Tuesday, June 18

Superman Man of Steel

(Director: Zack Snyder. Screenplay: David S Goyer. Producer: Deborah snyder, Charles Roven, Chritopher Nolan. Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Russel Crowe, Micheal Shannon, Laurance Fishburne. Warner Bros. 143 mins rated PG-13)

Superman The Man of Steel has arrived after a long build up and the results are in: too dark, too serious, too much. The film makers think their work has merit if it's brooding. They think 3D enhances a films visual appeal. They think action sequences are appealing if they hit us over the head with them endlessly. Bigger is better. They're wrong.

Over at Aint-it-cool.com the ultimate comic book film geek site, the reviewers gush "It's the Superman movie we have been dreaming of!"  Ka-ching is what the studio hears because the fan boys are satisfied. The very concept was geared toward them anyway. The studios could care less about the rest of us or the film's artistic value. It's all about the money baby.

Thought the fan boys will undoubtedly enjoy it the action was so over the top, it lost it's visceral appeal quickly. It's an action movie on steriods. We have grown so numb to their size we forget there is a cost to all the carnage. Metropolis is hit with what amounts to an atomic bomb and yet when Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Planet, it's as if nothing happened.

Surprisingly film delivers with the performances, especially Henry Cavill, who captures the right balance of power and vulnerability as Superman. Amy Adams gives a depth to Lois Lane rarely seen before. All the performances are superlative. Zack Snyder does know how to direct actors, thank God. A lot of effort went into the look and tone of the world inhabited by these characters and it shows beautifully. The suit, Smallville, even the colorless Krypton are just right. Snyder's decision to shoot with a hand held camera- an idea I usually react to with groans at the unnecessary shaking- works most of the time but the film ends up being oddly remote.

The main problem is the writing. The overly developed Krypton prologue had me glancing at my watch and wondering when Kal-el would come to earth. Once he did the story jumped right into his alienation and confusion effectively. David Goyer's writing style has strayed little from The Dark Knight series in it's gloom however and there was no subtly; the plot is painted in strokes so broad you can't miss the point and it becomes convoluted at times. Kal-el is a loner and different, yeah we get it.

The graphic novel "The Watchmen" can be blamed for much of the current superhero gravity. It's deconstruction of the hero mythology has drained even the lighthearted Superman of his charm and wit. The appeal of Superman has always been his ability to be humble while exhibiting great strength of action. His story has always been uplifting and irony free, which Man of Steel doesn't quite capture because the producers can't help thrusting a lot of angst upon us along the way.

This film almost gets it right but the next film needs to dial back the excessive action and apply a lighter touch if we are to see the real Man with the S on his chest.

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