Tuesday 2 July 2013

Man Of Steel

It’s perhaps fitting that a movie about a man made of steel should also feature a leaden script, tinny direction and mechanical acting. But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

Sad to report, Man of Steel (2013) follows the template of many recent hero movies: fairly bright opening section, dull second act weighed down by exposition and wind-baggery, then a seemingly endless parade of CGI bollocks for the climactic battle.

It’s a pity, because things do start well. The opening sequence on Krypton looks fabulous. Russell Crowe, playing Superman’s Dad, shows why – despite his appalling, mobile-flinging habits – they keep on writing the cheques. Wisely eschewing the freaky ‘Yorksh-Irish’ accent he attempted for Robin Hood, he successfully adopts a vintage, plummy English and brings a certain gravitas to the role.

Once we reach Earth, there are some cute scenes as young Clark’s powers (X-ray vision, laser eyes) make themselves suddenly apparent at school. But predictably, since we all now live in a post-Twilight world, tweenie Kent sees having superpowers through a prism of adolescent angst and largely sulks like Kristen Stewart with a heavy period.

When Henry Cavill is finally established as the main man, it’s like director Zack Snyder has hung out a banner saying: all characterisation ends here. Our hero is a big, blank wall. And things take a further dip when Lois Lane (Amy Adams) hits the scene.

As any fule kno, the playful chemistry between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder pretty much made the original two Superman movies, but here there’s just a vacuum. Every 15 minutes or so, the odd couple are implausibly plonked next to each other so they can go a bit puppy-eyed, but there’s no context, no sense of spark, in fact no actual time for them to make any connection. No sooner do they start mumbling than BOOM…here comes another setpiece!

Their inevitable locking of lips at the end is the least successful cinematic kiss since Andie MacDowell – the Helen Keller of modern acting – had her rain-soaked smooch with Hugh Grant at the end of Four Weddings and a Funeral. (“Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed.” she chirruped. Well, you wouldn’t. You’re basically made of wood.)

Kevin Costner: Man Of Stolid
Director Zack Snyder throws a few big names into the mix in a vain attempt to add substance. Kevin Costner (look under ‘stolid’ in the dictionary and you’ll see him) puts in a stolid performance as Pa Kent. Big Lol Fishburne gamely cameos as the Daily Planet editor, both acting up and breathing in. But neither of them make much of an impression.

Michael Shannon (playing General Zod) has little to do but scowl and spit like a panto dame. And given he’s usually picking up a truck or punching through a building when he speaks, for a good 50 per cent of the time that’s not actually him you’re looking at. Only Snyder would hire one of America’s finest character actors then use a crap CGI version for half his lines.

In fact, Snyder’s boundless fascination with CGI is a big part of why this movie stinks so badly. It was fine for stuff like 300 and Sucker Punch, which were essentially computer games that somehow found their way into a cinema.

But now that he’s finally got the huge budget, the real actors, the opportunity to make a truly memorable film, what does he do? Piss CGI all over everything. He’s like the ugly single bloke who, finally finding a girlfriend, still keeps running home to dry-hump his trusty blow-up doll. It’s all he knows.

And talking of solitary pleasures that we’re all a little ashamed of, there is at least the helicopter scene to enjoy. Superman is in a small, desert town fighting Zod’s hench-baddies – the woman and the big thug. Big thug throws a truck that bashes the back rotors off a chopper, but Super Henry catches the falling pilot as it explodes. Then a second chopper gets hit. Things look potentially explosive for a moment! But, no. This one is carrying a senior army guy who has quite a few lines, so it naturally hits the floor with a soft bump with just a few rotor blades snapping off.

Artistic merit

Precious little. The whole scene is heavy with Snyder’s usual rat-a-tat editing style, and blurred images flash before the viewer at fit-inducing speed. This is clearly meant to convey a sense of frenzied excitement but, as always with such scenes, it’s merely trying to disguise the fact that most CGI still isn’t very convincing.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Having an artfully thrown truck ripping the arse-end off a chopper isn’t a bad idea, but the second crash is just dull. Perhaps it’s time to call a moratorium on the whole damaged-helicopter-teetering-slowly-to-the-ground-and-remaining-intact device (which only ever happens when named characters are on board). It’s getting sorely overplayed now.


Amy Adams: arriving again for no good reason
One of the chief joys of any Snyder movie is always the unintentional laugh. In Man of Steel, it chiefly comes from the growing improbability of Superman’s encounters with Lois. Having constructed a movie that is basically a series of huge action set pieces (no Superman Returns-style navel-gazing here), there are few natural-looking ways for Superman to bump into his lady. But hey, who needs natural?

Snyder simply plonks Lois bang in the middle of successive scenes with an admirable disregard for continuity or verisimilitude. (For example, when Supes finds the Fortress of Solitude, who do you think also happens to have popped by?)

Still, the best is saved till last. After the climactic Superman-Zod slamdown, which totals most of an entire city (we’re talking collapsing skyscrapers and square miles of battle-blasted wasteland here) she just pops up out of nowhere in time for a snog. How? From where? A strong suspicion has to be that Snyder had reasoned (correctly) that, by this point, no-one would much care.


Hollywood rule #1: Cute dogs don't die
Kevin Costner’s death scene is so hackneyed and abysmal, it prompted a horrible sound in the auditorium as three hundred people spontaneously heaved and then had to swallow a little bit of sick. A huge twister is approaching, so the Kent family leave their car and race for cover under a bridge. But oh, no – they’ve forgotten the dog!

Despite the fact that Clark – even without his powers – is much younger and faster, Big Kev insists on lumbering back over to successfully free the dog (Hollywood Rule Number One: Cute dogs don’t die). But then, d’oh! He gets his foot stuck in the car, in a manner that only ever occurs in movies when danger is approaching. (Seriously, how does one get a foot ‘trapped’ in a space that can comfortably accommodate three people?)

What a dilemma! Clark can save Pops, but only by revealing his powers. As Clark ‘emotes’ helplessly, Dad looks at him with what can only be called a stolid earnestness and somberly shakes his head. Then is consumed by the raging twister.

Don’t you see? Dad had to die to preserve Clark’s secret. Or perhaps Clark could have just jogged over to the car much earlier and freed the dog without wrapping his leg up in a seat belt, while there was still plenty of time. What utter cock.

Interesting fact

Yards of press coverage has focussed on Henry Cavill’s punishing exercise regime for the role, but poor Henry here shows the thin line between incredibly buff and bodybuilder freakish. Put simply, he has actual muscle tits. In one early scene, when – wearing a scruffy beard – he bounds topless across the screen, breasts heaving, he looks like no-one more than Kenny Everett playing Cupid Stunt. Though obviously, it’s all done in the best possible taste.

Review by: Chopper


  1. THANK YOU. I'm sick of reading how much people enjoyed this and how great Zack Snyder is. This movie was a turd.

    "How does Lois get across town on foot so quickly, Zack?"
    "Oh, no one will notice that, I'll just put a lot of explosions."

    Man, this movie made me angry.

    Best line from Amy Adams "No, you have to put it all the way in."

    Thanks again, I love reading this.

  2. Hi Kev - glad you liked the review.

    Like you, our reviewer Chopper was less than impressed with this film. In fact, he said he could have written something twice the length as there was SO MUCH to put the boot into.

    Glad you're enjoying the site.