June 14, 2013, - 12:02 am
The first thing you need to know about “Man of Steel” is that there is no “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” The iconic, patriotic Superman phrase is never uttered in this new movie, allegedly about Superman.
After all, the filmmakers hope to make mega-millions overseas, and why offend the mega-millions of America-hating foreign movie-goers with anything positive about America? I suppose this is liberal Hollywood’s version of “evolution,” since the last incarnation of Superman, “Superman Returns”–which stank and was far worse than this one (read my review)–had Daily Planet Editor Perry White say, “Truth, justice, and all that other stuff.”
In fact, it’s hard to tell if the new “Man of Steel” movie, in theaters today, is really even about Superman. The word “Superman” is only mentioned once, and only in the last third of this very long, quite dull, and incredibly uninspired movie. It’s like they’re embarrassed by the guy. And it’s like he’s in perpetual embarrassment the whole way through, since I can’t remember seeing the guy (played by British actor Henry Cavill) smile until the very end of the movie. He’s in perpetual gravitas. Also not in the movie: photographer Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, and kryptonite. They don’t exist in this version of Metropolis. There is however, a Black Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and “Jenny” (with no last name), who is presumably the new chickified Jimmy. But the PC stuff isn’t completely down pat yet, because Superman hasn’t revealed himself yet as a vegan Muslim Wonder Woman trapped in an carnivorous atheist Superman’s body, struggling to come out and get a sex change.
Though we see a few scenes of the American flag and some bumbling U.S. Army Generals (who mostly view Superman as the enemy), if you’ve seen the trailers and posters, the new Superman’s uniform is reptilian, dark, and dingy, and looks black and dark burgundy. That, too, is Hollywood lib evolution, since in the last Supe movie, “Superman Returns,” it was navy and maroon.
Also missing is any sense of morality, which was ample in most of the previous Superman products. In this movie, young Clark Kent’s dad (Kevin Costner) tells him that instead of saving a bus full of his classmates (after the bus careened off a bridge and sank in a river), he “maybe” should have let them die, in order to keep secret that he has super powers. Later in the movie, the dad stops Clark Kent from saving him from a tornado, in order to keep his special power a secret.
But here’s what is in the movie: the word, “d*cks”–not once, but twice . . . in two different scenes. Just GUH-REAT for a superhero movie filmmakers know will be attended by gazillions of young kids. Completely unnecessary. In one scene, a school bully calls a young Clark Kent, “a d*ckhead,” and in another scene, Lois Lane chides American generals, proclaiming that “if we’re done measuring d*cks,” she wants to look into mysterious developments near an arctic military base. In another scene, there is a field of skulls, but I guess today’s kids have already been exposed to such graphic stuff.
For me, Clark Kent will always be the late Christopher Reeve. He had charm, he had personality, he had chutzpah and was witty, and he was self-deprecating, humorous, and cool. There is none of that in this Superman. In fact, Henry Cavill is more the anti-Superman or unSuperman than anything. He’s almost more shlemiel than “Man of Steel.” He’s like a college professor activist for Greenpeace, not a superhero. Or maybe he thinks he’s a male supermodel, stuck forever in a pretentious pouting, brooding pose of extreme seriousness and pensive “thought.” Or, toward the beginning of the movie, he’s “The Incredible Hulk,” minus the green, but complete with shirtless, sculpted chest and torn up pants ripped off at the knees, stealing some people’s laundry for a change of clothes. But there is none of the magic or fun that Reeve and the writers and directors brought to his Superman movies in the late ’70s and early to mid-’80s. Those were entertaining. This is just a long slow slog that gets off to a decent stat, but just dies the rest of the way.
This movie did remind me a lot of the one bad Reeve “Superman” movie, “Superman III,” in which Superman is drunk, destroys a lot of buildings, and fails to save quite a few people. In “Man of Steel,” Superman destroys a lot of buildings while he’s fighting off his enemies from Krypton who come to planet earth, and a lot of people die. But I thought Superman was about peace and saving people. Hard to tell in this. And there are boring, prolonged, repetitive scenes of mass destruction of downtown Metropolis that are straight out of the “Transformers” (and “The Avengers”) movies’ playbook. Been there, seen that. And a little goes a long way. This was overkill.
There’s a lot in this movie that’s dull. Amy Adams is dull as Lois Lane, and she doesn’t seem right for the part. She phones it in when uttering her lines, completely devoid of any emotion or inflection most of the time . . . like vacant Brad Pitt in that weird, New Age Chanel No. 5 commercial. The movie is mostly washed-out sepia tones. I didn’t care for the flashbacks and flash forwards of this movie, which are constant. It was herky-jerky and ruined the continuity of the story and the plot. That apparently was by design because the plot is flat, and the villain, played by the one-note Michael Shannon, is dull, too.
The basic story is the one you’ve come to know about Superman–that he was born “Kal-El” on the planet of Krypton to parents. This time, his father, Jor-El, is a bloated Russell Crowe who is killed by rival, General Zod (Shannon). As they are about to be killed and their planet destroyed, the parents send their son to Planet Earth, where he is found and raised by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner. They are the only bright points in this movie.
We see Clark Kent as a kid in Smallville, where his special powers make him a pariah of sorts, so his father demands that he hide them from people. Later, because of this, he’s a drifter trying to find himself–first working on a rig, then in a restaurant in a small town. When Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane hears stories about a mysterious structure hidden near an arctic military base, she heads there, after winning a lawsuit against the U.S. military, which tried to keep her out. She comes upon Clark Kent, who rescues her as she explores a mysterious set of caves and tunnels in a mountain and sees strange robots flying in the air inside those tunnels. She writes it up, and her editor, Perry White, refuses to print it. So she seeks a Matt-Drudge-like website to release the story. But just before their encounter, Clark has released a beacon that alerts General Zod of Clark Kent’s whereabouts, and General Zod comes to earth, threatening the world unless Clark Kent is turned in to him. The FBI arrests Lois, and so Superman surrenders to the U.S. military, who surrenders him to Zod.
For the rest of the movie, it’s mostly non-stop fighting between Superman and Zod and his fellow criminals from Krypton, who broke free when the planet was destroyed. They want to re-establish Krypton on Earth, which will mean the end of human civilization, and Superman wants to save the Earth. At this point, you’ll probably be reminded of “Superman II,” in which Superman fought off three villains from Krypton (in fact, the female villain in this one looks a lot like the female villain in that movie). And like in that movie, they are stronger than he is. Also, like that movie, he inexplicably overcomes them and is victorious. I didn’t quite understand how Superman beat the much stronger villains from Krypton in this, and it’s kind of confusing and a bore for the last third of the movie.
This movie is nearly 2.5 hours. At least a half hour should have been lopped off. The script should have been tightened, and some magic, charm, and personality inserted somewhere. Many critics describe this Superman as “dark.” But, if anything, it’s more of a “cold” movie. It’s just not that entertaining. And it’s definitely not amusing. The movie was better than I expected, but that’s because I expected to absolutely hate it. It’s far better than the last outing, “Superman Returns.” But it still leaves a lot to be desired. It’s missing something, many things actually. It was just an okay movie (I saw it in 3D, which didn’t help make it better). And it didn’t seem like a Superman movie at all. “Man of Steel” is an imposter.
Near the end of the movie, Superman tries to convince the inept U.S. Army generals that he’s American and will work with them. “I grew up in Kansas. You can’t get more American than that.” (I wonder if they’ll keep that line in the film as they show it overseas.) It seems he’s trying to convince us in the American audience more than the generals onscreen.
No sale for me. In “Man of Steel,” we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: Amy Adams, Bland of Steel, Christopher Reeve, Clark Kent, Daily Planet, Diane Lane, General Zod, Henry Cavill, Jenny, Jenny Olsen, Jimmy Olsen, Jor-El, Kal-El, Kevin Kostner, Krypton, Kryptonite, Laurence Fishburne, Lois Lane, Man of Steel, Man of Steel movie, Man of Steel movie review, Man of Steel review, Man of Steel Superman, Matt Drudge, Metropolis, Michael Shannon, movie, movie review, Movie Reviews, new Superman movie, Perry White, Russell Crowe, Smallville, Superman, Superman Man of Steel, Superman movie, The Daily Planet, Truth Justice and the American way