Man of Steel’s video-game-like climax can’t save a bad script

  • Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 12:43 a.m.

With a budget of around $200 million, director Zach Snyder created, instead of what could have been a masterpiece, little more than a glorified video game of mass destruction.

Wasting this much money should cement his getting a government job when he stops directing movies.


Folks have been making movies for more than a century now. And through the course of time have come welcome improvements in technology — talking pictures, color, widescreen, stereophonic sound, 3D (if you’re a fan) and digital projection.

But one thing has remained constant, whether it be movies, television, legitimate theater or books: You have to have a good script. That’s the number-one priority. Bad acting can ruin a good script, but good acting rarely saves a bad one.

“Man of Steel” is, for the most part, a remake of Richard Donner’s, then Richard Lester’s “Superman II.” General Zod and his ruffians escape from the Phantom Zone and head for Earth to kill Kal-El, then take domination of our planet.

But first, there’s an overlong opening segment on Krypton, which looks like a sewer. And I’m supposed to believe this planet is far advanced beyond our own. Probably a good thing the place disintegrated.

I began shifting in my theater seat saying, “Push the button, launch the baby’s spaceship and let’s move on.”

The movie picks up when Clark Kent enters, with flashbacks here and there of his growing up on the Smallville farm of the Kent family. The Jonathan/young Clark Kent sequences are the best thing about the movie, and they are great. Martha Kent’s scenes are very good as well.

The material in which the U.S. military doesn’t know how to react to Kal-El (is he friend or foe?) is natural and well done.

Then Zod and company show up, and the movie heads down the chute. Get out your joysticks and play “Let’s Destroy Smallville and Metropolis.”

From this point on, the movie seemed to run three more hours. I’m not a big video game fan, but I love sirloin steak. But after eating sirloin steak for a while, I get my fill and stop. The video game-like climax of the film went on seemingly forever. Snyder could have really made use of the editing shears at this point.

Eliminating 50 percent of the noise, explosions, collapsing buildings, etc., would have still gotten the point across. What was a 143-minute movie could easily have been 100 minutes.

I was pleased to hear the absence of the John Williams music this time out. I’m really tired of it. For the last 10 years, every individual who has made a YouTube subject concerning Superman, has used the same Williams theme. Time to rest it. Fortunately, this time out, they did.

Looking at the acting performances, I give a gold star to Russell Crowe. He does a wonderful job as Jor-El, so much better than Brando slurring through his dialogue in 1978.

Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent is the heart and soul of the movie. I wanted much more of him and much less of Michael Shannon’s Zod. Diane Lane’s Martha Kent is full of heart as well. Again, more of her and less of Zod.

Laurence Fishburne is fine as Perry White, with what little he is given to do. Thumbs down to Antje Traue as Faora-Ul. There’s a difference between villainous characters and irritating characters. Zod is a villain, and I’m not supposed to like him. But when Traue’s character appeared on the screen, I cringed, “Oh no, not her again.”

Amy Adams as Lois Lane was fine, and I can see good things with her and Cavill in the future if WB formally gives the green light for a sequel. But with her being a dead ringer to Jenna Fischer of “The Office” (of which I was a fan), I found myself being distracted every time she appeared on screen. I lost concentration, thinking I was at the Dunder Mifflin office. But that is my fault, not the movie’s.

Henry Cavill has the potential of being a fantastic screen Superman. He really has the look and the acting skills. But for this to happen, the writers will have to give him a script that gives him the opportunity to show us what he can do. This script didn’t. Cavill’s Superman is on screen less time than his computer-generated version, and that’s a killer. Not his fault. His few scenes with Lois show he can be great in the role.

The movie had a super opening weekend (sorry, couldn’t resist), so expect a continuation down the road. But please, writers, deliver a shooting script which concentrates on the characters and don’t blow up the world again. The Clark Kent/Superman character is a very complex one. Use that. Explore that. Is Clark really Superman, or is Superman really Clark?

I realize that the “baby boomer” generation (of which I have a membership card) is no longer the targeted Superman audience, but it would be wise for the future producers to remember that there are still a lot of us folks who love the Superman story, having grown up running around in front of the television set with a red bath towel around our necks watching the wonderful George Reeves fight for truth, justice and the American way.

I still watch those same shows (minus the towel).

Mike Cline’s website, “Mike Cline’s Then Playing,” documents all the movies played in Rowan County theaters from 1920 through 1979.

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