Man of Steel is one of those big-budget, CGI-fueled grandiosities I thought I might hate but I had to see it anyway because it seemed so perfectly what it is, even in the ads. Sentimental, full-throttled, humorless, luxuriously violent, stupidly sweet. Which, in fact, it turned out to be.
Zach Snyder directs with ham-handed dexterity, an authority that seems kind of child-like and yet completely controlled and in control. The scenes in his previous superhero flick The Watchmen went on for what seemed like eternities. That movie had no gumption to go with its awe. This one does. The scenes in Man of Steel go on for just the right amount of time, and the origin myth supplies so much beautiful deja vu that you feel almost as if Snyder is trying to tell us all a prolonged Bible story. And that's a good thing. The humorlessness comes from that sense of the sacred that seems to permeate every Man of Steel moment. The actors are wonderful, especially Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe as Superman's fathers; everyone seems keen on not getting the joke, and that super-serious feeling translates into true sentiment somehow. I even teared up a few times. Man of Steel is one of the few hyper-budgeted superhero spectacles that seems to get "it," that glum, perfect, dumb-ass sense of intense seriousness you need to have to register the full effect of being a fan. It's a big, dumb mural come to life.
Superman the Movie, the flick Man of Steel genuflects to, is the opposite in style and tone. Released in 1978, and directed by Richard Donner, it is candy-colored, blissful Pop Art. Christopher Reeve broke out as the man in tights and red underwear, and although he seemed to try to play Superman realistically, it was all kind of campy in a way, due to the era I guess, as well as the hype, and that hair-style with the curly-cured forehead. Still it is one of those feverdream movies I remember from my childhood. I was thirteen, and a friend and I worked at a shitty little restaurant (the old couple who owned the place paid us out of the cash-register, so as to not have to worry about child labor laws). It was snowing one Friday night when we were closing the little place down, and we'd talked my friend's mom into driving us to the mall so we could see the 10 pm showing on the first Friday Superman the Movie was out. It was so great to be exhausted from work, sitting in a theater, that portentous John-Williams music blaring over the ice-sculpture font of the opening credits.
Man of Steel has that energy inside it: a fan-boy dedication to believing in something, even if that something is pure unadulterated primary-colored muscle-bound stupidity from another planet.