“You are weak, Son of El”
All the superhero fans out there that quite rightly drooled and slobbered over the slick, star-studded super-fest Avengers Assemble, will be pleased to know that the DC Comics side of superhero folklore has fallen in line. It uses the same combat style, camera work and interstellar interaction that make the superhero universe so special. But fear not as Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer have stepped in to stop too much tomfoolery and have injected the Superman franchise with the dark, moody and introvert style of Batman Begins. Unfortunately, Man of Steel lacks the character development and original intrigue of Batman and is missing the cutting edge humour and dialogue of Avengers. It never really gets any momentum going and, when it does, one is almost instantly desensitised to the action as fight scenes are repeated and laboured. Objects and ships fall out of the sky so much that the population of Metropolis spend most of the movie rubbing their necks from craning up at the sky in awe and wonder. Even the main cast have a slightly despairing demeanour by the end as they too look tired from the relentless onslaught of action.
After a painfully lengthy introduction of our saviour’s origins, and a decent turn by Russell Crowe as Jor’El, we discover (as if we did not already know) that Krypton is doomed and our hero is sent to Earth by his father in order that he survives. Although banished to the phantom zone along with his comrades for an attempted coup before Krypton’s destruction, Zod vows to Kal’El’s mother that he will hunt down and destroy her son. Fortunately, due to an ill-considered tracking beacon attached to Superman’s ship, Zod is able to find him just as he begins to consider revealing himself to our green planet. What this means is that the discovery of Superman’s true abilities are muted by the almost simultaneous arrival of Zod and his cronies. This would be passable if there were some original avenues to display Superman’s talent but unfortunately our hero seems to run out of ideas quicker than our director. Even despite Superman Returns’ flaws, at least it attempted new ways of portraying super powers, or at least his ways of using them. His rescue of a passenger plane and his technique of hovering above the planet to listen into radio waves come to mind. It is just not as shocking to see a man fly when nearly everyone has that ability in the most recent superhero movies. Therefore, it takes either a smashing story of the ilk of Iron-man, or the clever use of characters in Batman and Avengers. Man of Steel has neither.
On the plus side the cast is well chosen and Henry Cavill will, I am sure, be superb in any possible Justice League appearances when somebody with a more accomplished superhero ideal comes to the reigns. There are also some very cool weapons and terraforming techniques adopted by Zod towards the end that make full use of the latest sound effects and CGI. But Man of Steel lacks rhythm, suspense, characters and more importantly the right attitude to make these films work. It is not a case of back to the drawing board. It is more a case of Superman looking the next bad guy he encounters in the eye and requesting that they stop all this nonsense fighting and talk it over.
Shapstik verdict: A moderately admirable attempt at reinventing the most iconic of heroes. But Man of Steel lacks the intensity and pace of its contemporaries and ends up a mix of action and sentiment, becoming not the first superhero movie to be genre confused. 5/10