Thursday, 20 June 2013

Man of Steel

When even the critics complain that a film has too much action, my expectations fall through the floor. But sometimes even the lowest of expectations don’t help. Perhaps you are wondering why I would even watch a film I knew I wouldn’t like. The answer is that Warner Bros. Studios was, according to CNN, “aggressively marketing Man of Steel to Christian pastors,” even providing sermon notes which link Superman to “the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again.” ‘Wow!’ I said to myself, ‘this is a new Hollywood low. I see an article for the Canadian Mennonite already half-written in my mind. To write the other half, I’ll have to bite the bullet and watch the film in question.
This post will not address the above-mentioned marketing any further, nor say another word about Jesus, because that’s reserved for my Canadian Mennonite review. Instead I’ll focus on the positive attributes of Man of Steel, the summer’s first blockbuster.
Hmmm. No, if I did that, my review would be finished already, because Man of Steel doesn’t have any positive attributes. I had figured on writing a fairly scathing review before I walked into the theatre, but I had not expected the filmmakers would make it so easy.
Before I begin my rant, let me remind you that I was a DC comics fan in my younger days. Batman and Superman were my favourite superheroes. So that was another reason to watch Man of Steel. I did not consider Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman - the Movie (remember Christopher Reeve?) to be a classic (though it had the right feel and I did enjoy it), but compared to Man of Steel, Superman - the Movie is the greatest film ever made (and Smallville the best TV show). 
Let’s get the interminable and excruciatingly boring action scenes out of the way first (no, I won’t mention the redemptive violence or the patriotic angle - that’s for the article).
Then let’s move on to the dark, grainy, desaturated handheld cinematography. It shouldn’t come as a surprise from director Zack Snyder, who made 300, but it is not only a style for which I have almost no appreciation, it’s entirely wrong for Superman. The style and cinematography felt very pretentious to me, thanks in large part to the inferior writing (i.e. I can forgive the similar style in Battlestar Galactica because it featured superior writing). 
I could not believe Man of Steel was co-written by Christopher Nolan, a man whom I have always considered one of our more intelligent screenwriters. Man of Steel’s dialogue felt like amateur hour. The plot, such as it is, has so many borrowed ideas it makes Oblivion look entirely original. And while the acting wasn’t as bad as the writing, there were no performances which drew my attention, so I won’t bother to link a single actor to this film or my review. Hans Zimmer’s score had its moments, but it is very far from his best.
This is a bare-bones review. I’ll add a link to my Canadian Mennonite review when it appears online. For now, I’ll just warn you to stay far away. Do not add to the record numbers watching Man of Steel, not even if you are a die-hard Superman fan (especially if you are a die-hard Superman fan). This is an awful film and I regret that Zack Snyder ever entered the film industry (though Watchmen was watchable) . In an act of uncommon generosity, I will award Man of Steel *, not because there was anything in the film which deserved it but because the masses seem to think this is a great film and so I can’t be so snobbish as to give it no stars at all. My mug is down.

The promised link to the Canadian Mennonite review:


  1. How delightful to find that you are capable of awarding a single star. I was afraid that after all the ranting you would be generous and give it **+. Thanks for helping me to save a couple of hours in my life by passing on this.

  2. You know what Vic? I didn't have high expectations either going in to see Man of Steel. Superman movies all seem cheesy to me. But I wouldn't say Man of Steel was worse than other movies about the guy in blue. I guess I'm part of those masses who spends money to go see cheesy superhero films.

    I can't say I really recommend it, either. I agree with you that marketing it to pastors and selling Superman as a Jesus figure is wrong. The religious imagery is the most interesting feature of the film to me, and its most disturbing one. But it does give us an important opportunity to reflect about why it should disturb us and to express the difference between Superman the saviour and Christ the Saviour.