(If you haven’t seen the wonderful Superdickery, don’t read this. Go there instead.)
Just saw MAN OF STEEL. I should have listened to everyone who hated it. It’s a joyless, humorless, bleak, violent film. I didn’t smile once, never laughed. In place of Donner and Lester’s love for a certain kind of nostalgic screwball spirit (which at times veered towards overkill), it’s militaristic, bullet-fueled spectacle. It’s special effects are glum and mechanical; it’s minor characters forgettable, military types: where’s Jimmy Olsen? I even missed Ned Beatty as Otis, particular when watching Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe have a glower-off about a “codex.” Terence Stamp brought a bit of Edmund and Iago to General Zod – bemused by his own badness. Shannon, who can be awesome in the right part, might as well as be delivering his lines to a computer (which, when he’s talking to Jor-El, I guess, he is). The movie relies on space-age technology to justify its leaps of logic. Superman and General Zod shoot lasers from their eyes, which is probably the reason Snyder wanted to make this move in the first place. And even for a movie not called Demolition Man, there sure is a lot of demolition, man.
The original Superman movies got increasingly more ridiculous, until finally they fell under the helm of cheapskate shlock merchants Golan-Globus and featured Jon Cryer as “Lenny Luther.” Richard Donner took the material seriously, investing it with a sense of mythos that sometimes overdid itself. For instance, when Superman flies it’s inherently poetic; we don’t need Lois Lane to offer her own poetic monologue to tell us this. But John Williams’ (dearly departed) score was awe-inspiring even when the movie was not, and it did the ethics of superpowers thing well enough even amidst a lot of ground-laying and jokes for the kids. Here is a line I never thought I’d type: “Margot Kidder is much better than Amy Adams.” Which isn’t Adams’ fault – she’s ideally cast for a role that no one bothered to write for her. Superman Returns went broad, and it treated the original Donner movie as though it set a cinematic tone that couldn’t be violated. And it gave Superman a kid. Still, it feels like got the tone right, whereas this one is filmed seems washed free of color. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I like my pancakes round and my Superman movies bright and colorful. Yet since 2006, we’ve only further confirmed the set of commercial tactics from the Bond and Batman reboot playbook. I know that the new spin for reboots is, “You know what this story needs? Intense realism.” And I guess the box office success of this will validate that.
When Watchmen came out, I remember an ad calling Zak Snyder a visionary; that’s hilarious – his entire aesthetic is defined by absence of vision, literally. Here, the movie is often a confusing mess of CGI shots and live-action inserts. He frequently uses smoke and dust to obscure the action. The best parts of Watchmen were simply reproducing panels, which says more about the set and costume designer than the director. A student of mine suggested that his disastrous Sucker Punch is a movie with a weird, demented personality that demands to be pondered. Nathan Rabin notes that, Sucker Punch “aims to lure us into an exciting world of adventure and excitement, and then force us to concede our complicity in the exploitation, objectification, and dehumanization of the women onscreen,” even if it ultimately failed to pull it off. So Snyder is a director of startling, stupid ambition, and we’re going to be seeing a lot more of him.
My final point: LONE RANGER was ten times as good as this.
(The answer to the joke: Souperman!)