Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review: Man of Steel

Note: Upon seeing the first publicity photos for this movie, a close friend and I noticed that A, Superman’s costume had a giant crotch and B, all the details on the suit pointed straight to his crotch. My friend, being a mature adult, therefore dubbed him Supercrotch and I, also being a paragon of maturity, agreed. So, I will be referring to the lead character as Supercrotch. I also might make occasional references to his crotch at other points in the review. I apologize in advance.

Superman is one of the hardest characters to get right in film. Part of the problem is simply that he is, without question, the single most iconic superhero in the history of the genre, a cultural icon on the level of Mickey Mouse. What’s more, the character has been famously adapted before, by legendary director Richard Donner, into a film that not only defines Superman in film, but also in comics and TV shows to a big way. Being too married to that version of Superman is what killed Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, trying to be too tied to a legacy it could never live up to. Man of Steel on the other hand seems to be intentionally going the other way, trying to be nothing like the Donner films in style and aesthetic. So how did it turn out?

Well, for the last half hour, it’s pretty damned awesome. The big final Supercrotch vs. Zod punch up is amazingly well put together, as are the huge fights between Supercrotch and the other members of Zod’s crew. They can, and will, go down as some of the best fights in Superhero film history. Superman vs. Zod in Superman II. Wolverine’s Rampage in the School in X2. The Catching People Chain in Iron Man 3. The ENTIRE Third Act of The Avengers. Man of Crotch’s third act will sit alongside them, and rightly so. And if the rest of the movie was that good, we’d have a modern classic. Hell, if the rest of the movie was half that good, I’d be giving this movie a positive review. Unfortunately the rest of the movie is basically a complete disaster.

The plot? I’m not going to recount the plot. It’s a Superman origin story, we all know the plot, so I’m just gonna skip straight into the issues, the biggest one being the structure and pacing. The issue is that the movie knows full well that we all know the origin story, so rather than front loading it with Clark Kent is a kid, it skips straight to when Supercrotch is an adult and on walkabout, doing good deeds. Okay, that’s a good idea in theory, but rather than stick with it, they constantly flash back to when Clark was a kid growing up and it shoots the pacing and structure straight to hell.

There are, in fact, a lot of attempts to set itself apart from the Richard Donner classics in the movie that both benefit and hurt the movie as a whole. The design on Krypton is a big one, as it seems to be working as hard as it can to look like anything other than the Crystal Infused Krypton of Superman, and the end result is rather interesting, even if it does look like a mashup of The Matrix, Avatar and an H.R. Geiger sketchbook. It also has a radically new backstory for Krypton and why it fell, which are unique and make Zod, and his goals, much more interesting than they might be otherwise.

On the other hand, the new look of Supercrotch’s outfit is just incredibly weird looking, but that seems to be more from having overthought it than anything to do the original movies. The design on the other Kryptonians is fine, a little one note but it looks fine.

The actors all acquit themselves nicely, but they actually play into one of the more subtle issues with the film. Henry Cavill is actually a really good Supercrotch, and Amy Adams is a good Lois Lane, but they have precisely zero chemistry and I never once feel like they’ve got a reason to fall in love, much less that they actually are. Michael Shannon is a great Zod, but he doesn’t really get much screen time outside of the big third act fight and the Krypton opening. Russell Crowe as Jor-El gets more screen time than you might expect and he’s pretty good, but he’s saddled with one of the most accidentally hilarious sequences in the movie. Speaking of parents, while both Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are good as Jonathan and Martha Kent, the movie has absolutely no idea what to do with them and no clue who they are are, aside from living Norman Rockwell paintings. And while I really like Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White, he’s not really in the movie; He and all the other Daily Planet people are basically just extended cameos, that once again shoot the structure and pacing of the movie to hell.

Outside of that though, there’s not a whole ton to say on the movie’s good points. The script is on the weak side, but nothing too bad, at least nothing that takes me out of the movie. Snyder’s direction is great in the action sequences but it leans on the bad side during the non-action parts. But really, aside from the poor structure and pacing, Crotch of Steel’s biggest problem is that it’s just so dreary. It’s got a thuddingly serious tone, that never manages to have any real moments of levity or joy that might break up the seriousness. The closest is the obligatory ‘learning to fly’ scene, which is, as a result, incredibly out of synch with the rest of the movie. I don’t mind dark movies (still love No Country for Old Men), but here the lack of levity manifests itself as a lack of any real characterization and a dreary color pallet.

Ugh. This is the kind of negative review I hate having to give. Crotch of Crotch is a failure, and I can’t recommend you see it, but it comes so close to working that I kind of wish I liked it more. It’s got a killer final action sequences, but it is a goddamned LONG and often tedious movie to get there. So, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. See ya next time.

Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he really thinks Superman sucks at the secret identity thing in this movie. Just flat out sucks at it.

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