Movie Review : Man of Steel (2013)
The activity of finding the official poster for MAN OF STEEL eerily exemplifies how I felt about the movie. First of all, there seems to be no official poster and among the litany of options offered to you, nothing feels particularly satisfying. This could resume the entirety of my relationship to Zack Snyder's cinema as well, which ranges from disappointment to absolute outrage. His movies (the successful ones, anyway) follow a deceptively simple pattern: select an already revered intellectual property (or a revered author), sugar-coat it in tons of needless Hollywood flare and baditude and take cover behind the fact it's not YOUR intellectual property when needed. In that regards, MAN OF STEEL isn't Zack Snyder's worst movie, but it is still very much a Zack Snyder movie. It's not going to mend fences between us.
MAN OF STEEL is the complete origin story as to how Clark Kent became Superman. Taken from the destruction of Krypton to the showdown with General Zod. I was the first surprised to notice how much the story arc made sense. It's the only well-defined thing about MAN OF STEEL and it dealt with my biggest worry about the film: how to make a convincing origin story about the somewhat archetype Superman is. But David S. Goyer's screenplay does as much, it convinced me that such an idealized being could be a construction. Unfortunately, it's the only thing it does well. For a movie that strikes just under the 150 minutes mark, it is pretty self-explanatory how thin it is.
David S. Goyer is part of the Dark Knight franchise's writing team and it shows in the epic ambitions of MAN OF STEEL. It's a movie that aims to emulate the success of its predecessor. It has several similar variables: a city under siege, exotic destructive technologies, high-profile chaos, a villain so theatrical, he could've been written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, etc. Except it doesn't work very well in MAN OF STEEL and Zack Snyder is very much to blame for that. The action scenes are minimally scripted and unlike for Christopher Nolan's movies, rely on CGI and shoddy filmmaking techniques almost exclusively. Those action scenes are long, winded sequences of one-dimensional destruction. That's Zack for you. If you order one cheeseburger, he's going to give you a triple cheese with bacon, two onion rings bags, one fry, six different dips and an extra-large beverage.
Please let's not get wrapped up into the "but-it's-SO-faithful-to-the-comics" bullshit argument. If anything, MAN OF STEEL highlights how stupid that debate is. Filmmaking is an idiosyncratic art and you need to adjust whatever you need to adjust to make it good. For example, I'm aware that in the original comics, the U.S army keeps firing at Zod or Lex Luthor, never really getting that it's useless. MAN OF STEEL has this detail, but included it in LONG, WINDING, USELESS scenes that would have heightened the tightness of the film if they would have been cut. I have in mind this scene between Colonel Hardy and Faora-Ul where he doesn't really seems to grasp the concept of invulnerability. If your bullets don't affect the chick, your knife is not going to cut through her armor either. So many useless considerations came into life, within a scene that shouldn't even have existed. Whenever you adapt something, comics, video games or whatever else, the keyword is ADAPT, hence you have to let go of useless things.
Long-time readers will know I have extreme difficulty to withstand artistic material that insult my intelligence. Zack Snyder mastered the art of triggering my wrath, in that regards. I did not leave MAN OF STEEL as angry as I left 300, but what the fuck, man? What's with the Christian subtext? Were you seriously convinced it was implemented in clever fashion? You would've painted it on a skyscraper, it wouldn't have been more obnoxious. I mean, seriously? What's up with that floating Superman Jesus in space? If you guys are interested in how Christian subtext can be integrated subtly and seamlessly to fiction, watch a little, humble show called RECTIFY. I'm aware there are parallels between the figure of Superman and Jesus and I do not care whether or not they are in the comics. It's OK to leave subtext out, sometimes. Especially when you have no clue how to integrate it.
MAN OF STEEL wasn't all bad, but it was a 80-20 type of deal. I thought Henry Cavill was a convincing Kal-El. The necessary background information was well-explained (namely, the important of the sun, for Superman), but it was drowned out in self-satisfied, sloppy filmmaking. Once again, Zack Snyder has decided to hide behind a vocal, emotional fan base that doesn't feel betrayed because the details are there. Let it serve as a prime example. All the details can be there, it could be the closest adaptation, but it can still be a bad movie. I'm going to catch a lot of flack for this, but I don't mind to a certain extent. Zack Snyder is an impostor. I'm sorry if you liked it, if it's your new favorite movie, the last thing I want is to call you dumb. But don't let Snyder's respect for original material fool you. He's a hack with a lot of money and he doesn't have any respect for you.