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MAN OF STEEL

For Hicksflicks.com, June 21, 2013

In "Man of Steel" it's still true. Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But apparently he's not quite up to one daunting task: He couldn't get director Zack Snyder to hold the camera still.

They still make tripods, right? It's one thing to feel that a movie is a rollercoaster ride; it's quite another to feel as if the bouncing will never stop. Even a rollercoaster slows down when it's climbing up to the payoff.

And what's the deal with the washed-out colors? Sunrise over Kansas farmland is every bit as dark and dingy as New York City, er, Metropolis, at dusk.

There's also lots of product placement here, with the most obvious shout-outs going to IHOP, 7-Eleven, Nokia and Sears.

And if you're one of those people that worries about unseen collateral damage, all those people in buildings and vehicles that are smashed when the "Transformers" start rumbling, you won't feel any less anxiety here. Not too many deaths onscreen but lots of Manhattan, er, Metropolis, tumbles down, and we have to assume those apartments and offices have people in them, right? Guess Jor-El is wrong when he tells his son, "You can save them all."

**THE NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS A SPOILER, SO DON'T READ IT IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM YET.

The film also has a major plot hole, at least as I see it. Gen. Zod's death scene is a bit flat after all the mayhem that's gone before, and the way he dies, well, it shouldn't be possible.

Still, having said all that, there is much to enjoy in "Man of Steel." Though it's not linear, Superman's origin story comes off well, and the casting is especially well thought out. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are perfect as the Kents, conflicted about how the world might react to their adopted son's powers. And Amy Adams is spunky and smart as Lois Lane, and she has a lot more to do than the trailers let on. (Although any idea of Lois not knowing that Clark Kent and Superman are one and he same is out the window; she even calls after him as "Clark" when he's flying off in his rubber tights and red cape.)

Laurence Fishburne is also good as Perry White, though he doesn't have a lot to do, and Christopher Meloni is properly stoic as a military officer who at first doesn't trust Superman but grows to respect him. And Russell Crowe is as authoritative as you would expect as the Kryptonian father who reluctantly sends his son to Earth and then reappears in a sort of guiding-spirit form.

As for the leads, Michael Shannon is angry and forceful as Gen. Zod, and as Superman/Clark, Henry Cavill is dramatic and charming, and, as one character says toward the end, "kind of hot." He has the acting chops to show the character's range and he does so with aplomb. Although I'm not sure whose idea it was to have him scream so many times.

I had read that this film was completely devoid of humor, as if in reaction to the overt campiness of the Christopher Reeve films. True, the film could do with some comic relief, but there is some wry humor here and there for those who pay attention: An online investigative reporter is named "Woodburn" (as in Woodward and Bernstein, perhaps?), a tanker truck that overturns is labeled "Lexcorp" (a hint that Lex Luthor will be in the next film?), we are told Lois has won a Pulitzer Prize (which she repeatedly yearned for in the Reeve films), etc.

As you would expect, the special effects are great, but if ever a movie was overwhelmed by its computer animation, this is it. And often, with the camera jiggling and the cartoony creatures, ships and weapons flying around, it's hard to tell precisely what's going on. Especially in the final climactic showdown, which plays like an animated videogame … that someone else is playing.

I look forward to this cast returning for the inevitable "Man of Steel 2" but I hope that film will be directed by someone other than Snyder ("Watchmen," "300"), who is definitely of the "more is more" school. It would have been nice if things slowed down here and there for some character development. There is some of that but it's overwhelmed by the overblown battles that dominate the proceedings.

Chaos becomes less entertaining the more there is, and by the end, the continual chaotic action in "Man of Steel" has sucked much of the joy out of the Superman legend.