‘Man of Steel’ more solemn than super, reviews say

These days it seems like every superhero under the sun has been given a modern makeover for the big screen -- Batman, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor -- so it only makes sense that the grandaddy of them all is finally up for an overhaul in “Man of Steel.”

The latest incarnation of the Superman mythos features Henry Cavill in the red-and-blue tights and Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, plus a story by the “Dark Knight” trilogy’s Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer (with Goyer penning the screenplay). According to many movie critics, however, the same grave and gritty tone that worked so well for Nolan and Goyer in Gotham tends to weigh down “Man of Steel.”

The Times’ Kenneth Turan said the film “is pulled in different directions, delivering satisfactions without managing to be completely satisfying." On the plus side, Turan said, “the Goyer/Nolan story is well-imagined in terms of broad outlines,” and the cast is strong, with Cavill in particular being “a superb choice for someone who needs to convincingly convey innate modesty, occasional confusion and eventual strength.”

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On the other hand: “While [‘Man of Steel’s’] ambition and scope pull one way, its pinched and unconvincing sense of drama pull the other. Whatever strengths director Snyder revealed in films like ‘300' and ‘Watchmen,’ making stories like this emotionally convincing is not one of them.”

The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr called “Man of Steel” “a muscular yet sorrowful summer epic that carries the weight of its fraught times, at least until it gives in to the urge to just smash things in the last half hour.” The script, Burr said, “imports the dramatic agonies, portentous dialogue, and complex plot structure of [Nolan and Goyer’s] ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy. It’s not always a comfortable fit.”

He added, “Snyder knows how to put on a show, and ‘Man of Steel’ has a massive scope that’s hard to resist. ... But what’s missing from this Superman saga is a sense of lightness, of pop joy.”

Similarly, New York magazine’s David Edelstein said “Man of Steel” offers “lots of noise and clutter -- but never the simple charm of the original comic by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster or the faintly self-abashed handsomeness of Christopher Reeve. The movie isn’t dead on arrival, like Snyder’s over-reverent ‘Watchmen.’ But it’s pleasure-free.”


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The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips wrote, “Snyder’s granite-fisted 143-minute picture treats the Superman mythology with enough seriousness to satisfy scholars of the Bible or the Torah. ... This time no trace elements of camp intrude on the landscapes of Krypton, Metropolis or Smallville, Kan.”

Phillips also agreed with Turan that “Cavill is quite good: less impish than Christopher Reeve, more intense than Brandon Routh” (who donned the cape in “Superman Returns” seven years ago).

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly said he thought “Man of Steel’s” “‘Dark Knight'-style makeover never quite comes ­together. Sure, ­Superman is still faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. ... But he’s been transformed into the latest in a long line of soul-searching super-brooders, trapped between his devastated birth planet of Krypton and his adopted new home on Earth. He’s just another haunted outsider grappling with issues.”

Stephanie Zacharek, however, wrote in the Village Voice that “‘Man of Steel’ is a movie event with an actual movie inside, crying to get out. Despite its preposterous self-seriousness, its overblown, CGI’ed-to-death climax, and its desperate efforts to depict the destruction of, well, everything on Earth, there’s greatness in this retelling of the origin of Superman, moments of intimate grandeur, some marvelous, subtle acting, and a superhero costume that’s a feat of mad mod genius.”


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