Superman returns to theaters tomorrow. But this time it appears the man of steel got some life coaching from Iyanla Vanzant. Mr. Kent is contemplative, stoic and Henry Cavill’s voice is nearly in the same lower register as Christian Bale’s Batman. Clark Kent is grappling with what life truly means … he somberly wanders the Midwest, pondering the struggles of being an incredibly handsome alien with perfect hair, steel pecs and a natural six pack — plus, he’s a single man in his early thirties whose impressive gifts remain on the down low. Not to mention childhood memories of being bullied, daddy issues and trying to save Earth from his native people. This is some heavy weight on the hero’s shoulders and audiences should prep themselves to soak up two hours and twenty-three minutes of a reflective Clark Kent/Kal-El (the title of Superman is only used a handful of times).
Directed by Zack Snyder, Man of Steel’s kryptonite is following The Dark Knight formula. The reboot of Mr. Kent is produced by Christopher Nolan and written by David S. Goyer — who were also behind The Dark Knight. Batman was reinvented with a darker storyline, making the flick less comic book and more of a thriller. However, at the heart of Bruce Wayne, there is a bit of a horror element, especially for a story set in cryptic Gotham City. But Clark Kent/Superman/Kal-El is an All-American hero who doesn’t have a similar dark side similar to the Caped Crusader. Superman is the granddaddy of all superheros and storyline we already know. Therefore, Snyder, Nolan and Goyer’s epic rehashing of every molecule of Kryoton’s last son was exhausting. The film tumbles and crumbles with 90 minutes or so of tiresome back-story and, eventually, typical summer movie CGI’d action scenes.
Like most films based on comics, can the action save the day? While visually stunning, how many times can we see New York City suffer the blows of good and evil? Buildings fall, New Yorkers run for their lives, the battle travels from Lower Manhattan to Times Square to Grand Central and you can always predict who will be victorious. Loud, huge and explosive, even the action was anti-climactic.
Appropriately cast, Man of Steel actually works when Superman isn’t on screen — the supporting characters stayed true to their roots versus the star. Lois Lane is still the nosy reporter, played enjoyably by Amy Adams — plus, her boss at the Daily Planet is the great Laurence Fishburne. The villains are ferociously entertaining. Clark’s adoptive mother (Diane Lane) and father (Kevin Costner) are fitting, but the clinically depressed Superman fails to engage, which is no fault of Henry Cavill. He clearly delivered what Snyder and the creators of Man of Steel wanted.
On another note, Superman is not the patriotic hero in the 1978 version by Richard Donner, which some might find disappointing. But I was less concerned about patriotism and more focused on a solid film. Even without comparing Man of Steel to the original, the film struggles, never finding the balance of action and the “deep” storyline.
Man of Steel is not a terrible film. With editing, less exposition and a bit more fun, the film could’ve been a critical and box office success. Nonetheless, even with all of the obvious flaws this does not mean Man of Steel will not break box office records faster than a speeding bullet — sorry, I couldn’t resist! The fan base is there, even if the story isn’t.
Man of Steel is in theaters tomorrow.