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Movie review: ‘Man of Steel’, 4.5 out of 10, who brought the kryptonite?

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Man of Steel

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4.5 out of 10

Man of Steel” is basically everything that can go wrong with a comic book movie nowadays. Even though there have been many films and TV shows we are again given a lengthy back story for the character everyone already knows. Sure, some of it is different this time around, but the general premise remains the same. When the action finally wakes us up from our super slumber we are treated with 30 minutes of building demolition. And there is almost no humor to rely on to break tension or monotony.

“Man of Steel” is a super disappointment.

Any spoilers will be clearly marked so you can avoid reading them if you so choose.

“Man of Steel” opens in Baltimore on June 14, 2013.

The Good

Well, there are some entertaining scenes. The opening sequence on Krypton with Russell Crowe as Jor-El is pretty cool. Most Superman films barely mention the hero’s home planet much less give us a glimpse of what it could have been like. Some of the action sequences are decent as well. There is nothing new or particularly amazing, but several of the fight scenes manage to put a smile on your face. And, it was just nice to see Superman punch somebody this time around (Ahem! “Superman Returns” Ahem!).

The Bad

Ok, before we jump into this section and those of you who loved the film get upset, let me just say, I get it. This is more of a dramatic comic book film. Director Zack Snyder shows us the struggles Clark Kent had growing up and trying to fit in on Earth. He then has to toil with morality choices and serving the “greater good”. And blah, blah, blah. “The Dark Knight” trilogy managed to do that and be great comic book films. So, I’m not buying what Mr. Snyder is selling.

For the love of Zod (Michael Shannon), why do we need another origin story? Is there seriously a human being on this planet that doesn’t know Superman’s back story? Or, at least, anyone who is going to see this film? There is not a single bit of action, except for the brief opening on Krypton, in the first 105 minutes of this 145-minute film. I’m not saying they should just jump right into the action, but spend maybe 15 minutes setting up the story and then get on with it. Every time a new director takes over a franchise he/she feels like the origin story has to be redone and retold. And, they always feel like they have to set up a series of films, so they spend a ton of time on character development in the first one thinking/hoping/praying they get to do a series of films. Out of Christopher Nolan’s three amazing Batman films, you know which one was the weakest? “Batman Begins”. Why? Too much time on the back story (but, “Batman Begins” is still amazing and blows “Man of Steel” away).

Where was the passion? It felt like everyone was sleepwalking through this movie. Where was the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) or the angst-ridden Christian Bale (Batman)? Where was the over-the-top creepy Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin) or the Oscar-worthy Heath Ledger (The Joker)? No one in “Man of Steel” looked like they wanted to be there, not even Kevin Costner. In all honesty, the Passionate Acting Award goes to Antje Traue, who played Faora-Ul, General Zod’s right-hand lady. She was at least fun to watch, even if the bulk of her screentime was CGI action sequences.

As with so many comic book films, “Man of Steel” has some plot holes, or gaps. And I’m sure the comic book geeks, excuse me, experts would be able to explain exactly why each thing happened. But to us laypersons, some things just didn’t make sense. I’ll give one example in the Spoiler Section below.

[SPOILER BELOW]
When Superman defeats Zod, he breaks his neck. If Superman’s only weakness on Earth is Kryptonite (not explained in this film), and he is from Krypton, wouldn’t all Kryptonians have the same strength on Earth? How is a broken neck possible? Is it simply because Superman has super strength? Or does it have something to do with the fact that Superman was the first naturally born Kryptonian in centuries? Either way, it was not explained. We were told at the beginning that a Kryptonian on Earth would “be like a god” and yet Superman simply breaks Zod’s neck to end it, anti-climactic and annoying.
[END SPOILERS]

Did anyone else hear those “Law & Order” chimes going, “BOM BOM!” every time Christopher Meloni showed up on screen? No? Just me? Ok, moving on.

The action sequences reminded me of the old video game “Rampage.” You remember that one. You picked between a giant gorilla, giant lizard or other such character and your goal was to completely raze a city before the locals killed you. The only way to win was to knock over every building. Well, Superman and Zod did some city planning of their own in Metropolis. At first, it was pretty cool. But after 10 minutes of building smashing it started to get a little old.

The Bottom Line

“Man of Steel” is boring. That really is The Bottom Line. The back story took nearly 2 hours. No one had passion. No performance drew us in. It is fine to go for a bit of a dramatic angle and show a comic book character struggling with human emotions and choices, but do it surrounded by a fun comic book movie. Don’t beat us over the head for 2 hours and then expect us to enjoy the 30 minutes of action. Heck, it takes you 15 of those minutes to just wake up. Let’s hope Zack Snyder sticks with the “300” franchise and they take the Superman reins away from him. “Man of Steel” is a definite rental. It is a comic book movie and it is Superman. Just don’t spend much money on this one and keep your expectations low to avoid disappointment.

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