Man Of Steel

Some people just don’t know when to stop. Zack Snyder, director of this new Superman movie, is one of those. With films like 300 and Watchmen in his past we can’t say we don’t know what to expect. A slightly surreal comic book aesthetic, stylised destruction and violence, a lack of humour and a very loud soundtrack with Wagnerian pretensions. I’ll be honest: I haven’t enjoyed his previous films. Hopes were higher here, though – not least because Christopher Nolan is the producer and co-writer. If anyone could reign Snyder’s excesses in, its the man who can handle huge budgets, gargantuan expectations and big stars and still produce something exciting, commercially successful and that’s still artistically and intellectually satisfying.

The result is Snyder’s best film. To put that in context, it’s possibly the worst film that Nolan has put his name to in any form. Granted, in this age of dark superhero reinventions, Superman was always going to present a challenge. He’s too easy to poke fun at – red underpants outside the trousers, flying and an enemy called Zod. Seriously.

Snyder deals with this by constantly cutting back to Superman’s back story. Whether it’s his origins on Krypton born to Russel Crowe or his Earth-bound childhood of self-discovery with his father Kevin Costner these scenes are handled well. Lois Lane is the reporter trying to unearth if the elusive rescuer of people in danger is an urban myth, a figment of her imagination or an alien. All of this works well – it’s exciting, occasionally moving, and well handled. Crowe and Costner are especially well cast.

Where the film strays is with a distinct lack of wit and the climactic, seemingly endless battle with Zod. The missing wit and humour is notable because of the two scenes where it actually exists: one brilliant visual gag after a narrowly avoided bar-fight when Superman is still trying to remain anonymous; the other when he teaches himself to fly   – a scene which pops with exhilaration, grins and joy. In the aftermath of those you realise you haven’t smiled at all otherwise, and probably won’t. Snyder, crashing orchestral soundtrack and buildings together, wants to ram the portentous events down our throats, to see profound parallels, to take it all Seriously. We can’t. Because it’s too much and too long. The supposedly serious parallels (puberty, religion, identity) are so po-faced they wash over us; the wit so minimal we never have the chance to have fun. Christopher Nolan showed in his Batman trilogy that you can do serious superhero movies and still have fun; if he tried to teach Snyder this, then he didn’t get his point across.

British unknown Henry Cavill does a decent job in the lead role; he certainly looks the part and manages to invest the character with a modicum of depth. It’s a shame, that for all the bombast and spectacle, that’s lacking in the rest of the movie. When an actor of Richard Schiff’s skill is reduced to a few scenes where he stands and gawps, you’ve missed an opportunity. It’s not a bad film; there is much to enjoy. It just would have been so much the better 45 minutes shorter and with a sense of control. Here’s hoping the inevitable sequel learns the a little less could leave us much more satisfied.

I rated this movie 3/5 on and 6/10 on



In director Zac Snyder’s head, this film is an epic superhero movie, part-Goodfellas or Godfather, part Shakespearean tragedy. Unfortunately that movie is still somewhere in his head.

Released in 2009, and recorded by myself nearly a year ago, I’ve finally summoned the will to watch the nearly 3 hours of this adaptation of one of the most revered graphic novels. I haven’t read it; I haven’t read any graphic novels. Not because I deem them unworthy of my attention – I’m just aware this a genre I’d need to get to grips with. That’s something I’ve never done.

The problem with adapting any loved source is the faithfulness/adaptation debate. This misses the point – it’s best to think of book and film is 2 separate incarnations of a third party – the story. Look at a film like Trainspotting to see it done to near perfection. The two media are different, and so should the interpretations of a story in those media. Zac Snyder’s film goes, I’m told for fidelity – trying to tell a story set inappropriate alternative 1985 where Nixon is still president, where superheroes are known to the public and where public opinion is on the turn. Then there’s some kind of murder story. And something to do with nuclear weapons. And, apparently, relationship stuff.

The plot doesn’t seem to flow; parts of the script would be returned to a high school film studies student to try harder. It a very, very long two and three quarter hours film.

It’s not all bad – some action scenes are ridiculous and aimless; some nicely handled and artfully directed. It’s at it’s best when it sticks to the detective story elements – sadly, that’s all too little, lost in all the apparently aimless meanderings.There’s probably a good film to be made from parts of this source; sadly, this one doesn’t make the appeal of the graphic novel apparent to anyone who’s not already on-side. A missed opportunity.

I rated this film 2/5 on and 4/10 on