The twenty-first century is undoubtedly the “age of superheroes,” where the comic book characters of the 1950s and 1960s have returned in the form of transmedia titans. From video games to breakfast cereals, the kids of yesterday have become the artists of today. Reading comics isn’t enough anymore — we want to live like superheroes too.
Superhero movies have evolved all the same; the genre has blossomed from its wholesome beginnings into a viable means of artistic ingenuity. Just look at the Batman franchise, switching between Gothic horror, camp, and realism with each passing director. Christopher Nolan, the man behind the gritty The Dark Knight trilogy, returns to make Warner Bros. and DC Comics another fortune with this year’s most anticipated summer blockbuster, Man of Steel. With tech-whiz Zack Snyder as director and frequent collaborator David S. Goyer as the lead writer, Nolan aims to turn Superman, the world’s most iconic comic book hero, into a box-office binge.
To be honest, I hated Man of Steel. Not that the movie has no redeeming values, but critics are giving audiences the impression that watching the film is actually rewarding. Man of Steel plays out like a two-hour episode of Dragon Ball Z, featuring Superman as Goku and General Zod as Frieza. Characters shout one-liners at each other in a poor attempt to create suspense. Clark Kent’s past is revealed through flashback, where he was a good little boy who read Plato and followed all the rules. His present-day life is revealed through a series of loosely-connected events, where people mindlessly embrace the existence of all-mighty aliens with little doubt.
Catharsis is something this film badly needs. An old artistic device first described by Aristotle, catharsis usually refers to the cleansing of emotion after witnessing a tragedy. In other words, the audience reaches a satisfaction when all the characters get what they deserve. Though the qualities of catharsis change depending on genre and theme, it is often used in a good narrative.
Man of Steel, however, is flooded with exposition, losing any soul it tries to achieve through character development. The most awkward scene in the movie is a scene where Superman (Henry Cavill) stops Zod’s plans and shares a kiss with Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Not only is there no chemistry between the two characters in the few scenes that they share, but I don’t think either character deserves, or even desires, a love life. Crammed to breaking point with exposition dumps, capture sequences, and soulless conversations, the biggest issue with Man of Steel is its desire to live up to other Superman films.
Moreover, it is as if writer David S. Goyer doesn’t know how to write dramatic irony. Unlike Shane Black’s antsy Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, Goyer prefers to write omnipotent characters who never struggle psychologically or intellectually, like Blade or every character in The Dark Knight trilogy. Jeez, Bruce Wayne only manages to escape Bane’s imprisonment in The Dark Knight Rises because of willpower and a magical hallucination of Ra’s al Ghul.
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