Comic Book Movie Review – Man of Steel

I’ll admit to being cautiously optimistic heading into this film.  Sure the trailers looked good, and we’d actually get a Superman story with some action in it, but trailers can make almost anything look good.  (Note:  I was going to say anything and post a trailer to Speed 2, but upon watching it, I realized it even looked bad in the trailer.  Carry on.)  That level of cautious optimism took a bit of a hit when I saw the 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  But then I saw a bit of news that intrigued me.  While looking up whether or not there was an after credits scene (there isn’t), I saw that the film currently had an 8.4 rating on IMDB, and an A- on Cinemascore.  So, ordinary people that actually went to see the movie on opening day fairly well liked it.  Cautious optimism restored.  And it is with that feeling that I sat down to watch the movie.  There will be some spoilers after the cast list.

man-of-steel-poster-02Man of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder

Written by David S. Goyer (screenplay & story) and Christopher Nolan (story)

Starring
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Kal-El
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Michael Shannon as General Zod
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Russel Crowe as Jor-El
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent

The movie starts on Krypton with the birth of Kal-El, the first natural born Kryptonian in a century.  Jor-El then tries to convince the council about the planet being doomed, and what it would take to preserve the species.  During this, General Zod attempts a coup, and Jor-El uses this distraction to steal the codex that contains the DNA of Kryptonians to be born, and puts it with Kal and the spaceship.  Zod tries to stop the launch, but is too late.  In his anger, he kills Jor-El.  Immediately, Zod and his forces are defeated, and imprisoned.  Shortly afterward, Krypton blows up.

On Earth, we see a rugged Clark Kent, traveling the world doing small jobs, until something forces him to move on.  The first time is when he’s on a fishing boat.  They are alerted by the Coast Guard that a nearby oil rig is on fire, but are told to stay away because there’s nothing they can do for the men trapped there.  Clark leaves the boat, and swims to the rig.  He gets through the fire on the rig, and rescues the workers.  Having revealed himself, he’s forced to move on.  Interspersed in these stories are flashbacks to his childhood.  Like when he freaked out at school when he started to get some of his sensory powers.  Or when he saved a school bus full of classmates that had gone over a bridge and into a river.  And when Jonathan Kent revealed to him that he was an alien.

Eventually in his quest, Clark is employed by a military/science group that have unknowingly discovered a Kryptonian scout ship.  In it, he uses a key to install (I guess?) Jor-El’s consiousness, so that they can carry on a conversation.  Jor-El explains everything, and even shows him a suit (yes, the suit) with the house of El symbol on it.  I’m going to pause here, because I did have to question just how that suit was there, when the spaceship had been buried in ice for 20,000 years.  For my own peace of mind, I’m going to assume that the ship could fabricate it pretty quickly.  But anyways, Jor-El converses, and Clark finally learns to fly.  After only leaping and crashing a few times.

So then, Zod shows up, and demands that the people of Earth hand over Kal-El, because Zod wants the codex.  On the scout ship that Clark found is a Genesis chamber. (It’s where Kryptonian babies come from.)  Zod wants to rebuild Krypton on Earth, to the detriment of the people already on Earth.  Otherwise known as Earthlings or humans.  Clark decides that he rather likes humans, having lived with them for 33 years, and doesn’t want to see them eliminated.  So he confronts Zod.  And then the action.  There’s a battle in Smallville (with a lot of product placement:  RIP Sears and IHOP) and another battle in Metropolis.  And beyond that is some pretty big spoilers, so I’ll end it here.

In short, I liked the movie.  I liked Henry Cavill and Amy Adams as Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  I thought Michael Shannon as General Zod was the right level of menacing.  Sure, the voice was a little weird at times, but not completely distracting.  I do believe that the story hit the right emotional beats.  Yes, I will admit that sometimes those emotional beats felt like they were using a sledgehammer to pound them home, but they’re still important to see.  It is important to see overly emotional event A happen to see why he feels reluctant to do certain things.  I’ve also seen some complaints about the way the story jumps between Clark wondering around, and his childhood.  Personally, I didn’t think it was that difficult to follow.  You see a young kid, it’s in the past.  A bearded adult, and it’s in the present.  Not all that difficult.

And of course the action was nice.  It felt like super-beings were battling each other.  Yes, realistically, probably 10s of thousands of people probably died in Metropolis.  Large office buildings were tumbling over, without a lot of warning.  But if this type of thing were to happen, is that really unrealistic.  If an alien race comes inhabit the Earth, do we think they won’t destroy everything in their path.  But I think this brings out the problem people may have with the movie.  It is a more serious and realistic take on Superman.

Gone is the big blue boy scout.  Gone is the golly gee willikers Superman.  In his place is a Clark Kent that actually had to group up knowing he was different than everyone else.  Here is a Clark Kent afraid of being found, but has a need to help people.  Here is a Superman placed in a no-win situation, and must make a difficult choice that he really would not like to face.  In this movie, Superman has left the Golden and Silver Age image that previous movies clung to.  (Looking at you Superman Returns.)  This something closer to how he’s been portrayed in the last 20 years within the comics.  And strangely enough, within the show Smallville.

So, if you want a movie that fits your nostalgic view of Superman, this probably isn’t the movie for you.  If you’re open to a different interpretation of Superman, than you should enjoy this movie.  Oh, and if you’re upset about the red trunks missing.  Too bad.  Those things were silly, and have always been silly.

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2 comments

  1. SPOILERS, thou hast been warned.

    I’m mostly willing to accept Superman killing Zod & the tens of thousands of lives lost in the collateral damage in Smallville and Metropolis, and I love completely doing away with the pretense of a secret identity between him & Lois. (I wonder how they’ll handle this with everyone else in the sequel.) But the thing that completely didn’t work for me and kind of ruined the movie was Pa Kent’s nonsensical sacrifice. For one, it doesn’t seem like an honest, hard working man like Jonathan Kent would preach the idea that it’s fine to let other people die if helping them would complicate your life. This is proven in the tornado scene when Pa Kent rushes out to help the people trapped in their cars. It proves the man to be an idiot & a hypocrite.

    “Son, I know you can do amazing things that could help a lot of people & make the world a better place. But I don’t want you to ever do any of those things because people might think you’re a weirdo, and being normal is the best thing you can be. Always remember, don’t try to be a hero. Now stay right here while I go try to be a hero.”

    They try to hang a big emotional moment on Clark finally learning a lesson from his adopted father by STANDING THERE AND LETTING HIM DIE. Clark lets the tornado take Pa away because he’s supposedly learned the lesson of “don’t try to be a hero.” Trouble is, you’ve got to build the rest of the movie around him becoming the hero he’s always meant to be. They put little, if any, effort into Clark having to overcome this issue & ultimately break his promise to Pa Kent on the way to becoming Superman. The whole thing seemed like it was engineered purely to add angst to the story & didn’t add any value whatsoever.

    It was a very well acted movie, and very well directed. But very poorly written.

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    1. I do agree that that scene was really forced. I hadn’t mentioned it because I didn’t want to have major spoilers in the actual article. If your dad is about to die, you’re not going to listen to him when he says don’t save him because he’s worried about what will happen to you. But I do get what they were going for by having Pa Kent worried about Clark’s abilities being discovered. I think it would have been better to keep him alive, and possibly have a scene where Clark goes against his father’s wishes and goes out into the world.

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