June 20--The latest incarnation of Superman, "Man of Steel," draws a lot from successes of other recent superhero movies.
It's too bad that Superman gets lost in translation.
A disappointing restart to a franchise that was at its best in the first two Christopher Reeve films in the late 1970s and early 1980s, "Man of Steel" ultimately fails because it forgets its origins. It's a film full of angst and devoid of humor.
It also proves to be nothing more than a 21/2 hour backstory, tracing the journey of Kal-El (Henry Cavill) from Krypton to Earth, where he is raised as Clark Kent by an unassuming midwest couple (Kevin Costner and Diane Ladd).
Kal-El struggles with his identity and extraordinary powers that are not of this earth, trying to find his purpose.
As the young man journeys to discover himself, he is threatened by a castoff from his home planet, General Zod (Michael Shannon), who is intent on annihilating Earth.
"Man of Steel" feels more like a chapter of "The Dark Knight" franchise than a Superman film -- director Zack Synder and screenwriters David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan went for a much darker tone.
I found it to be rather off-putting, completely sucking the fun out of Superman. This is a superhero franchise that works best when it is lighter, with great interplay between Kent/Kal-El and Lois Lane (played here by Amy Adams). Part of the charm of the first two Reeves Superman films was that interplay, but this film opts for more CGI battles and brooding and less fun.
I will say the cast is fine, considering the limitations of the script. Cavill settles in well in the title role, while Costner and Ladd have perhaps the film's best moments.
Only Shannon disappoints, but mainly because I've come to expect more from him as an actor.
As disappointing as "Man of Steel" is, I don't think the franchise is completely dead.
The final scene promises a bit of the Superman most people remember. It's a good start for film No. 2. Hopefully "Man of Steel" can return more to its roots in that second film.
The franchise definitely deserves better.
Also in theaters
The week's other big release proves to be a little more successful -- the raunchy and very funny "This Is the End" (B).
Part parody of disaster movies, part satire of Hollywood elitism -- the directorial debut of Seth Rogan (he co-directed and co-wrote with "Superbad" partner Evan Goldberg) is everything that "The Hangover Part III" failed to be.
The premise is simple: Rogan and Jay Baruchel head over to a star-studded party at James Franco's house, only to get trapped in the house with Franco, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson when the apocalypse takes place.
Having the cast essentially play themselves, with minor comic tweaks, is a bit of a gimmick, but it works.
No one here is afraid to be the butt of the joke, and it leads to some rather hilarious set pieces.
There are plenty of other celebrities who get in on the hijinks, including Michael Cera -- playing a coked out version of himself -- and Emma Watson, showing a bit of a comedic touch. Other cameos litter the film, including several surprises best left unspoiled.
I will concede that "This Is the End" does sag a little in the middle when it starts to spin its wheels a bit.
But just when you think the movie is at its creative end, then comes a wrap-up that is sure to leave a smile on your face.
Sure, "This Is the End" is juvenile and inconsequential, but it is also a lot of fun.
"This Is the End" is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.
-- To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton's up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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