Tuesday, November 19, 2013

BuboBlog Reviews 'Man of Steel'

We finally saw "Man of Steel" over the weekend. I was hoping to catch this one in the theaters, though I had my misgivings about it from the start. The movie has the distinction of being based on a Christopher Nolan story, but it was directed by Zack Snyder (the man who fumbled the "Watchmen" adaptation).

The film was meant to be a reboot of the Superman franchise. And yet the previous installment, "Superman Returns" (2006), actually had a much higher Rotten Tomatoes rating. It seems odd to "reboot" an OK/decent movie with a bad one, but I'll never understand how Hollywood works.

After seeing the trailer of this film, my main worry was they hadn't created a super-hero movie — they had created an alien-invasion movie. Turns out, everything I was concerned about was worse than I imagined.

In "Man of Steel," Superman doesn't get a chance to become Superman. Instead, General Zod and the few remaining Krypton survivors show up immediately and threaten to destroy the Earth. They demand to have Kal-El surrendered to them. At that point no one on Earth even knows who Superman (or Kal-El) is, so there are no concerns about giving him up. How is that the right vibe for a Superman movie?

The whole experience feels disjointed — almost as if a film student were asked to reimagine Superman, but with a $225 million budget — and the movie never finds its footing.

I like how young Clark Kent is presented as a kid with autism trying to cope with his powers (he senses everything at once and struggles to deal with it). But "Man of Steel" merely touches on interesting topics, rather than exploring them.

I suppose in this mythology, the idea is to get the whole Superman-is-an-alien storyline out of the way in the first movie. That way, the sequels can be free to depict him as an all-American boy without distraction. (I assume Lex Luthor shows up at some point.)

Clark only gets his job at the Daily Planet at the end of the movie. (In this universe, a newspaper stringer is still afforded a desk.) But that's no way to introduce Superman. The fact that he's an alien is merely an explanation of his powers — it's not who he is. A proper origin story should focus on his connection to Earth, not Krypton.

Spoiler alert: Superman also kills someone in this film, and that is not okay. A review in Entertainment Weekly does a pretty good job explaining why that's a no-no.

So ultimately, the film fails. Not because it tried to hew too close to the Hollywood formula, but because it took chances that didn't pan out. I admire the effort, but can't admire the result.

BuboBlog Rating: 2 asterisks (out of 4).