The Last Son of Krypton
The battle of the summer blockbusters has commenced, and after Marvel’s failed attempt to bring sympathy and emotion to an unpleasant egotist, DC looks to eclipse their rivals with what had the makings of an intriguing retelling of their iconic hero. Unfortunately, the result is another underwhelming superhero flick that struggles beneath the weight of its own ambition and doesn’t once come close to matching expectation.
Prior to its release many commentators announced their disinterest in another reprise of Superman’s genesis story and to a degree it was understandable given that the 1978 Superman remains as endearing as ever. However, instead of offering a new direction for a well known story, as Nolan did sublimely with Batman Begins, Man of Steel lazily glosses over Clark Kent’s backstory in an incoherent and all too rushed opening half.
The film opens well, with an inviting, gloriously visualised and immediately rewarding sequence that depicts the rarely seen moments on Krypton prior to Kal-El’s earthbound launch. But Snyder teases the audience with this hint of a new direction before aimlessly relying on conventional techniques in a hasty presentation of Kent’s childhood that plays out like a series of trailers. These beautifully shot, but all too short vignettes offer some emotionally gripping moments, but with so many cuts to and from the past Man of Steel never establishes its central character enough to give him any substance in the present.
The noisy arrival of General Zod sparks an immediate change of pace and tone for the film, and while the dramatic transition from slow-burning drama to all out action is initially welcomed, it soon outstays that welcome. What looked set to be another interesting character driven superhero thriller that conforms to the contemporary model, steps back to the prolonged over-indulgent action sequences and one-dimensional plotting of its lazy and regrettable forbears. Rather than employing the action to provide a brief injection of intensity, similar to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy which will always be held as the superior example, it only serves to provide a platform for yet more shameful, Bay-esque explosions and justification for its overpriced 3D screenings.
While Snyder does his best to make this brooding reboot as serious as possible, it lacks the heart and charm to give Clark Kent the vulnerability to make the audience care. Without a relatable character in sight and with laborious two-and-a-half hour runtime that still fails to cover enough ground, the entire project feels like a shallow exercise in overblown action and wanton destruction. Despite some exceptional performances from the cast, Man of Steel never overcomes the incoherent pacing, tonal inconsistency and clumsy writing. It had all the makings of a cinematic great, but the result is another crushing disappointment.