“It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!” is never uttered in the new Superman reboot called Man of Steel. And that’s not all that different this time around. Zack Snyder took great pains to create a different movie than what we have been to used to seeing after the 2006 Superman Returns snooze-fest. Taking a cue from the Dark Knight series and getting a little help from Christopher Nolan himself, Snyder created not necessarily a darker story, but a much more serious one.
Many changes abound as well. Lois Lane is redhead, Perry White is black and Jimmy Olsen is a girl. In fact, the Daily Planet and the city of Metropolis take a back seat in the storyline. Lois Lane figures out who Clark Kent really is right off the bat. There is no Lex Luther. The “man of steel” is only referred to as “Superman” once, he no longer wears red shorts and there is not a single phone booth. But the biggest change of all is that this piece is just so serious. Somewhere down the line, someone forgot to tell Snyder that comic book movies are supposed to be fun. Gone are the simpler storylines of catching a bank robber. Superman is such a Debbie Downer, that there is no way that the Avengers are ever going to invite him over for poker any time soon. At one point, Lois points to Clark’s chest and asks, “What’s the S stand for?”
He responds: “It’s not an S. On my world it means hope.”
She counters with: “Well, here, it’s an S.”
That pretty much sums up the humor. Man of Steel is similar to eating vegetables. It’s good, but you’d rather be eating something a little sweeter.
Man of Steel is also full of lots and lots of exposition. The first half hour of the film takes place before Clark Kent, then known as Kal-El, is even born. We learn more than we’d ever want to know about the former Krypton narrated by Kal-El’s father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe). Jor-El has words with General Zod (Michael Shannon) about the state of the planet and banishes him into space. It’s too late though. The planet blows up anyway and Ironically, Zod and his pals survive.
Later, Jor-El appears to Clark (in a hologram or something) to explain his son’s destiny with another long story and a new wardrobe. Then later when Zod finds Clark, he too has a long story to tell. Enough already. For an action flick, it takes a long time to get to the action and when we do, it’s mostly of blurs and explosions.
Fortunately, themovie does get Superman right. Henry Cavill does a fine job of portraying the world’s new savior. Like Jesus, he surrenders himself to the authorities at age 33 destined to live out the life his father has planned for him. Raised as a human, Clark learns how to control his anger and becomes a beacon for goodness often sacrificing himself for the better of others. His earthly parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) hide the superbaby’s spaceship from Clark and raise him as their own.
As he ages, he struggles with super hearing and x-ray vision. Unlike many young boys fantasy of being able to see through women’s clothing, Clark can see through people’s bones, which is a lot more frightening.
It can be debated if Amy Adams was miscast in the role of Lois Lane or if the writing is to blame. Adams can usually do anything. In the past, she has been seen as a princess, a cook, a boxer’s wife and a nun. She has co-starred with Muppets for crying out loud, but she is no Lois Lane. There are virtually no sparks between her and the superbeing, and yet, we’re supposed to believe that there is.
Overall, Man of Steel is overly long presenting a story that looks good, but no one asked for. There is a glimmer of hope though as the ending shows promise of what a sequel could be and what this film should have been.
Main Image: Warner Bros.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.