C

Man of Steel2013

Director: Zach Snyder

Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon

Release Company: Warner Brothers

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Snyder: Man of Steel

Given Hollywood's recent penchant for profiting from comic book and video game material, it was inevitable that they'd take on Clark Kent once again.  Producer Christopher Nolan (Memento and the recent Batman trilogy among his credits) teams with Zach Snyder (Watchmen) for a darker, conflicted Man of Steel. This provided great hope for Superman fans. Both men have a proven track record for handling comic book material--using modern special effects wizardry without letting it overwhelm.

Re-booting the franchise is fraught with Kryptonite, however. And the filmmakers paralyze the audience with repetitive fight sequences when hero Kal-El / Superman (Henry Cavill) inevitably faces off against villain General Zod (Michael Shannon). The movie lasts 2 hours and 24 minutes; the audience version should run 2 hours. The filmmakers have unleashed their extended director's cut for theatrical release--either that or they submitted endless loops of future video game material complete with Hans Zimmer's war drum score. The two foes endlessly body slam each other, hurl diesel trucks, and topple skyscrapers without inflicting so much as a scratch. Just as one level seems to end after Smallville has been pulverized, the next level begins anew in Metropolis.

It's a shame because "lesser" moments are far more noteworthy. The sequence where Superman first learns to fly is quite spectacular!  He zooms through the air magnificently but lack of control lend a touch of humor and a few significant human smash-ups.

Other human touches add nuances and allow the characters to adapt to the 21st century. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) no longer remains dull-witted or love-struck; she's an intelligent career woman who has won a Pulitzer and demonstrates journalistic integrity when confronted with a moral dilemma. Clark faces super challenges as a child, coping with sensory overload that might have specialists diagnosing him as an uber-ADD case without his mother's sensibility. He also must learn to hide his other-worldly strength (especially difficult after saving a bus load of classmates). As a young adult, Clark adopts 1960s mentality and hits the road to "find himself" before his eventual summons to save the planet.

As Clark's father, Kevin Costner again has some good moments on the Kansas farm. He thrives best in corn fields and in roles where requiring low key charm. He preaches Midwestern values to his son and urges him to hide his gifts, and concretely demands this during a tornado. It's a shame that the filmmakers ignore Costner's plea when they crafted the final edits. Their lack of restraint reduces the film's memorable moments to footnotes while forcing the audience into an endurance contest.

It'll play better when released on DVD, so audiences can fast forward past the repetitive battle extravaganza. I wish I'd taken a long restroom break and stood in line for popcorn when General Zod roars out his warning to us puny Earthlings; the movie plays much better without the video game sequence.

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