Film Review: ‘Man of Steel’ Soars Visually But Lacks Humanity

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CHICAGO – From the CGI-heavy attack on Krypton that opens Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” to its soaring finale, I had the same reaction -– where’s the “Man half? Snyder’s attempt to reboot the Superman legacy with the loving assistance of David Goyer and Christopher Nolan of “The Dark Knight” fame gets the superhero part but misses the humanity at the core of this legendary character. Other than in how Ma and Pa Kent are used thematically to emphasize Superman’s importance, we never get to know Clark Kent and Superman becomes about as human as the video game version of him in “Injustice.” It’s a technically impressive film with a lovely score from Hans Zimmer and some strong supporting performances, all sucked into the joyless machine of Goyer’s script and self-important direction of Mr. Snyder. Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

Jor-El (Russell Crowe) must not only convince his governmental superiors on Krypton that their planet is collapsing but fend off a coup by General Zod (Michael Shannon) and protect his newborn son Kal-El, while also imprinting him with the codex that could keep his race alive on an “outpost,” another planet. From the very beginning of “Man of Steel,” Snyder and his team are showing off their technical prowess. Look at those nifty communication devices in which you can see people’s faces like those old pin impression toys! Look at that landscape! Look at those creatures! Look at those winged beasts! Wait, what’s happening? Eh, who cares? There’s a numbing effect to the overload of CGI right from the beginning of “Man of Steel” that only rarely lets up, certainly not so during the final hour and its emphasis on Crash! Boom! Pow!

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Man of Steel” in our reviews section.

From these opening scenes of CGI overload, the film should calm down and introduce us to Ma (Diane Lane) and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner), while setting up Kal-El/Clark (played as an adult by Henry Cavill) as a normal boy with extraordinary powers. It would be nice to meet a few of the other people in Superman’s world as well, like the lovely Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and her fellow employees at the Daily Planet (including Laurence Fishburne). Nope. Snyder and Goyer follow the over-long prologue with another action scene in which an adult Clark, apparently on walkabout like Bruce Banner, is there at just the right time to save workers from a burning oil rig. That’s followed by a flashback of a younger Clark saving his fellow students (and getting chastised for doing so by Pa, who worries about his powers being revealed). The narrative structure infuriated me. It’s a “highlights” piece more than a film.

And it’s a feeling that doesn’t really go away completely although the film does settle down a bit with the introduction of Lois and the return of Zod. I won’t spoil how the latter happens but I will say that the former is another screenwriting misstep. There is zero attempt at building chemistry between Lois and Clark/Superman. She’s practically a co-superhero, knowing Superman’s importance right from the beginning and even encountering Jor-El in a way that had my eyes rolling. This is not “Lois the love interest” or “Lois the damsel-in-distress” or even “Lois the role model”. It’s “Lois the plot device” and it’s a testament to Adams’s likability that she does even this much with so little.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “Man of Steel” review.

“Man of Steel” stars Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, and Kevin Costner. It was written by David Goyer and directed by Zack Snyder. It opens on June 14, 2013.

Man of Steel
Man of Steel
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

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