What is this thing you call, “subtle?”
In 1978 we were told that we’d believe a man can fly and Richard Donner not only delivered on that promise, but re-created a legend on the silver screen. It’s thirty-five years later and the only thing Zack Snyder makes us ask is, “Why?” Man of Steel is a joyless, obnoxious, and painfully artless mess that has no redeeming features at all.
The opening act takes place on a Krypton that looks like Liberace threw up and created a planet, which is still dying but also is embroiled in a civil war about how to save it. On the one side you have General Zod, played by the normally excellent (if ranine) Michael Shannon, who rants about racial purity and absolute power and, on the other,super-scientist Jor-El (Crowe murders another accent) who wants to save everyone through his son. Needless to say, Jor-El dies, his son is fired off to Earth, Zod and his gang loses and are sentenced to eternity in the Phantom Zone. This is where things go silly: they’re ferried off in what can only be described as penis pods. Sure, the Phantom Zone is daft enough, but Space Cocks?
Not the cock ship. Anything but the cock ship.
Snyder must have been watching Paul Thomas Andersen movies all summer, because we then jump to pre-Superman Clark drifting about various dead-end jobs while he figures out who, what, and why he is, alternately saving some people and flashing back to a past that’s so much less than the original. With the help of a hidden Kryptonian ship, Crowe playing both Ghost Dad and the exposition fairy he becomes Superman in time for Zod to come back and threaten the Earth.
This is where any pretense of subtlety is thrown out the window: when Clark has a crisis and goes to talk to the local pastor about what he should do in the background is a stained glass window of Jesus the size of Mount Rushmore, because, you know, metaphor. Not to mention every time Supes takes off, he spreads his arms as if he’s on a crucifix. You can almost hear Snyder yelling, “Make the metaphor bigger or no-one will get it.”
“Really? You think they’ll get it now?”
Once he’s decided what to do, that’s the end of the movie really. What’s left is a ninety minute fight scene that’s louder than Michael Bay directing Brian Blessed in a thunderstorm and by the end I just wanted it to stop. Thank Clark I saw it in 2D – I imagine anyone coming out of the 3D screening will have migraines for weeks.
Where we once had Christopher Reeve’s easy charm matching Margo Kidder’s sassy Lois Lane, we now have abs, CGI, and Amy Adams playing a role that’s clearly beneath her. Gone are the villains with personality to be replaced by a monotonous Hitler analogue screaming nonsense about racial purity. In fact, everyone speaks in monotone soundbites and fortune cookies – I can only guess that it was so dull on set, they decided to have a William Shatner impersonation contest.
Zack Snyder doesn’t make movies; he makes moving storyboards which are all style and no feeling whatsoever and this is no exception. The only thing I left with was a profound sense of loss for Christopher Reeve. Time to toss in the Superman I Blu-ray and forget all about it.
Pass the tequila.