Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Movie Review: Zack Snyder's Man of Steel

Man of Steel is less a coherent movie than a collection of scenes thrown together.

The alterations made to make Lois Lane central to the origin story are all great, great changes for a modern Superman story to make. Much as I love the "lois lane is the best reporter but can't figure out Clark is Superman" dynamic (especially when Dana Delaney is involved), its high time for a Lois Lane that gives Superman the hope HE needs in humanity.

But oof. Lord do i ever hate non-linear interlocking "here's a flashback, there's a flashback, now we're over HERE!" bullshit story pacing. It KILLS the first act, even when the actors are doing their level best to deliver. We're never allowed to follow Clark's emotional journey - which is the one central reason why Batman Begins is the most successful and definitive superhero film of the past twenty years. That film told us within the first thirty minutes "This is Bruce Wayne, this is how he has changed." More importantly, it also showed us Gotham City, showing us the city that Wayne dedicates his life to protect.

By contrast, Man of Steel wrecks the absolute holy hell out of Metropolis, but it doesn't land because we've never even seen a skyline shot of the city beforehand. I suppose if you've been reading Superman comics for decades you'll feel some pangs of emotion from that implied history. Even there though, I'm not even sure what version of humanity Clark is meant to protect. For all I know Wonder Woman and Green Lantern are already active in this world, its just an off day. There's no context, no sense of how Superman is this game changer.

There's also no joy in a largely gray and monochromatic world. Clark smiles a restrained smile when he first flies, but that's about it. My absolute favorite Superman moment is from the animated series. Clark, having just been told his kryptonian origins, understanably freaks the fuck out. He runs past his parents, past the farm, past highways. he runs and runs and runs until suddenly he's soaring over a cliff side - and his frustration give way to pure catharsis. He screams in excitement because DUDE, he's freaking flying.

Far better writers than I have ripped the film's final act to shreds. Yes, the film crosses the line from evoking 9/11 to crassly exploiting those indelible images. Yes, Superman violates a central tenet of his character - causing both my parents to ask "Since when does Superman do that?" But it is a good setup for a franchise, much to my chagrin.

I just don't really know if its a franchise I want to keep watching.

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