Film and TV

Man of Steel: Making Sense of All That Christ and Death Stuff

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That moment breaks faith with the audience, and it makes Man of Steel not more affecting but more generic. It's very much like every other blockbuster out therewhere there's so much destruction and mayhem that nothing really registers that much. It seems that Snyder, David Goyer, and Nolan feel they have to push the character to his limits or the audience won't care anymore. But there are millions of ways to make an audience care just with the structure of a scene, or by trusting your actors. Last summer's The Amazing Spider-Man was a terrific example — in retrospect, that was one of the rare recent quiet superhero movies, one that relied largely on the strengths and charms of its actors, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. (Not to mention Sally Field, who may have given a better performance as Aunt May than she did as Mary Todd Lincoln.) That's what really frustrates me about Man of Steel. Most of the actors, with the exception of Michael Shannon, who just does his trademark eyeball-bulge thing, are terrific, and Snyder is attuned to that. There are plenty of scenes where the performers get to do exactly what they do best. I've gone on and off Kevin Costner over the years, mostly off. But he brings just the right amount of common-sense gravity to Jonathan Kent. And Cavill makes a lovely Superman. There's something both confident and unassuming about him. It's really important that Superman be charming, something the filmmakers obviously understood. There's a lot that's right with Man of Steel. But in the end, maybe the filmmakers just didn't trust Superman enough.

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Alan Scherstuhl and Stephanie Zacharek