Towards the end of this Jay Leno-Russell Crowe segment there’s a cutaway to a Mattel action figure based on Crowe’s Jor-El character (i.e., Superman’s dad) from Zack Snyder‘s Man of Steel (Warner Bros., 6.14). The studly, armour-plated outfit (Hero Complex called it “alien meets steam punk”) is the same get-up that other manly fellows have worn in God knows how many other cheesy sci-fi fantasy flicks.

Crowe’s Jor-El, in short, hasn’t been re-imagined as much as rendered according to a standard factory concept, and that tells us where Man of Steel is coming from. Crowe is playing Jor-El for the money and the career-fortification, of course, while pinching his nose as hard as he can stand it. All the designer had in mind was “stay as far away as possible from those flowing white robes that Marlon Brando wore in the 1978 Superman.” Which had to happen, of course, as today’s comic-book machismo factor could and should never allow for anyone wearing Liberace-style white robes and a Seigfried and Roy white wig. Poor Brando — he was well paid by the Salkinds but playing Jor-El surely made him fantasize about dying sooner rather than later.

I’ll most likely loathe and suffer through Man of Steel. Reason #1: the dog-eared Superman franchise closed up shop after Bryan Singer‘s reboot so cranking out another is a ludicrous move on Warner Bros. and Chris Nolan‘s part. Reason #2: Sucker Punch convinced me that Zack Snyder is 90% about high-idiot style and bullshit comic-book cliches and 10%, if that, about delivering the hard, solid, human-scale, heavy-lifting stuff that makes for a truly good film. I’ll admit that Snyder is as stylistically innovative as Brian DePalma was in his ’70s and early ’80s prime, but just as problematic as DePalma turned out to be — he’s a “me!, me!, me!” type of guy. Yes, I loved the proscenium-arch beginning of Sucker Punch but it was all downhill after that.

From my 3.24.11 Sucker Punch review: “Snyder is a kind of visual dynamo of the first order who has created in Sucker Punch a trite-but-fascinating, symphonic, half-psychedelic, undeniably ‘inspired’ alternate-reality world — gothic, color-desaturated, Wachowski-esque — that is nonetheless ruled by so much concrete-brain idiocy and coarsely “mythic” cliches (i.e., an evil father figure so ridiculously vile and gross beyond measure that he makes the cackling, moustache-twirling villains of the Snidely Whiplash variety seem austere if not inert) and ludicrous, charmless, bottom-of-the-pit dialogue and cheaply pandering female-revenge fantasies that you literally CAN’T STAND IT and WANT TO HOWL and THROW YOUR 24 OZ. COKE AT THE SCREEN.

“Snyder is a masterful visual maestro (loved the proscenium arch ‘theatrical’ touches at the very beginning) but also — this is crucial to the Sucker Punch experience — an Igor-like, chained-in-the-basement, genius-level moron at dumbing things down. The movie is a digital torture device for those seeking at least a hint of compelling narrative, a tendril-ish remnant of logic, a tiny smidgen of story intelligence, and dialogue with a hint of flair or some kind of tethered-to-the-world normality.”