MAN OF STEEL (2013, Zack Snyder): 5/10
Not bad for the first hour or so, with Snyder’s style lending some surrealist gravity to a fundamentally ridiculous origin story of an alien with muscles who says stuff like “I grew up in Kansas; I’m as American as it gets.” But then it turns into one of the loudest films ever made with a final hour full of nonstop destruction (the devastation to Metropolis is a hundred times the level of 9/11, but the aftermath isn’t even considered) and the screen turns into a garbage disposal of CGI crumbs and lights. Props to the production design of Alex McDowell (FIGHT CLUB, MINORITY REPORT) for crafting a visually striking sense of an alien universe on vacation to Earth, but the punishing noises and violence are downright shallow and ultimately boring. Adams, Fishburne, Meloni, and Schiff are stranded with roles forcing them to be humorless cogs, and although Shannon does a lot of glowering and shouting, he’s no Terence Stamp. Russell Crowe gets it — his Jor-El is a character that lands forcefully — and Cavill acquits himself nicely by straddling the line between corny and studly. But overall this is a fairly cynical blockbuster that refuses to engage its material beyond the capacity for spectacle, and if you’re wondering if a summer superhero film can have something to say as well as look cool, then don’t just look to Nolan’s Batman — look to Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN. It can be done. And maybe this film’s sequel will try harder.