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A little fun would have lifted ‘Man of Steel’

6/20/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Henry Cavill (Superman) and Amy Adams (Lois Lane) star in “Man of Steel.”
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
There’s not a lot of joy in the new movie Superman movie “Man of Steel.” One of the rare times our hero seems to be enjoying himself is when he takes to the skies for the first time. But he immediately crashes, and the point is made — fun is bad.

If you like your superhero movies free of whimsy, with the solemnity of a religious epic, then director Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot is for you. You’ve got the buffed-up guy in tights (Henry Cavill), nasty villains and fighting — lots of it. But I would have traded 10 minutes of hand-to-hand combat for some punched-up dialogue, some levity amid the anguish.

The dark mood begins in the prologue, where, far from Earth, the characters have good reason for acting as if it’s the end of the world. The planet Krypton is on its last legs, and its leaders have not taken heed of the warnings of scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe). He tries the art of persuasion, which proves less effective than General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) plan to kill everyone in his way and take over.

It all ends poorly for everyone, with the exception of Jor-El’s infant son Kal-El, who is jettisoned to Earth. He lands in Kansas, where he is raised by Ma and Pa Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) and given the name Clark. Pa is protective of his son’s gifts, to the point where he’d prefer young Clark let tragedy occur rather than reveal his powers. If Pa Kent had his way, his son would need some heavy-duty therapy.

As it is, the post-adolescent Clark is a sad loner with identity issues. Those issues will get resolved, but as he learns of his origin, he has to deal with nosy reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Lois knows something’s up with this muscle-bound guy, but, fortunately for Clark, Daily Planet editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) won’t print her crazy story. (Adams and Fishburne are fine actors, but, for what they have to do in this movie, their roles could have been played by contest winners.)

Once the preliminaries are out of the way, “Steel” goes into battle mode and remains there for the rest of the movie. It’s nonstop action without much imagination, no moment where you think, “Well, that’s clever” or “I didn’t see that coming.” It’s all well-designed, and the sound and fury is primed to give you an adrenalin rush, but it goes nowhere and takes its sweet time arriving. We know Superman is going to save the day, but what day? Next Thursday?

The British-born Cavill is a good Superman, as far as we can tell. He’s got the build for the role and his accent is as American as store-brand apple pie. But he’s given little opportunity to show any facet of his character beyond “tortured soul.” Maybe in the sequel, his smiles will equal or surpass his screams. Even Mr. Spock, of the “Star Trek” reboot, whose life has been no bed of roses, would tell him to enjoy the ride once in a while.

The movie, currently in theaters, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.

Two Stars (out of four)


Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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