Over-familiarity and repetitiveness is not a great combination for a movie. From Hollywood’s point of view, a familiar character can mean attracting an established following, from the audience’s point of view however, this can be one of the most disappointing aspects of cinema-going. With Man Of Steel the marriage of recognizable characters, predictable plot lines, and over-familiar aesthetics, all converge to create a tiresome and tedious “reboot”.
The story of Superman has by now become almost second nature to followers of popular culture. So familiar is the audience with this story that it now feels like watching a re-run of a news bulletin; pointless and out of date. What was needed for a successful reboot was either a memorable screenplay, an updated style, or maybe an allegorical subtext. Instead of making any point about our society (for example, about Superman being a foreigner or a refugee in America) or a point about humanity (about how we create ideas of deity, religion, or even hierarchy) Man Of Steel seems satisfied in churning out mindless and hackneyed bullshit we’ve all seen Hollywood produce a thousand times over.
The famous DC-reviving writing team of David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan is slowly becoming more and more contrived the more crap they write. With both of them trying to recapture the “good ol’ days” of Batman Begins by trying to write another “why do we fall?” style line, the pair fail to recapture the magic they once had. Nolan and Goyer’s screenplay for Man Of Steel is the equivalent of a ninth or tenth studio album from a once great musical duo; something which feels repetitive and forced. Goyer and Nolan have managed to create a lifeless and one-dimensional script which offers nothing new or game-changing like their first Batman reboot. Nothing about Man Of Steel is game changing. There’s nothing new about the plot, nothing refreshing about the characters, and thanks to Zack Snyder, there is nothing memorable about the overall film. Man Of Steel is the unwanted skin left floating atop this now stagnant and over-cooked genre, in a decade or so nothing about this movie will be remembered in the pantheon of great comic book adaptations.
The main reason for Man Of Steel being the same-same movie it ended up being is the directing non-talents of Zack Snyder. Snyder is one of the worst, most superficial directors of modern times, he’s someone who seems content in making films which are devoid of feeling and emotion. Zack Snyder directs like he’s shooting a commercial targeted toward teenage boys, and similar to his classmate Michael Bay from Pasadena’s Art Center College Of Design, he continually uses the same tricks in every movie he creates. Similar to Bay, Snyder directs like he missed every class and lecture which taught subtlety and emotion. “Pathos” and “gravitas” are two words this Spartan-loving twat seems to forget every time he sets foot on studio property. With Snyder, the contrast is constantly bumped up, grain is always added, and there are endless lens flares and quick zooms. Watching one Snyder film is indistinguishable from another, with Man Of Steel having many scenes which could have been lifted from Watchmen or Sucker Punch. Having Snyder at the helm of this film was not a great addition to this already tired team of bullshitting crapsters.
Snyder, throughout his entire career has never achieved anything memorable, he has never created anything which served as a renaissance for the aged genres he chooses to work in. With his butchered remake of Dawn Of The Dead and his tedious Watchmen adaptation, it is a frigging mystery why you’d want him aboard another remake, yet alone a reboot. With his overly-crowded framing and even messier camerawork, to his cluttering of every fight scene with needless junk (without even evoking a sense of urgency or quickening of pace), his techniques of cinematic shittery must take some special kind of hack-trick only Snyder is privy to. Using messy movement as an aesthetic rather than to create atmosphere or a sense of peril, is one of the continual failings of Snyder and his Man Of Steel. Along with the overuse of CGI which feels completely fake and disjointed from reality (including any realistic weight, realistic tones, shadows and texture, or even realistic physics) believability is completely stripped from this movie. The end result is a film which looks so fake we may as well be playing a computer game.
With its Matrix Revolutions-style fight scenes, its Avatar-esque Kryptonian creatures, and sci-fi set pieces which resemble something from the reject bin of a thousand green-screen bullshit action movies, the whole film felt like something we’ve definitely seen before, and something which we didn’t necessarily want to see again. The now commonplace action movie staple of buildings being destroyed in a generic American metropolis is nothing special to a desensitized public, and after years of pointless wars we cannot see the portrayal of the army as the “good guys”. With Superman’s puke inducing lines like “I’m from Kansas, that’s about as American as it gets” being uttered in the conclusion, this just adds to the pro-west shtick that was already on show. A superhero’s allegiance with America’s military is one of the most hokey plot devices in modern day Hollywood, and with Harry Lennix playing the most unconvincing and most annoying General in film history (not to mention Christina Wren as Major Carrie Farris uttering the line “he’s hot”) this proved Man Of Steel to be more corny and trivial than any of its forbears.
35 years have passed since Richard Donner’s Superman movie and nothing new has been added to the whole affair. They still speak English on Krypton. They’re all still white on Krypton. They still have American and European accents on Krypton. One of the bad-guys even has a Germanic accent. A Jesus-esque Superman still stands in a Church to confess, not in a Synagogue, not in a Mosque, or in a Temple; but in a place where the corrupted image of Jesus is embedded in the stained glass window behind Kal-El without any sense of irony. Henry Cavill himself adds nothing new to the role made famous by Christopher Reeve. He looks no more godlike than Reeve, and neither does Russell “Up Himself” Crowe or Michael “Bug Eyed” Shannon. And with Michael Shannon’s wide-eyed Zod being killed in the end by simply having his neck dislocated, I think everybody in the audience almost wished Terence Stamp was back in the role.
If you were trying to better the Reeve, Kidder, Hackman, Stamp movie, why make an expensive rubber-cladded tribute to it? The only attempt at being current was the corny dubstep-cum-bassline noise the “World Engine” made. They may have removed Superman’s red briefs and maybe even taken away the stylized curl from Superman’s hair, but by wimping-out and adding Clark Kent’s thick rimmed glasses at the end of the film, we have essentially a $225,000,000 rehash of a franchise for the sole purpose of making money. This was an update without any actual updating.
Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan are the Men Of Stale.