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Article by Teddy Durgin

'Man of Steel' Is Just Not Super

The original 1977 "Star Wars" was the first film I ever saw in a cinema and definitely served as a life inspiration. But you know what was the SECOND movie I ever saw in a theater? Yup, 1978's "Superman." And as much as the Star Destroyer going over my head opened my 7-year-old eyes wide to the wonders of cinema for the first time, those fantastic streaking credits that opened Richard Donner's take on the Man of Steel set to John Williams' insanely awesome music were just as viscerally resonant. The original film's advertising famously promised: "You WILL believe a man can fly!" Well, those opening moments made me believe I could fly! The film was like its titular hero. It soared. It was a force of good in the world at the time. It was a hopeful movie, beautifully photographed, impeccably cast, and Reeve was note-perfect. But there has always been room in my heart for other Supermen. From George Reeves to Christopher Reeve, from Dean Cain to Tom Welling to Brandon Routh, the one constant has been the non-cynical, larger-than-life, force-of-good depiction of the Superman character. Unfortunately, the new "Man of Steel" is infected with "Dark Knight"-itis. It bleeds out all of the color and gee-whiz hokum of Supes. It piles on the angst and pain and self-doubt that were there at times in previous films and TV shows. But the film wallows in it all. Gone is "Up, up, and away!" Gone is "It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman!" Gone is Superman fighting for "truth, justice, and the American way." We're not getting comic books anymore. We're getting tragic books. The shadow of Sept. 11 still hangs over escapist cinema. It's hard to not look at Metropolis getting thrashed during "Man of Steel"'s climax with all of the buildings crumbling under the weight of General Zod's ultimate weapon and not think of the Twin Towers falling. The same thing for the bad guy crashing a ship into downtown San Francisco in the recent "Star Trek" movie or the Big Apple biting it in "The Avengers" or Chicago getting thrashed in the last "Transformers" film. The difference is Superman should be doing everything he can to lead the destroyers AWAY from the city. When he ultimately slugs it out with Michael Shannon's Zod, he punches the General through building after building causing destruction that almost certainly claimed additional human lives. Superman should be saving buildings, not destroying them. Collateral damage should weigh on his psyche just as much as the kids who picked on him back in school. And there is a brutality to the action and fight sequences in this film that I think make it borderline inappropriate for little kids. There are some seriously violent Kryptonian beatdowns in this flick. Sure, the 20- and 30-somethings scream, "Aw, hell, YEAH!" But Superman should also be for kids. THEY are the ones who should be playing with the action figure. They're the ones who are supposed to come out of this with their arms raised out in front of them, a red beach towel tied around their necks and "flying" around the lobby. Instead, I saw boys afterwards doing their best impressions of "HULK SMASH!" And, yet, I'm a bit conflicted. This is the rare film that I am giving a negative review to that I honestly want a sequel! Why? Because what the filmmakers get right, they get SO right. First of all, Henry Cavill is great as the Man of Steel! He wears the suit. The suit doesn't wear him. Second, sweet Lord, yes. They poured some bucks into this movie! The scale is impressive. Third, Hans Zimmer's score is fantastic. Maybe now that they've gotten the angst and the self-doubt out of Superman's system, the cast, director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan can re-assemble and give both old-school fans like myself and today's edgier, more demanding young audiences AND the kids a Superman we can ALL love.

"Man of Steel" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence, and destruction.

 

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