starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe
screenplay by David S. Goyer
directed by Zack Snyder
by Walter Chaw Zack Snyder's Man of Steel is 44 beautifully-constructed trailers strung together in the world's most expensive promo reel; at this point in his career, it's fair to wonder who it is Snyder's still trying to impress. Shapeless, structure-less, the movie aspires towards nostalgic, grandiloquent, patriotic pastiche but succeeds only in being disjointed, muted, and frustrating. Take the casting of Kevin Costner as Superman's terrestrial dad, Jonathan Kent. Perfect, right? But he's reduced to a fantastic scene where he reveals his adopted son's alien origin that is fantastic solely because Costner is not only magnificent when he's allowed to be in his wheelhouse (baseball player, cowboy, farmer), but also because there's a certain weight in the wrinkles on Costner's face and the grey at his temples. He's the embodiment of a specific brand of nostalgia all by himself, and the potential for him to be the spiritual centre of a soulless film isn't merely squandered, it's aggressively squandered. The Superman mythos at its best is about fathers and sons--the hero (Henry Cavill, playing Supes as Wolverine) has, after all, lost two fathers, orphaned twice in a strange land and compared visually and thematically to Christ in every incarnation. ("The last son of Krypton," n'est-ce pas?) It's a powerful theme, one that explains the enduring popularity of the character when wags have correctly identified that there are no real, viable external threats to someone who's essentially all-powerful. The Jesus story is meaningless if Jesus never thought of Himself as merely a man carrying a terrible burden. Consider the elevation of Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan to inscrutable WMD, or The Incredibles' Mr. Incredible's near-ruin in the role of family man. No, Superman's weakness is existential. I fear that Snyder--a director who seems to abhor difference and adore surfaces in his pictures--is exactly the wrong person to explore the irony of an immaculate conception tortured in the role of outsider.