"Man of Steel": Why So Serious, Latest Superman?

In Zack Snyder's annihilative, 97-percent-humorless Superman movie, Henry Cavill plays the strapping orphan from another world, pursued to Earth by a eugenics-mad strongman played by Michael Shannon. This conflict is predicated on the good faith of a father played by Russell Crowe, which is personally compelling to a reporter played by Amy Adams. The title befits a film that seems like a tough alloy of pre-existing elements; mostly it's a binge of blockbuster excess: Avatar-ish wonder-worlds infused with Dark Knight solemnity (Chris Nolan produced and co-conceived this, and if ever the WGA lobbies for "story bloat by" credit, he will totally own that), plus a brief skulls-and-swing-sets vision of apocalypse straight out of the Terminator franchise. Oh hang on, is it actually called Man of Steel because of how robotic Cavill is? Well, that's not really his fault. In scenes stuffed either with lecture-like exposition or effects for their own sake (but dull either way), the movie lingers on Krypton only then to rush through Kansas. Fans may be divided on whether that's a miscalculation, but at any rate Synder and Co. seem convinced that narrative economy means trotting out Diane Lane and Kevin Costner's Ma and Pa Kent for a quick heartstring tug and then hurrying back to the bigger business of expensively smashing stuff. An obnoxiously thud-intensive sound design only reinforces the unfortunate implication that this Superman's most formative heroic moments are the sonic booms he creates when learning to fly.

 
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