Man of Steel

Man-of-Steel-2013I have seen the future, and it is dingy. The latest incarnation of Superman offers a very dark take on the DC Comics Hero. Maybe someone should have told director, Zach Snyder (“300″) that Superman should be full of light… and truth… and justice… and you know the rest.

Isn’t Batman supposed to be the Gothic, brooding superhero?

I’ve had a thing for Superman since I was a little kid. My dad gave me a quarter to buy a comic book, and instead of getting a Little Lulu like my girlfriends, I bought my first Superman comic. That was it for me. I’ve loved the superhero and his mild-mannered counterpart throughout the intervening years.

We all know the story… boy comes to earth… learns he has extraordinary powers. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind… yada… yada…yada…

Superman has been done, and done well, from the delightfully corny 50’s TV show, to the earnest and winning movie “Superman” – starring the late Christopher Reeve – the 90’s series “Lois and Clark”, and even the fairly recent TV series “Smallville.” So what’s wrong with “Man of Steel”?

Unfortunately, more than is right.

Remember those Pin Point Impression thingies that were on every executive desk in the 90s? You pushed your hand or face into them and ended up with a metal impression of your face, or your hand or… whatever.  The fad wore out and they were discarded, but evidently they banded together and formed into the planet Krypton. Along with the metal filings and globs of mercury you stuck magnets into when you were a kid. (It was before we knew playing with mercury was a bad idea.) Yep, Krypton looks like metal impression pins and liquid mercury. Is it any wonder the planet was destroyed?

Instead of the usual brief prelude of Krypton imploding and Kal-el (i.e. Superman’s Dad, Academy Award® winner, Russell Crowe) giving the kid the quick sendoff-to-earth-in-a-tiny-spaceship scene, the opening of “Man of Steel” offers more than 30 minutes of metal filings and mercury blobs blowing up. Oh yeah, and filmdom’s new go-to, creepy bad guy, Michael Shannon (“Boardwalk Empire”) as General Zod, enemy of well, basically everyone except his henchmen.

What I’m saying here is head on out to the lobby and take your sweet time getting your popcorn, ‘cause this movie isn’t getting started for half an hour. And once it finally gets going, forget any expectations of a linear storyline – “Steel” skips back and forth between Clark brooding and searching Earth for his special purpose – to Clark as a kid in Kansas trying to hide his superness – to Superman facing down the bad guys.

Now, the mostly good news: Henry Cavill (“The Tudors”) is a dour, but attractive  Superman, though a bit broody for my taste. and four-time Oscar® nominee Amy Adams is terrific as Lois Lane (no surprise there). And Michael Shannon is über creepy. And the end of the film makes me think that the sequel might actually be worth watching.

The bottom line is “Man of Steel” has been made for an audience that plays “Worlds of Warcraft”. And that audience will love it and box offices everywhere will rejoice throughout the land. Me, not so much. I wanted to take some Windex and a rag and clean the lens off.

The Bottom Line: If you can forget everything you’ve ever known about Superman, or if dark, brooding superheroes are your thing, you’ll love “Man of Steel.” Otherwise, leave it to the youngsters.



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