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The Blue & Gray Press | August 23, 2019

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“Man of Steel” lacks appeal

super,am4webBy WILLIAM HURLEY

This summer’s highly anticipated reboot of the Superman franchise, “Man of Steel,” directed by Zack Snyder, came to the University of Mary Washington’s Cheap Seats this past weekend.
In the titular role, Henry Cavill is the tenth actor to take on Superman since Kirk Alyn first portrayed the role in 1948.
“Man of Steel” immediately draws audiences in with visually amazing action scenes that combine dramatic lighting and a soaring orchestral soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, as well as an incredible special effects team that more than likely set the gold standard for future superhero movie action sequences.
Cinematography is the film’s strong point, as the story and character arcs in the Superman universe are all fairly well known and predictable tropes that provide little more than a framework for the movie’s dramatic visuals.
While the origin story is mostly told through flashbacks, some new additions to the “alien boy come to Earth” story are included. Notably, one new detail introduces how Kal-El’s home planet, Krypton, is doomed to destruction.
Krypton’s demise is partially owed to the inhabitants embracing a eugenics policy, and Kal-El is the only natural birth in over centuries. He thus is deemed “special,” and sent to Earth. However, the Krypton storyline feels over-explained yet still confusing.
When Clark Kent, Superman’s alter ego on earth finally embraces his signature costume and becomes Superman, the character takes a sharp u-turn from the honest, earnest, American figure and enters a stoic and brooding persona.
This character change more closely resembles Christopher Nolan’s dark and gritty Batman reboots than the iconic Superman typically represented.
The motifs of inspiration and hope from previous films by other directors have vanished, instead filtering the bright colors and themes of the character through the financially successful, but creatively tired, trope that made Nolan’s Batman movies popular.
Ultimately, “Man of Steel” is a blockbuster movie that can engage an audience and amaze both Superman fans and un-knowledgeable movie-goers.
However, the movie has a safe and predictable feel that cannot be shaken throughout the experience. The main character is given a bland and unexciting arc, which is a sharp contrast from other recent superhero movies that deal with weakening the characters previously seen as undefeatable.
Plots such as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) struggling with panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in “Iron Man 3” or Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) recovering from a broken spine in “The Dark Knight Rises” both leave “Man of Steel” feeling rather flat.
Ultimately, Zack Snyder successfully kept Superman alive in the public eye, but it is certainly arguable whether he has enabled the character to become relevant once again.