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MAN OF STEEL

Man of SteelMan of Steel has almost no redeeming features as a movie. It may, in fact, be the worst action movie I’ve ever seen. The fight sequences were supersonic car crashes with the opponents rushing headlong at each other and knocking one another down repeatedly. And they moved too fast for a viewer to follow the presumed action; all we see is visual representations of a high wind. After a dozen or so of these head-on collisions, ennui sets in pretty numbingly.

Some relief from the noise of the crashes is afforded in several nearly endless expanses of exposition. For an action movie, there were far too many extreme close-ups; we don’t need to count the hairs of Superman’s eyebrows. Apart from the wholesale destruction being wreaked on the cityscape during fights, we were also treated to unremitting sequences of slow moving — but menacing — space craft that looked like metallic crabs or sea turtles or hovering jelly fish, sequences punctuated by belching firey explosions of the highest decibels.

British actor Henry Cavill is adequately stalwart and muscled heavily enough for the Superman role. The Superman’s chain-maily sort of costume is the best thing in the movie, but the cape is too long. Alas, Amy Adams is wrong for the part of Lois Lane: instead of a hard-charging reporter, we have a prom queen. 

Lois and Clark fall in love and, at the end of the movie, they kiss. This development severely alters the Superman mythology, in particular the love triangle that has animated the comic books for 75 years — Lois loves Superman but disdains Clark Kent, not realizing that the two are one and the same. I can’t imagine how DC consented to the violence this development does to the enduring psychic appeal of the character: every pimply-faced adolescent under the spell of the Siegel-Shuster creation can imagine that he, like nerdy Clark Kent, is secretly a champion. This movie blasts that fond daydream to tiny pieces of Kryptonite, thanks to writers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, ably assisted by director Scott Snyder.

The best scenes in the movie belong to Clark and his mother, feelingly played by Diane Lane. They seem unabashedly fond of each other, and their obvious affection lends their scenes emotional impact — about the only human drama around. All of the rest of the intended drama is drowned in cliched dialogue.

But the movie’s most serious flaw is its relentless seriousness. The idea of a flying, invulnerable super-powered hero is laughable on its face, but most successful superhero movies of late have the saving grace of a self-deprecating sense of humor. None of that here. In fact there are only two funny lines in the two-and-a-half hour flick, and they’re both Lois’. She arrives at some frozen outpost of scientific inquiry to report on it, and endures a typically masculine us-guys-know-it-all-but-you-poor-deluded-female briefing, which she finally terminates with a quip: “Now that we’ve finished measuring dicks, maybe we can begin.”

And the penultimate line in the movie is hers, and it is also humorous with double entendre. At the end of the movie, Clark decides to find a job, and he dons specs and reports to work at the Daily Planet, where Lois is the star reporter. When he is introduced to her, she pretends she doesn’t know him — despite having been gaga over him for the whole movie — stands up and shakes his hand and says: “Welcome to the Planet,” a nice play on words.

The movie also supports what appears to be a stunning irrationality. If Clark is invulnerable because he comes from a planet with a different atmosphere than Earth’s, then all those Kryptonites who come looking for him with kidnaping on their agenda are similarly invulnerable. How, then, are they all killed?

But they are. Some unspecified how. And Krypton’s General Zod laments their death and vows to kill all of Clark’s earthling cohorts in revenge. Clark finally dispatches the evil warlord by choking him to death, the only way he can be killed if he’s otherwise invulnerable. That seems to work. But how were all the other Kryptonites killed?

Oh, and — according to Asawin Suebsaeng at motherjones.com — “one of the most fascinating things about this movie is how blatantly littered with product placement it is — roughly $160 million in product placement and promotions went into its makers' coffers. Man of Steel has over 100 global marketing partners, surpassing Universal's 2012 animated flick The Lorax, which reportedly had 70 partners. So if you have forgotten recently to eat at IHOP or to shop at Sears, this film will remind you to do so in big letters.”

But the most troubling aspect of this production for me is the flying. Advertisements for the first Superman movie of modern times touted the flying: it was so convincingly faked that we would know, the ads insisted, that Superman can fly.

This Superman takes flight like a bullet being fired. No flapping of arms, no quick crouch and then a jump up into the air. Nothing. Just — bang! out of the chute. What propels him? The only thing I can think of is, well, super flatulence. Superman farts himself into flight.

And that seems a suitable end for this review. (Unintended word play—but relished nonetheless.)

Fitnoot: If you find this sort of news and opinion refreshing in an age in which Congress’ approval rating hovers statistically around the margin of error, you’ll rejoice to know that July is Open Access Month at RCHarvey.com where there’s lots more of what’s hinted at here. The online magazine version of this blog, Rants & Raves, as well as archived R&R and the entire Hindsight archive — thirteen years of history, lore, reviews and commentary—is open to non-$ubscribers all month in the hope that they will be so thrilled with what they find that they’ll $ubscribe. Join the happy throng.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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