“Man of Steel” is the latest re-boot of the Superman story, and it’s definitely a lot different than those that came before.
It’s all a matter of tone. And the tone of this Superman is serious business, deadly serious. This Superman doesn’t wear those funny red trunks and there’s no curl of hair on his forehead. There’s no hint of camp or pop culture winks. There’s barely a sense of fun.
Instead, “Man of Steel” is a relentlessly serious, robust, testosterone-fueled battle with so much at stake at every moment, that it’s exhausting. Bombast has never had a better platform.
Case in point, the launch of baby Superman off the planet Krypton. In most versions, his Krypton Dad and Mom kiss the babe goodbye and off he goes into the wild blue yonder. It takes about five minutes. It’s a good half hour in “Man of Steel.” We get an extended and spectacular look at life on Krypton and lots of philosophical arguments between Superman’s Dad and the military leader Zod.
The great Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon square off on Krypton, and resume their battle on Planet Earth again and again and again. The first time they square off at the Kent family farm in Kansas, Superman flies full-speed at Zod and proceeds to pound him over and over as they crash through massive silos, over acres and acres of cornfields, into a convenience store, and smack into a gas station before they finally stumble to the ground.
By the time we get to the final of three all-out battles between the armies of Zod and Superman, so many skyscrapers have crashed and burned that Metropolis must be the size of a dozen Manhattans to be able to encompass all that destruction.
Early on in the movie, it’s explained that Superman is so powerful on Earth because he’s used to Krypton’s gravity which is so much stronger. In the end, “Man of Steel” feels too weighed down by a Kryptonian “gravitas.”