Film Review: “Man of Steel” (2013)

“Superman” originated as a comic in June 1938. The thrust was to present a hero pre-war depression public could identify with, mysterious and omnipotent, fighting crime and standing up for the common man.  After 75 years, this action hero continues to be an American cultural icon; star of radio serials, television programs, films, newspaper funnies, video games and of course- “Man of Steel” (2013). Action Comics Volume 1, #1 (first Superman issue) in poor condition recently sold at auction for US$175,000. A pristine copy sold for over two million dollars in 2011.

Like the original story line, we’re given a lengthy history of how the planet Krypton came to be destroyed and the clash over good and evil involved in sending it’s genetic material out into space in the hope it would plant somewhere hospitable. The original story line then departs quickly and becomes more labored. The Superman character departs from the usual attributes of strength, flight and x-ray vision to encompass the more dubious elements of vulnerability and a political conscious.

After the child lands on earth and is nurtured by Kevin Costner, the film collapses in more blinding special effects than when God created the universe. Any semblance of plot vanishes as the protagonists destroy most of Metropolis by slinging each other into buildings, with incredulous bystanders gawking as they did when Godzilla wiped out Tokyo. This goes on nonstop for over 45 minutes, culminated by the ultimate hero finishing the deed after all that destruction by a quiet snap. The point of all that trashing?

After seeing this monstrosity and reading audience reviews, it’s clear why there is nothing on network television anymore but empty headed “reality” shows and dimwit sisters talking dirty on camera to preserve their “brand”. Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan are giving the pubic exactly what they want. A thin plot for about an hour punctuated by another hour and a half of overwrought CGI pyrotechnics. Simplistic one-dimensional characters caught in a barrage of exploding buildings, aircraft, spacecraft, and hapless citizens running through the streets like wet rats. It’s the film allegory equivalent of “American Idol” and “The Voice”. For whatever reason, this is what the public wants and they’re out seeing it in droves.

Best quip:  Lois Lane shortly after kissing Superman: “You must remember that culturally, it’s all downhill after the first kiss”.

Best brief cameo role:  Richard Schiff (Toby on the West Wing).

Best feature: The first hour is entertaining.

Worst feature:  At two and a half hours it’s TOO LONG, and the last hour and a half is nothing but CGI pyrotechnics that get BOOOOORING after the first ten minutes.

This film is as embarrassing to first-rate filmmaking as disco was to blue chip music. Be prepared for gait and balance abnormalities on leaving the theater. Maybe seizures.

I give it 3 of 5 “Hope” chests, and that’s a gift for Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner.

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