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Thursday, 20 June 2013


I asked the question recently about Byzantium, about whether the world needed another vampire film. The same question can be asked about Man of Steel. Does the world need a new Superman movie?

The answer, of course, is "no".

If your summer blockbuster doesn't try something new, or give a novel slant on a familiar theme, then it is simply a piece of merchandise, a product, like the Coca Cola or popcorn you consume while watching it. And that is, fundamentally, what Man of Steel is.

It is like the director took a slice from every sci-fi film of the last twenty years and squashed them all together. There are the flying beasts from Avatar, the inside of the ship from Prometheus, the space ship looming over the city from Independence Day, the Thing's massive leaps from Avengers Assemble, and the explosions and effects from Thor and Iron Man and literally every action film of recent times.

And then of course there is the story. They didn't even make the effort to think up a new bad guy for Superman, instead the writers recycled the plot of the second Christopher Reeve Superman movie, where General Zod and his henchmen come to Earth in search of their enemy's son, Kal-El.

What the film is trying to do is to portray Clark Kent as an outsider, basically as a misunderstood X-Men character. He grows up a freak, and is isolated as a child because of his super powers. As an adult Clark gets lost in the wilderness, a la Wolverine, as he can't deal with his difference from normal humans.

Finally, he finds a ship sent from his home planet which contains a message from his father (played very po-faced by Russell Crowe), and discovers who he is, the last of his race from the now destroyed planet Krypton.

Of course he is 33 years old when he discovers his destiny and finds out who his real father is. The Jesus Christ parallels are not subtle in the movie, the message from his parents - both on Krypton and on Earth - is that Clark (or Kal-El, his Krypton name) has a special destiny as an inspiration for mankind, as an example of how to be good. Superman as Messiah.

Yet all of this is done with a script that feels like it was written by a computer. The characters are constantly having conversations that you have heard a million times before, and saying lines that can be accurately predicted well before they utter them. The movie is filled with cornball platitudes and weak exposition - "you have to trust me, I'm a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist", Lois Lane says to her editor at one stage.

And the theme of the film, such as it is, is trite and unexplored, the message fatuous and flimsy. People have the potential for good, and it is up to Superman to bring this out in them. Yet the movie spends little time with this idea, and ends up becoming a tedious orgy of special effects, explosions, CGI, as Superman battles his Krypton nemeses.

And the thing about these bad guys is that they are boring. They are simply psychopaths, willing to commit genocide at the drop of a hat without any real strong motivation behind them. There is no complexity to them, no explanation for the lack of morality that they glory in.

This is true about the film as a whole. There is no real attempt at intelligence or complexity. It is a story we have seen before, filled with images and plot points and characters and set pieces that have been done a million times in other movies. 

The last hour is basically fight scene after fight scene, destruction on a massive scale that becomes like a cartoon. The most common image of this part of the film is of a bunch of random puny humans looking up with wonder and terror (and possibly boredom) at the battling aliens above. The extras in this movie must have had serious cricks in the neck after shooting ended. 

It is lazy and derivative and was obviously written to a formula. Blockbuster by numbers. It is not even any fun, as it takes its ridiculous self very seriously. It is indicative of the weakness of the whole enterprise when the best thing about the movie is that it is Toby from the West Wing - in this film the nerdy scientist - who saves humanity in the end. Superman? More like Super-meh.


  1. *Applauds* Yes, yes and yes again. I agree a lot and wholeheartedly.
    Where were the laughs? Where was the witty repartee? Where was Jimmy Olsen? Where do they think they are going with all of this tedious seriousness?
    I got bored of the action after the fight in Smallville. I got bored of the script long before that and I got bored of the finale an hour after it began. They finale'd this poor film to death and then added a shock ending to make you think it was all worth it. It really wasn't.
    And the plot-holes...dear God the plot-holes. The explanation for why Kryptonians stopped colonising space and destroyed their own planet made no sense at all and only served to make Jor-El (Crow) look kind of stupid. However, the animation used to describe the history of Krypton was pretty cool. That was the best thing about a really poor movie.
    I was just glad I managed to survive the beating with the Jesus-Club and make it out of the cinema alive...

    1. "..beating with the Jesus-Club" Lol.
      They laid the messiah thing on very thick alright, but even that got washed away in the last hour, buried under a mound of mindless smashes and crashes and carnage. It could really have done with some humour too.

  2. Replies
    1. That's just the thing, there was no joy in this film to kill. The movie was the killjoy! :-)


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