After much debate, I decided the best way to “prep” for Wonder Woman was to revisit the last solo movie in the DCEU catalog Man of Steel. Both BvS and Suicide Squad are more recent but they are also both quite bad. My memory of Man of Steel was a bit more hazy and a bit more positive (although, admittedly, still no thumbs up) so I thought it would make for the most fertile ground to plant this Throwback Thursday.
As for this week’s release, perhaps you have heard that is a “gamble,” that the future of women as action heroes relies entirely on its success, and that Chris Pine is a blue ghost man obviously photoshopped onto the posters because, you know, men can’t just see a movie with women. All of this is dumb but absolutely believed in by some Hollywood types. So go see the damn thing this weekend. Time to send a message.
MAN OF STEEL
To level with you right away, I think Man of Steel is Zach Snyder's best directing effort to day. His storytelling ability improved, his bag of tricks is deployed less often and more effectively, and his visual verve did not supplant storytelling. BvS: Dawn of Justice is, in this way, a disappointing backslide.
That said, I don't like it. I can respect the craftsmanship while ultimately deciding the final product isn't very good.
A lot of the problem lies in the beginning and end of the movie. The film opens with what feels like a 20 minute exploration of Krypton before its destruction that offers us no insight in the titular hero. It looks pretty at points but it also so just such empty effects work.
The end, on the other hand, is an ugly smashfest that is bad long before the often correctly criticized Superman kills Zod moment. It should be harrowing and horrifying, instead it is a dull sepia mess of a seemingly endless cascade of empty buildings toppling over.
The middle is better, but hardly great. If everything was as good as the middle, Man of Steel would be referred to as decent but uneven.
On the good side, Snyder depicts the fear of Clark Kent's emerging powers. On the bad, he captures almost none of the joy. On the good, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane do strong work as Pa and Ma Kent. On the bad, they are often given lines that essentially encourage Clark to selfish and self-interested. On the good, Amy Adams is drawn as a very competent Lois Lane. On the bad, Henry Cavill is hamstrung at every turn in his quest to breathe life and humanity into the adult Clark.
And so on.
For me the entire film is best summarized via the moment where Lois attempts to suggest Clark call himself Superman only to be blanketed by a burst of microphone static. The moment thinks itself more clever than it is, perhaps even imagines it to be a funny moment, and only serves to reveal the movie's deep ambivalence about its own subject matter.
This review is dedicated to my new best good buddy Brad.