My review of Man of Steel

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**Non-spoiler section**
I just got back from Man of Steel so much of this review will be pretty raw and not very organized- so bare with me. Man of Steel was my most highly anticipated film of the year. Superman has been my hero since I was a teen and I have stood by his side through the good times and bad. I even gave Superman Returns a pass even though it ultimately failed in modernizing the mythology for a new generation. So I had high hopes but low expectations because of my skepticism of Zach Snyder. So here goes…my initial gut feeling leaving the theater was one of disappointment. Not epic, nor anger inducing, but definitely far from being satisfied. Which was so unfortunate because it has so much going for it. The casting was solid and all the acting was fine. The world building of Krypton was spectacular. The new sci-fi feel made me want to see a prequel about the history of Krypton! The origins story done in multiple montages was handled very well. Solid mood and music throughout. The biggest problem I had is what has plagued Snyder’s filmmaking career- Man of Steel while full of emotion, it was missing some much needed good ole’ fashion awe. Seemingly swinging the pendulum from Donner’s romanticized Superman, MoS is all business. This is no spoiler, essentially MoS mashes both Superman I & II into one movie. Because of the bloated story, there is little time and space for emotions like majesty and wonder. Cavill, delivers a strong performance as a humble and meek Superman but not nearly as regal as Chris Reeve- but who can be?. Unfortunately, the dialogue doesn’t help him out any. Unlike previous Superman chapters, there is plenty of action throughout, however the last third really starts to feel like an updated version of the Neo vs Agent Smith fight in the Matrix III. There are plenty of wow moments and this final fight would put it up there as the most bombastic hero vs villain fight ever. It certainly makes the Superman II Metropolis fight look like a Michael Jackson BAD music video. Well, this is about as much as I can say without treading into spoilers.

Overall, the first act is very strong- then it makes an mildly entertaining gradual decent from that point. Even though MoS, or better titled Superman Begins, has a lot of strengths, it ultimately fails where I most suspected it would, in storytelling. It’s just not Snyder’s thing. At this point, I might see it again but I had a stronger return compulsion about Star Trek than this one. With me, sometimes movies have to marinate… but I have a feeling I won’t be as kind in the next few days. Now on to the painful part…

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**Spoiler section**
Now to take the gloves off. These are all half baked criticisms so thanks for your patience. Most of my concerns are third act problems which MoS is weakest.

  • Tied to the earlier criticism about ‘awe and wonder’, Kal has almost no interaction with the people of Earth. We barely see people’s reaction to him. To make matters worst, there is way too much collateral death and Supes seems oblivious to it. In Superman II, Chris had to constantly save lives during his fight which made him vulnerable- but that’s WHO HE IS. He’s a savior not just a  fighter. In MoS, I think I saw him save one person but that was about it. The sad reality is that Superman himself caused much more damage than the events of 9/11- seemingly without remorse. It seemed he was more interested in saving Earth but not necessarily people.
  • Speaking of 9/11, the massive amounts of collateral damage was troubling. The damage even eclipses both Revenge of the Fallen and Avengers. During the fight, I had to mentally turn off my thoughts about 911 and the potential tens of thousands of loss of life during this showdown with Zod. How do you glaze over this cataclysmic event by the end of the movie? It was disturbing and I was conflicted over it. Am I being too sensitive?
  • Speaking of Transformers and Avengers (and Amazing Spiderman, Dark Knight Returns, etc), while I liked the sci-fi feel of this updated version, this final act was way to familiar to me. How many times are we going to see a big machine in a New York type city, shooting an energy beam, that’s going to destroy the planet- unless you get McGuffin #1 and stick it into McGuffin #2. As soon as this master plan was revealed I just sighed in disappointment. I like the idea of Zod trying to recreate Krypton but this whole sequence felt old and unoriginal.
  • The biggest problem is that MoS introduces Superman as an instant global threat when Zod outs him over the airwaves. Superman is now a liability verses a champion for the people. Imagine your home and a group of Nazi’s surrounded your house with guns drawn. You discover a Jew has been secretly living in basement for 30 years without your knowledge. It would be hard not to feel violated. At the very least, you would feel like the nazi’s would not be invading your home if it wasn’t for this tresspasser. Sure, if you had meta knowledge of what was at stake, then you might risk your life saving the refugee- but really all you are thinking about is survival. Let’s say instead of it being a secret stowaway, it was your beloved family member they were after. Then the stakes change and it becomes emotional. Arguably, he is the cause for tens of thousands of lives that a lifetime of good works will not be able to overcome. Back to my illustration, even if the good natured Jew indirectly caused the death of your spouse and kids, it would be hard not to hold that against him for the rest of his life. This story device just felt like the wrong way to introduce Superman to a new generation. I think the story priority was action over substance which was an obvious response to the 2006 Superman Returns.

I have more gripes but those are the big ones for now. I liked Cavill, Adams, Crowe, and Shannon. I liked his super suit. I even liked the Batman Begins formula. However, overall I felt like this bold new direction didn’t make me admire or love Superman. Unlike the Superman Returns universe, I do think you can build off this one. DC/Warner certainly need to start somewhere and this is a decent place to start a Justice League franchise. Although, if they were to create a whole new Superman for the next, I think I would be fine with that. I think the perfect title would be “Superman Again”.

I’m marinating and I’ll tweet more thoughts in the days to come.

17 thoughts on “My review of Man of Steel

  1. I completely agree with your review. I had the same reactions that you did! I just saw it this morning and while I really liked about 75% of the movie, it was a shame to watch as it devolved into a CGI-infused yawn fest towards the end. I’d rate the movie a good, solid B-. Superman deserved better!

  2. Unfortunately, I agree with you as well. I think the problem is the story and the fact Jon Peters still has a hand in this production. The story did need to be more solid but I really would like to see a second film. Remember the first Star Trek was not the best of the series. This has potential if they can get a great script.

    • Yea it set up a solid world and great beginning of character development, I just wished they went a different direction in the end. Maybe they needed to save the epic Zod story for the sequel like in S2. I dunno, still mulling this over. Thx for commenting!

      • I want to believe that the second film will be better as everyone becomes more comfortable with the characters and the changed mythology.

  3. I see your points but I was quite happy with the overall product. Zach and team hit the ball out of the park in my opinion. It was a fresh and edgy take -certainly and not boilerplate or very predictable. Without giving away much I found an underlying theme of ‘decisions’ and it seemed to resonate in most key scenes.

    I think general public and action movie lovers with like it. My wife is not a fan girl or comically inclined but she likes action movies – she liked it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. Yea, I might be judging it harshly in comparison to the entire pantheon of Super work. All I know is that there was just enough wrong to make me feel disappointed but just enough right to build a franchise with. I know weird. Thanks for commenting.

  4. One Of The Biggest Sins In Filmmaking Is Overindulging…. MAN OF STEEL Suffered From That “Action Wise”…..As An Analogy: When you go to A Restaurant and get served small portion dishes with exquisite presentations and great flavors, when you leave the place the Overall experience is that feeling of Perfection….and wanting to return for more…. on the other hand you buy a pizza (a good one ;)) eat that first slice and say “this is Good”…. and continues to eat and eat… until the whole pie is gone…… and you feel that excess of the same flavor and being just stuffed….
    On the Bright Side…
    The Re-imagining of Krypton is really great!
    The whole Sci-fi aspect of the Film was in my flavor corner… Well thought & Designed…
    Henry Cavill Was A Great Kal-El (a tad under developed by script)
    Russell Crow was a Bad Ass Jor-El
    Kevin Costner/ Papa Kent was The Emotional Dynamo…..
    Michael Shannon/ General Zod Was a Serviceable/ “Engineered” villain
    Antje trade was Great/Kick Ass and Cold as Faora-Ul

    The Film For Me Was Enjoyable and Fun… the Potential for Sequels & Justice League is there…. Next Time Just Eat A Slice Or Maybe 2 of Pizza ;)

  5. Going with the food theme I think you guys have become sorta food snobby. Food critics who eat great restaurants all the time tend to over analyze a place. Whereas for most of us it’s the most amazing meal ever. In other words this is by far the best superman. I thought it had emotion and how they tied Zods motives etc all made for a cohesive story. It was epic in scale and superman was fresh in his origin. I loved it but that’s from the guy that likes Norms.

    • Yea I can see that. Man of Steel was successful on many levels- and for a new generation it will work. For me, it was missing something. The lack of cheers in the theater afterwards I think was also telling that as awesome as it was- it could have been much more satisfying.

  6. Harshness abounds….what NO digs at the new Super suit??? ;) I understand you all are more than the average fan-boys, but lets be real for a minute, the last Superman (returns) was a hot mess of weak minded/anti-American/Super Halfling nonsense. Not to mention, that he left earth to fend for herself to seek out a planet he knew was destroyed Let us cheer the fact that we got a new American Superman again & one that will stand up for Truth & Justice. To me this movie beats out Star Trek for my personal summer favorite, It fused alternate timeline story-telling with a new aspect of Kyrpton and combined that with the Stories of Superman 1 & 2. Giving us all of that in one movie – Yes they had to use the McGuffin ….This IS Superman, he doesn’t look so cool fighting bank robbers ;) Needless to say I always do like your reviews and your take on all things Comiccon Tony, #Suitemate

    • Thanks Mike- and yes agreed that the new Supersuit is tight. To me, the beauty of Superman is when he interacts with common humans- so with so many super-powered beings kinda diluted his uniqueness for his first movie. I know this is all nit-picky considering how awful it could have been. But hey, that’s what us nerds do ;)

      Suite-mates for life!

  7. Thank you for mentioning the 9/11 similarities. There were a couple shots that were almost identical to some of the most played news footage, definitely emotionally manipulative for the movie to go there. I totally agree with your review. there were several moments I liked, but overall I was disappointed and I’m a Superman n00b! No movies or comics prior to this experience. Still, not bad enough that I wouldn’t see a sequel…

    • I wish there was a dropped line about most of the city evacuated or something. I just hate that Supes is so oblivious to the destruction he is causing. Thanks for commenting!

  8. I typically watch movies with an open mind, going back to read reviews afterwards to see what I can and can’t agree with personally, and you hit it on the head for most of my issues. Overall, I enjoyed it, and would see it again (though not at the current price lol). Admittedly I’m new to the superhero world, but having seen the previous Superman films and having a basic knowledge of the character from the comics, I did have something to go off of. But the problem with that is that those are already established mythos, MOS exists on its own, so we can’t really compare Supermen in the same vein. We are expected to forget the personalities of previous entries and make this the current incarnation, to which I can accept. Its no different than Nolan’s Batman being a reinvention different from Burton, or any other version. Their both the incarnations of the NOW, and if WB is going to go forward with a Justice League film, we’re gonna have to get used to them. But as for the movie as a whole, I found the acting to be pretty good across the board. I didn’t see any ‘wooden’ or forced performances, it all seemed natural. The action was constant, and for a 2+ hour film it flowed nicely. It was a midnight showing so I did doze off a small bit, but I woke up pretty quick and was into it the rest of the way. As for you observation about Superman pretty much ignoring the collateral damage around him, I agree that they should have taken more effort to make him at least look distressed that it was happening. For a film that constantly centers around Supes being a positive, life-changing force in our world, he sure doesn’t seem to care about the massive loss of property and life around him. Perhaps this is a character trait for our new Superman, something that will evolve in later films. Overall, I liked it, and I think it added a much needed boost to the Superman franchise, something that Superman Returns tried to do but couldn’t quite grasp. Hopefully the sequel will explore more of what his mission is on Earth, and see him caring more about what happens around him than being focused on a single thing.

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