In the Flaming Lips song ‘Waitin for a from their 1999 opus ‘The Soft Bulletin, frontman Wayne Coyne, with the weight of the world and possibly the universe on his tender, weary shoulders asks, ‘Is it overwhelming to use a crane to crush a fly?’, the elegiac, resigned tone of the song suggesting the human race unable to cope with even the smallest problems and looking for Superman to save them. The final line of the chorus – ‘It’s just too heavy for Superman to lift ‘ then serves to underline the possible futility of such a hope with the possibility of redemption left to reside within ourselves. ‘Waitin for a Superman’ posits the Man of Steel as a symbol of hope to see us through the hard times.
In Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan‘s new take on Superman, that essence of the character like so much in Man of Steel, is lost in a tidal wave of deafening sound effects and blurred, special effects Sturm und Drang. It’s hinted at but never developed or focused on for too long. This fragmentation seems borne from the flashback structure the film-makers and screenwriter David Goyer adopt from the get go. It’s a trick Goyer used to better effect in 2005’s Batman Begins but only serves to frustrate here.
Given license by this structure – which cuts back and forth from Clark Kent in the present day and his childhood – Snyder over indulges the elliptical visuals and handheld camera movements thus diminishing any drama or tension. He seems determined to undercut the iconic power of his imagery and Superman himself with an editing style that keeps cutting away from key moments or images too soon such as when Clark Kent finally dons the costume.
Even within that moment, what should have been a thrilling moment of collective recognition is practically bereft or of any sense of wonder. It’s thrown away. A persistently dour and monotonous tone plagues the movie with cast members and extras looking decidedly nonplussed as an orgy of mass destruction and flying alien beings bludgeoning each other across city blocks unfolds in front of their eyes. There is a distinct lack of awe not to mention complete absence of humour throughout the films epic running time.
As a result, Man of Steel not only fails to not only resemble a Superman movie but fails as drama, never truly taking flight.
N.B., Hans Zimmer should probably take a vacation from scoring superhero/action movies based on his work here, his cacophonous, pounding music making Wagner and even Superman predecessor John Williams seem understated. Though to be fair, he seems to have found a perfect creative ally in Snyder, who’s hardly known for his subtlety. Jesus, I went on a bit longer than I was planning here, how do I end this? How about I end it….right….NOW!