Let it be known that I have not watched any Christopher Reeves’ Superman movies. The only knowledge I have on Superman comes from the 1990s animated series and a couple other animated movies released over the past few years. As such, I am not an authority on Superman, but then again I’m really an authority on anything. I’m just an audience member with an opinion.
In any case, I have no basis to judge the newest Superman movie, “Man Of Steel,” on when comparing to movies like “Superman: The Movie” (1978) and “Superman II” (1980). I must merely judge the film on it’s own merits. And boy, does this one come out looking boring.
The story follows the tale of Superman, Kal-El (Henry Cavill), of the planet Krypton. As his world begins to implode on itself, his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends baby Kal off into space so that the race of Kryptonians may survive. Kal-El lands on Kansas were he is raised by the Kents and given the name Clark. As he grows older, he discovers that he has fantastic powers.
Clark must now choose how to use these amazing powers: To help humanity in any way he can and prevent our planet from becoming another Krypton, or to use them for his own gain, much like the Kryptonian army searching for Clark, led by General Zod (Michael Shannon).
This is your basic Superman origin story. It’s safe to say that everyone has at least heard of the Man of Steel and know where he comes from. This film does not tread any new ground, which is fine. Superhero films will often follow the same path many times and have basic plots, yet still turn out as fun and enjoyable rides, like “The Avengers.”
The problem with this film is that it doesn’t really bring anything new to table. “Man Of Steel” plays it far too safe, and as a result becomes predictable in terms of plot and character. We can see the actions of characters like Clark Kent and Lois Lane coming before they even happen.
Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the characters are likable or relatable to make up for the predictable story. Yet the film falls victim to yet another problem: Bland actors. Amy Adams as Lois Lane lacks any sort of charm or wit that would make her character endearing and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, head of the Daily Planet, lacks any sort of emotion in his delivery.
The two biggest offenders of being bland in the movie though belong to Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. I swear, these two never raise their voices above a monotone level and usually have the same emotionless look on their face. Even when Crowe’s character is killed, the look on his face remains unchanged. It’s difficult to get invested and interested in a character that always has the same uncaring attitude throughout the film.
If the actor playing the role doesn’t care about their performance, then why should I?
The only actor who breaks out of this blandness is Michael Shannon as General Zod, who gives a grandiose over-the-top performance. Shannon will constantly scream his lines which is always good for a laugh. Shannon’s role certainly sticks out like a sore thumb amongst everyone else.
Something worth noting about “Man Of Steel” is that the story was done by Christopher Nolan, the director the recent Batman trilogy.
I can understand why Nolan would help out on this movie. He has proven that he can make a Superhero story and turn it into something that non-Superhero fans care about and would want to see.
Here’s the thing: Nolan was able to do this well with Batman, a grittier hero whose story is more about an average person rising up from tragedy to become a symbol of hope and courage. That doesn’t translate well to the more optimistic and fun-loving Superman.
“Man Of Steel” is written very much like a Batman movie, where it takes a more serious-minded approach and tires to add grit where it doesn’t belong.
Now you could say this is indicative of how Superhero movies work in today’s modern audience. That the typical movie-goer will only like Superhero films that show a darker side to being heroes. “The Dark Knight” is the best example of that as it stepped up that genre of film to whole other level.
My answer to that is it’s entirely possible to have a fun-loving nature in Superhero films and still come off as serious movies like “The Dark Knight.” Many of the recent Marvel films are prime examples of that, especially “The Avengers” and the Iron Man movies. They’re able to balance quirky and unique characters, like Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, with more serious moments of drama, and come off like it covers all spectrums.
So my question is, if movies like “Iron Man” can prove that Superheroes can have a lighthearted nature to them and still be both funny yet intense, then why can’t they do that with other heroes like Superman?
Overall, I left “Man Of Steel” feeling bored and uninterested in what happened. Not only was it predictable and brought us nothing we hadn’t already seen, but the bland acting from the majority of the cast made me stop caring about the story fairly quickly. A super bland Superman film for me.