter David S Goyer’s credits include Batman Begins and, less encouragingly, three Blade movies.
Director Zack Snyder gave us the Spartan battle epic 300, Watchmen and the awful Sucker Punch. Another obvious influence is the movie’s British producer Christopher Nolan, of Dark Knight fame.
NoNe are known for their lightness of touch and they all take their comic-strip culture very seriously indeed. The Christian iconography of God sending his son down to save humanity is very much present.
This is the kind of script in which the only language spoken is fluent exposition. For me, the action sequences last many minutes longer than they ought to, and I can’t help feeling that at some point even fanboys will tire of seeing what is essentially the same movie over and over again.
But there’s no denying that Man Of Steel is an efficient, factory-made product, shrewdly catering for its youngish, predominantly male audience.
It’s a triumph of spectacle over content.
Many will find it more entertaining than I did, and mind less about the absence of humour, originality, subtext or subtlety.
[youtube width=”840″ height=”473″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6DJcgm3wNY[/youtube]
[youtube width=”840″ height=”473″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlOF03DUoWc[/youtube]