Man of Steel

Man of Get Me Out of Here This is Terrible


Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams

Review written by Robert D. Patrick

Fluffy, steaming hot pancakes with a dollop of butter on top. A broken levee of maple syrup lacquers your flapjacks as your incisors ravenously saw apart a piece of juicy bacon. And if you’re in the mood to be a little mercurial, you can always stuff your frothing maw with the chicken fajita omelette, adorned with a cap of pico de gallo.

That’s what Man of Steel wants you to know, first and foremost, so after you watch the tapestry of broken glass and scorched earth that is the newest Superman reboot, you can mosey off to your nearest IHOP in order to let your molars do some masticating. Why else would Zack Snyder have one of its characters work at IHOP, another mention IHOP, and in a grappling battle of muscle contracting destruction, battle in an IHOP. There’s nothing cooler than Superman throwing gut punches in an International House of Pancakes.

But no fear, to even the playing field, battle sequences rattle and bark next to a Sears (the sign is shown multiple times, for viewers that wanted to reacquaint themselves with the store’s moniker while simultaneously marveling at the franchise’s choice of font). Marketing has always been part of big budget action films, but here, in Zack Snyder’s bombastic world, Man of Steel is a bronco, bucking desperately, in an attempt to throw everything off of its back except for the product placement. For those of you that didn’t know, Superman also shaves with Gillette and prefers Twizzlers, according to the phantasmagoria of commercials surrounding the bicep flexing mega-picture.

The film itself is a canto about the beginnings of Superman (Henry Cavill). As for the origin story, menial parts have been retooled, save for the time period in which the affable, impenetrable superhero was brought up in. As everyone knows, our protagonist is reluctant, made virtuous by the hand of his upbringing, and clenches his fists in frustration at the misdeeds around him.

The first hour of Man of Steel is a popgun of exposition. Every character explains to every other character how Superman was sent, whirring in a spaceship honed by fire and wisdom, toward earth. And when everyone’s lungs are collapsed from the aforementioned filibuster, they somehow, through grit and determination, keep on explaining more; their tongues somehow rocket propelled and their brains fevered with a desire to beat a dead horse with a dead horse. After the screenwriter of Man of Steel, David S. Goyer, gets his fill of bending the audience’s ear into an origami box, he still finds more ways of describing the same things. If you didn’t know: Superman came from Krypton. Krypton doesn’t exist anymore. Would you like to hear about this again?

After the laborious crawl of information wheezes and dies out, we are introduced to a cavalcade of the most gloriously inept fight sequences ever put to CGI since Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Objects thread through buildings, indiscriminately tearing through walls as glass pours out into the streets. Cars are deboned of their parts and chunks of land are kicked up as the camera whips around without purpose. All of the action is carbonated and furious, but it lacks drama and patience. Man of Steel’s special effects are the most masturbatory, unbecoming, loud and unpolished of all Zack Snyder’s previous films (are you still with me?).

At one point in time the irascible General Zod, sent to stop Superman, fights the superhero through strained fields of wheat; large, malleable buildings; streets full of immobilized cars; more buildings; more cars; more buildings; more cars. If you’ve seen Family Guy, imagine Peter Griffin fighting the chicken for an hour.

As far as the casting goes, Henry Cavill looks like he stepped out of a block of marble, so he fits the part. The actor’s steely brow and undaunted expression embodies the visage of Superman, and his quiet, cool demeanor is equally passable. But the script has little for him to do. The slack-eyed, lackadaisical Russell Crowe seems to bemoan his appearance as Superman’s biological father, putting in a performance that channels a wet beach towel. Amy Adams’ personality peculates and runs through its normal grooves. The most interminable, shocking performance comes out of Michael Shannon. The dense, gruff vocalizations and marred, Picasso-like expressions of Shannon feel like schlock here, for the first time ever, in what has otherwise been a great career of character acting.

Zack Snyder’s hyperactive, knuckle-rapping, special effect inundated features have all been sometimes clunky, sometimes endearing. Here, though, he distills the worst of his abilities and serves them up to screens all over the world. Is there anything more condemning in a film than boredom and bad 3-D? Here’s to next year’s reboot.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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