Superman fails to thrill

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Man of Steel has been heralded as one of the biggest movies of the season, but many wondered if it would be as big a flop as the past few Superman movies.  It had everything a summer blockbuster needs – a big budget, plenty of celebrities, and lots of hype. However, Man of Steel can’t break the curse of its predecessors and is quite possibly the worst superhero flick since Green Lantern.

The story focuses on the origins of Clark Kent, who is played by Henry Cavill. Flashbacks to Clark’s childhood show his powers develop and how he learns to blend in with society. As an adult, he searches for the truth about his otherworldly abilities and must use them to defend Earth against General Zod and his rogue crew, who want to destroy the planet and rebuild their home, Krypton.

Screenwriter David S. Goyer delivers a screenplay so disappointing that it’s hard to believe he is the same person who penned the Dark Knight trilogy. The film doesn’t show much character development and lacks suspense.

Henry Cavill is well-cast in the title role, but his character’s lack of emotional conflict makes the film too straightforward – Superman has to save the world from evil, end of story. There is a relatively small amount of dialogue in the film overall, and explosions and fight sequences dominate instead. The digital effects in the action scenes are well done, but quickly become dull and repetitive in this overlong trainwreck.

The romance – or lack thereof – between Superman and Lois Lane doesn’t add anything to the film either.

Amy Adams is undoubtedly an excellent actress, but she was miscast as the feisty, stubborn Lane. Director Zack Snyder tosses her in plenty of scenes, but gives the character no depth.

Lane’s presence in some scenes, such as one where Zod requests her aboard his ship with Superman, feels forced and completely artificial. As always, she ends up being more of an object audiences can watch Superman protect than a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist seeking the truth. Adams and Cavill don’t have much chemistry onscreen, so there are almost no magical moments between one of the most famous fictional couples of all time.

Russell Crowe plays Jor-El, Clark’s biological father, who offers his son advice throughout the film. His performance in the movie is odd and mechanical. Jor-El does not seem torn about the decision to send his infant son to Earth, nor does his wife, Lara Lor-Van, played by Ayelet Zurer. He has an equally stoic response to meeting his fully grown son years later, when he begins to help Clark understand the planet he came from. If Crowe was looking for redemption from his robotic performance in Les Miserables, he won’t find it here.

Man of Steel also lacks a great villain that audiences can love to hate. General Zod, played by Michael Shannon, is unfamiliar to most and seems more like a rejected Star Trek character than Superman’s nemesis. He thinks of his quest to rebuild Krypton as a noble one, part of the cliched “bad guy” shtick we’ve all seen before. Zod simply isn’t evil enough to be exciting, so it’s hard to see him as a serious threat to the planet.

Besides a great villain, Man of Steel is also missing kryptonite, Superman’s only weakness. The substance has been replaced by a logical explanation about atmospheric composition that takes some of the magic out of the film. If we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief to watch a grown man zoom around in tights, can’t we have some cool space rocks too?

The only redeeming things about Man of Steel are the performances of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as John and Martha Kent, respectively. Flashbacks to Smallville show not only Martha and John dealing with the challenges that accompany hiding Clark’s powers, but also their support for and faith in him. Clark’s bond with his Earth parents feels organic and emphasizes their importance in his life. The Kents are a picturesque, all-American couple, and their love for their adopted son provides emotion the film desperately needs.

Man of Steel tries too hard to modernize Superman; to make his story darker in today’s world. Instead of being a fun, exciting adventure, its melodramatic tone makes this movie unforgivably cheesy.  While action flicks normally make up for poor plots with big-budget effects, the scenes in Man of Steel are dragged out and tired.

Even the man of steel himself can’t save this movie from being a bomb.

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