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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Man of Steel.

Man of Steel.

Gosh, I haven't reviewed this yet. Another alarming moment delivered to you by Murphy's poor memory.

Possibly I forgot about this film because it is so very, very forgettable. Like most of DC's live action cinema fares, it is the definition of a flash in the pan, with the names attached to it granting it brief, shimmering popularity before it was promptly forgotten about by literally everyone, to only be half-remembered again when Dawn of Justice rolls around to deeply disappoint all of us, like a man in his early thirties who we had a barely-remembered, drunken tryst with at a party a few years back.

A large part of that is probably that DC absolutely does not like the content it's adapting. If anything, it's embarrassed by it. While Marvel has embraced fun as its overriding principle, throwing itself gleefully at all the most ridiculous parts of its canon, DC shuffles into your local cinema mumbling slightly desperate apologies about how, oh god, it's stupid, they know, it's all so stupid, oh god, just bear with them and they promise they'll make it dark and cool and stuff, even though it's all so stupid and terrible oh god. It's a rather immature approach to take, built on the idea that these massively popular characters, who have always been silly and larger-than-life, are somehow unpalatable to a wider audience. 

Man of Steel is the latest Superman adaptation, with Henry Cavill in the lead role. In this reimagined origin story for him, Clark Kent is a young drifter finding work where he can and occasionally saving people. When he encounters a spacecraft with a data copy of his father Jor-El, he becomes Superman, tasked with stopping an invasion of Kryptonians led by General Zod, who wants to terraform the planet into a new Krypton. 

Zod, who frankly always looks like he should be from a mid-90s sci-fi-comedy-action

I'm not Superman's biggest fan at the best of times - I think his entire concept reeks of jingoism and nationalism, as well as just being boring - but I checked out of Man of Steel when it was in cinemas anyway, at the solemn urging of several of my friends. I haven't watched it again since, largely because I was bored by it. 

For a film that devotes so much time and energy to establishing how epic its scale is, I found myself not really caring about anyone except Lois, who was frightfully underused in it. Metropolis is practically being turned to dust? Eh. An entire planet has been destroyed? Eh. Earth is having a hole drilled in it? Happens. Nothing the film threw at me could manage to produce an emotional reaction, and that might well be due to how utterly soulless it felt.

Part of that is that the action was so very same-y. People get hit, and they go flying, but don't seem really hurt. Buildings are destroyed, but nobody ever seems to suffer from it. Man of Steel could have really done with taking a look at how martial arts films do their action scenes, because while those don't usually involve people being thrown over vast distances, or demolishing entire buildings with the crushing force of their bodies, they almost always feel more tense and engaging than the dross in this film, because the characters are visibly worn down, suffering, backed into a corner, and so on. A sense of danger and tension should be more about 'what's going to happen to these characters' and less about 'how many large buildings are going to collapse.'

Is this before or after a twenty minute battle? Who even knows.

But most of it is this: Rarely do I see a film that feels more like it was written by a committee using a checklist - flashback scene wherein a father solemnly talks to a young boy about the nature of being a hero? Check. Scene in which a character lists the main female lead's achievements, because god forbid we actually show her doing these things the way we would for a male character, that might give her actual screentime and a storyline? Check. Scene in which the hero screams to the heavens at a dramatic point? Check. Scene wherein a wise mentor talks to a young man about being a hero? Check, and for bonus points, said wise mentor is also the dude's father. This film felt like it was trying to stuff every ridiculous cliche superhero trope into two hours.

First kiss in the smoking glassed ruins of your home? Che-eck?

The cast seemed to feel the same way, if they're absolutely bland and uninterested performances were anything to go by. There are no good performances in this film. They range from 'Keanu Reeves woodenness' (hey, Cavill) to 'screaming ham all the time' (hey, Michael Shannon), with the latter being the far more tolerable of the two.

It's also not great that the romance subplot comes flying out of pretty much nowhere. If it was anyone other than Clark Kent and Lois Lane, nobody would have accepted that as a believable romance.

Overall, just a very poor film. If you haven't seen it, don't bother. Stick to Marvel, really.

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