Whenever a successful franchise is rebooted, the question that must be answer is, why. Why this, why now? After 2006’s SUPERMAN RETURNS, MAN OF STEEL isn’t so much a reboot as a do over. The 2006 movie was unworthy of having “super” in the title. Zach Snyder avoids that by calling this MAN OF STEEL, which has several meanings other than the obvious reference to Clark Kent’s alter ego. So the answer to why is, because the 2006 movie was such an abject disappointment. This is darker, more brooding than any of the Christopher Reeve movies. In tone it is closer to Executive Producer Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. In execution I’m sorry to say it falls a bit short. Snyder is no Nolan. But that’s not saying this isn’t good. The darkness and isolation that follows Clark Kent as he searches for and answer to his own “why” question is an excellent choice. Clark is still trying to figure out if he has the “steel” to be the “man” both his fathers hope him to be. Snyder does a good job of taking us on the journey as we learn more about the man and the boy through a series of flashbacks. It’s very satisfying. Then in the last third of the movie Snyder loses his way and the movie turns into what people are colloquially calling “disaster porn”. Things fly by and happen so fast that your brain has trouble processing it all. I know Superman is “faster than a speeding bullet”, but does he always have to fly that fast, Zach? The action set pieces are the necessary resolution to the story, but their execution is mind boggling. Is there anything left of Metropolis? Henry Cavill does a fairly good job of making us believe he is tormented by his inner struggle to become the man he’s destined to be. It’s an honest performance. Amy Adams is also adequate as Lois Lane. Michael Shannon is wonderful as the villain. He is one fine actor who hopefully will get more recognition after his turn as the malevolent General Zod. And it’s nice to see Russell Crowe back to being Russell Crowe (the good one, not the “Les Mis” one). It’ll be interesting to see where Nolan and Snyder take the franchise from here. I will be looking up in the sky for a bird.. no.. a plane… no.. for SUPERMAN!
This Superman reboot will make you appreciate not just the previous movies (including Singer’s Superman Returns) but also the comic, the cartoons, even the television show. Dark reboots are now the thing. Bond. Batman. Now Superman. Here’s the thing though: Superman cannot and SHOULDN’T be the Dark Knight. Instead of updating the mythology and bringing a darker tone, Man Of Steel changes virtually everything about the character…to the point he really isn’t Superman. Filmmakers have rebooted squeaky clean franchises with a darkness but they’re fun too (Raimi’s Spider Man anyone? Captain America?). This Man is a joyless, cynical shell of the character who is less “super” and more damaged. Instead of looking at him as an inspiration, he is more of a mess. We’re told that the symbol on his chest stands for hope, which is contradictory to the hopelessness this movie dwells in. By the end, the filmmakers try to leave us with that “yaaay we love Superman feeling” but at that point, we have been beaten down by the pessimism and this hero’s actions (especially in the final 15 minutes) that we don’t want to cheer for this guy, just forget him. He’s no better than us, nothing “super” about him.