Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
May 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Muscle-Bound

man-of-steel2Valiant cast battles loud, ugly action for the soul of 'Man of Steel'

Early in Man of Steel, fourth-grader Clark, the boy who will be Superman, is cowering in a broom closet at school, eyes screwed shut, hands clapped over his ears. He can't control his super powers: his X-ray vision shows him the skulls and skeletons under everyone's flesh; unfiltered noise—dogs, traffic, heartbeats—assault him from all sides. Rushing to school, his mom kneels outside the door and asks what's wrong.

"The world is too big!" he tells her.

Then focus, she urges him. "Make it smaller."

If only somebody had given director Zack Snyder the same advice. When Snyder keeps his focus small—the boyhood and young manhood of Clark Kent (played as an adult by supernaturally handsome and chiseled Henry Cavill), told in beautifully integrated flashbacks as he drifts though a series of itinerant odd jobs searching for his destiny—the movie is persuasive and rewarding.

But when the supervillains from Krypton, led by bug-eyed General Zod (Michael Shannon), start laying waste to Earth in a series of demolition derby grudge matches against prodigal son Kal-El/Clark, the movie loses its credibility and its heart. Big, soulless CGI effects are de rigueur in summer blockbusters, of course, but Snyder (who was quite the stylist back when he made 300), seems to be going for some kind of prize—and not in a good way.

The action sequences in Man of Steel are remarkable for their aggressive ugliness. Gigantic warships rain down destruction from the skies. Entire city blocks go up in flames, skyscrapers crash into each other in a hail of shattering glass and exploding concrete, Superman and his opponents sling each other like Frisbees through streets, buildings, and the stratosphere. After one such CGI orgy in which Clark's home town of Smallville is devastated, I was ready to crawl into a broom closet. By the time they replayed the whole thing over again—but bigger—in downtown Metropolis, I was literally cringing in my seat.

Given these bludgeoning effects, it's easy to forget what was good about the movie. But there are good things:           

Superman. All three actors play him effectively, including Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry as the child and adolescent Clark. If Cavill lacks some of the endearing, goofball charm of Christopher Reeve in the first modern Superman reboot, it's only because this movie is so angsty, Cavill rarely gets a chance to smile. While stalwart in the tights and cape, he gives the movies its best moments as scruffy young drifter Clark, trying to find himself.

Russell Crowe. As Jor-El, the scientist father on dying Krypton who puts his infant son Kal-El in a space capsule for Earth, Crowe is the voice of reason, wisdom, and restraint. His recurring presence throughout the film is a welcome respite from the chaos. For that matter, Kevin Costner has a nice rapport with the various Clarks as farmer Kent, who raises the baby he finds crash-landed in his Kansas cornfield.

The Moms. Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer is wonderful as Kal-El's birth mother; her tender scenes with Crowe at the beginning, and her quiet maternal ferocity are quite lovely. And Diane Lane is fun as a spirited, if careworn, Martha Kent, standing up for her foster son against all comers.

Themes. Some ideas pinging around the periphery of the action are worth noting. General Zod bursts in on the governing council of Krypton to accuse that "These lawmakers with their endless debates have brought our planet to ruin!" Kal-El is the first naturally born Kryptonian infant in centuries, in a society where unregulated genetic engineering dictates who is born and what their role in life will be. As Clark struggles to manage his powers, this idea of free will plays out as he decides how to respond to bullies, and chooses what kind of man he will be.

Innovation. Amy Adams is on board as investigative reporter Lois Lane, but this film is more of a prequel to Clark Kent's career at the Daily Planet. I like this fresh take on the material, which might bring more of a knowing romantic zing to subsequent installments—if there are any. If Snyder's ham-fisted action sequences don't smother the life out of the franchise before it begins.


MAN OF STEEL ★ ★1/2 (out of four) With Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon. Written by David S. Goyer. Directed by Zack Snyder. A Warner Bros release. Rated PG-13. 143 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival