Man of Steel

"Man of Steel", a puerile attempt at revamping the long gestating franchise with Zack Snyder, purveyor of all things juvenile, at the helm.

It’s a pity that Bryan Singer’s 2006 revisionist SUPERMAN RETURNS never became the blockbuster many expected it (and thought it deserved) to be. What we get as a result of this, just a little over half a decade later, is MAN OF STEEL, a puerile attempt at revamping the long gestating franchise with the blessings of Christopher Nolan as producer and Zack Snyder, purveyor of all things juvenile, at the helm.

Snyder and company offer a detailed back-story during the films intergalactic, space set opening which features Russell Crowe as Jor-El and goofy haired Michael Shannon as General Zod (never intimidating, only pissed off), who leads an unsuccessful coup resulting in his banishment to the neutral zone. Soon after, planet Krypton implodes from years of strain on its core, but not before baby Kal-El, the first naturally born Kryptonian, is sent off in a spaceship toward planet Earth. You’d think this would lead to the familiar crash landing at Kansas and a meeting with the Kent’s, but the film jumps to the present where an adult Kal, now going by the name Clark, works odd jobs as a hobo who saves people in distressing situations (flaming oil rigs, bar brawls and other such Earthly calamities) before moving on to the next town, choosing to live life as a perpetual drifter.

The film yo-yo’s during these initial moments between the present and the past where through awkwardly inserted flashbacks we meet Ma and Pa Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner), learn of Clarks difficulties in dealing with his superhuman abilities and his distress at discovering he is an alien. That last point is a key differentiator in this films approach from others before it and thereafter, sets the tone for the rest of the storyline, essentially an alien-invasion, disaster-action film that just happens to guest star Superman. Once Zod has made his way to Earth, following a distress beacon set off by an ancient spacecraft from Krypton that Clark discovers in a frozen, desolate landscape, the American military prepare for an assault on the incoming space invaders, but strike a bargain of peace with the General in exchange for Clark (who is never really referred to as Superman). Of course, not all is at it seems and Zod has world domination, the destruction of Earth and ensuring the continuity of his civilization on his mind, so our planet is attacked anyway.

Snyder shows restraint through most of the film (no ultra slo mo here), but turns the climactic action into an extreme gamers wet dream with point of view fist fights and superspeed collisions between mighty beings, the impact of which sends buildings toppling and roads tearing. None of this has any visual splendor because it’s done tastelessly (and repeatedly), at the expense of any clarity in what we see, impersonating the worst bits of Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS trash. Even during its long stretches of drama (surprising, since it’s a Snyder film) it feels emotionally inert, and except for Costner, no one is really able to convey the depth or gravity of the situation they find themselves in. As the first non-American in the lead role, Henry Cavill brings muted charm and dons the suit well, yet is otherwise bland and therefore easily forgettable.

MAN OF STEEL just seems to work too hard in all the wrong areas. It looks carelessly inorganic, the desaturated grey’s and blues a reminder that this is the product of digital artists and not perceptive filmmakers. Where earlier films were joyous to watch and awed us because we were witnessing a seemingly Godlike being, STEEL has other things on its mind – space assaults, personal vendetta’s, realism. Whatever worked in Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT Universe, clearly the template and inspiration, doesn’t fly here because nothing about the character of Superman has ever been grounded in reality or even necessarily science fiction. By pursuing the wrong traits of the Superman lore, the film eschews the dorky reporter, the secret identity, the clumsy romance and becomes unrecognizable—almost alien.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and