Superman is kind of a snooze. There's nothing all that compelling or interesting behind the iconography of the character, which is probably why Superman functions as little more than a corporate symbol nowadays. I guess he has his fans, but I've never met any. I get the feeling that being a fan of Superman is like being a fan of the GE logo; it seems so pointless and unfulfilling.
And yet, Superman still continues to linger on within the public consciousness mainly because Time/Warner won't let us forget about him. Every four years or so – in a desperate bid for cultural relevancy – Superman is revised, updated and forcefully crammed down our throats. Sometimes it's because he was “murdered” by an alien and resurrected with a fun and flirty new hairstyle or costume. Other times it's because somebody attempted to reboot the Superman film franchise with an ill-conceived, incredibly stupid take on this uninteresting character. “Man of Steel” is that incredibly stupid, ill-conceived movie.
Now to be fair, as dumb and as tedious as “Man of Steel” can frequently be, the film does have its moments, most notably in the prologue set on Krypton. But that's only because those scenes look like a completely different movie, a movie in which a schizophrenic “Dune” fan was given carte blanche to accurately recreate a Yes album cover on film. In those first few moments, there are pterodactyls, there is a lake of unborn fetuses, and at the center of it all is Michael Shannon, stabbing anything that moves and looking like Willem Dafoe if he was infected with rabies. It's the closest that some of us will ever get to experiencing pure, untarnished insanity, and it is beautiful. But unfortunately, the madness eventually comes to an end so that stupid Superman can be sent to stupid Earth.
From there, we meet an adult Superman (Henry Cavill) who, as he drifts from town to town, flashes back to his troubled days as a handsome, athletic teen who was bullied mercilessly by doughy nerds with unflattering bangs, which, incidentally, is very true to life. Handsome, athletic teens tend to be the least popular kids in school and are almost always on the receiving end of swirlies administered by totally cool stuttering dudes in Pokémon t-shirts who perpetually smell like Vic's VapoRub and old milk.
At any rate, Superman eventually stumbles upon a Kryptonian outpost in the Antarctic where his father's consciousness (Russell Crowe) convinces him to become Superman because – much like Krypton – Earth needs somebody with enough foresight to prevent them from throwing unborn fetuses into a lake. But once Superman becomes Superman, Shannon reappears to ensure that the next 90 minutes will consist solely of CGI footage of grown men throwing each other into gas stations and skyscrapers.
However, the destructive horseplay gets out of hand, and even though Superman's needless battle with Shannon causes the deaths of untold millions, he is shocked and appalled when Shannon threatens the lives of three people. Superman is then forced to make a decision he should have made when Shannon calmly announced he was going to just go ahead and murder everybody on Earth.
“Man of Steel” represents the summer blockbuster at its most bloated and moronic. The fight scenes are constant and unending, it's riddled with more plot holes than the last three Batman movies combined, and Cavill's Superman is smug, condescending, and so Ted Bundy-esque you get the feeling that his secret identity will eventually be revealed as a guy who owns a windowless van. But the most unbearable aspect behind “Man of Steel” is that we never get a scene where Crowe throws a phone at somebody and then winks knowingly at the camera. Why cast him in a movie if you can't be bothered to include a scene like that? That's irresponsible filmmaking.
Rating: W W