Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Video review: "Man of Steel"

Rebooting a superhero franchise is a trickier business than it sounds. People remember the glory of “The Dark Knight” and forget how clunky “Batman Begins” was. Spider-Man fizzled out with one group and came back stronger with another cast and crew. They tried twice to get the Hulk off the ground and only succeeded by making him a supporting player in the Avengers.

Hollywood attempted to bring back Superman a few years ago, and the the movie was just OK, so now they’ve tried again, and the results are similarly so-so.

Don’t flog “Man of Steel” for a lack of effort: there are big, grasping ambitions contained in this version starring Brit actor Henry Cavill. Too many, in fact.

Director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer’s unwisely chose to shoehorn two movies worth of storytelling into one sprawling narrative and ended up with a film showing all the symptoms of a split personality.

Here Clark Kent spends the first half of the movie as a demi-god alienated (literally) from the rest of his world, and the second half trading epic haymakers with evil General Zod (Michael Shannon), a militaristic bully from his home world of Krypton.

Both halves work decently well on their own, but don’t mesh together in any way that satisfies. We’re missing the bridge between the two, where Clark adopts the persona of Superman and takes on the mantle of humanity’s noble protector.

(The original “Superman” from 1978 faced similar issues, and chose to shoot the two movies back-to-back, giving Zod and his henchman their own sequel to fill out.)

Personally, I preferred the first portion where Superman must find his own way between the paths laid out by his two father figures, his Kryptonian dad (Russell Crowe) and his adoptive family on Earth, with Kevin Costner making a strong turn as Pa Kent.

“Man of Steel” isn’t a bad movie, but it certainly doesn’t soar like it should have.

Video extras are quite good, though as is often the case, the best stuff costs more. The DVD version comes only with three featurettes on the mythology of Superman, training regimen for the action scenes and a rundown of Krypton technology.

Upgrade to the Blu-ray level and  you add “Journey of Discovery: Creating ‘Man of Steel,’” a feature-length making-of documentary film. You also get “Planet Krypton,” which goes into the history and sociology of Superman’s doomed home planet.



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