Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bizarro World

Man of Steel       Final Cut Score: 75%

Disliking Superman is a treasonous crime. Screw Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America – even my Super Friends fave, Green Lantern – "The Man of Steel" is our great nation's number one superhero with a bullet. Taking umbrage with that declarative statement is akin to arguing the merits of breathable air.

So here we are with the latest big screen incarnation of the American icon, Man of Steel, some seven years after Bryan Singer's middling attempt to revive the franchise that got its Christopher Reeve-commencement way back when a peanut farmer from Georgia was planted in the Oval Office.

With a price tag rumored to be in the $250M range, Warner Bros. wasn't messing around when it came to doing things right — doing things with a hellacious bang. Hiring Zack Snyder – the man of 300 fame – to helm the project cemented the guarantee that this Superman wasn't going to lack edge, this Superman wasn't going to be cartoonish — this Superman was going to be a bad ass.

And to that end Snyder succeeded, Man of Steel is as now – as real – as Superman has ever been — hokey he's not. Beginning with his opening scene of Krypton coming apart at the seams, Snyder sets a tone that very much mirrors how J.J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek, dropping us dead center in the mythology, a birth rising from the ashes of annihilation.

Superman's biological father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe as strong as we've seen of late), shipping his son to Earth via spacecraft before General Zod (Michael Shannon sporting a très stylish Caesar cut) and his cronies can nab the tot.

Snyder's shows wonderful artistic instincts in the Earth-bound scenes that follow, choosing to unveil Kal-El's conversion to humanity in flashbacks rather than continuous with the kid's arrival on terra firma. We first meet him in modern day, the member of a fishing boat's crew, sneaking off to save a bunch of oil rig workers from incineration — his super powers cloaked from the world due to fears of being found out to be a super freak.

Henry Cavill possesses the physical presence for the role with his sculpted-from-stone physique, though his emotional range is similarly statuesque — troubled eyebrows do not an actor make.

In the efforts of condensation, IMDB's somewhat oversimplified summary: "A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race" isn't a bad bridge to where this review ultimately rests, Zod's mightily-protracted invasion of our fair planet.

From its Sears, IHOP and 7-Eleven-smashing origins in Kansas to its skyscraper-shattering finale in Metropolis, Superman's brawl with Zod is interminable, an ungodly overload of CGI that amounts to a special effects bludgeoning. Michael Bay's downtown LA tilt between Optimus Prime and Megatron looks positively tame by comparison.

"Restraint" is a foreign word to Snyder.

It's truly a shame because the pieces were in place for something infinitely more memorable than this. Something infinitely more emotionally resonating than this. Something infinitely less overblown than this.

And one note for the inevitable sequel, someone tell Cavill he's playing Superman, not Bizarro.