Man of Steel

man-of-steel-logo

2013

Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures/DC Entertainment

Directed by Zack Snyder

Produced by Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas & Deborah Snyder

Screenplay by David S. Goyer

Based on “Superman” created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Sooner or later it always comes down to real estate in a Superman movie, doesn’t it? I mean, in three of the previous Superman movies the plot revolved around extraordinary real estate schemes. And in MAN OF STEEL General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) plan for world conquest could be considered the ultimate form of gentrification. He intends to terraform Earth and make it uninhabitable for humans. But first he’s got to extract The Codex from the cells of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) and resurrect the Kryptonian race. And it’s not that it’s a bad plan at all. I just wish it wasn’t such a slog to get to it.

MAN OF STEEL is yet another retelling of the origin of Superman, which we didn’t need. So I guess that’s why Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer threw in such unnecessary details such as: a Kryptonian civil war. Making Kal-El the literal savior of the Kryptonian race by having his cellular structure infused with The Codex which if I understand it correctly pretty much means that Kal-El’s cells contains billions of DNA sequences. Making General Zod and Kal-El’s dad Jor-El (Russell Crowe) best buds who have a falling out over this pesky civil war as Jor-El insists they don’t have time for this rubbish as Krypton is going to blow up any day now. The Krypton sequence is one of the best things about the movie. And not only because we see that Jor-El knows how to rumble, young man, rumble. The architecture, technology and costuming had me wishing that we could get a “World of Krypton” movie. This is the first Superman movie that actually made Krypton look like it would be a really cool place to live. If it wasn’t for the blowing up part that is.

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Okay, so you know the drill after that: Krypton blows up, Kal-El gets rocketed to Earth, found by kindly Jonathan and Martha Kent  (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. But then that’s when the plot goes into a whole other realm as we get scenes of Clark going walkabout, roaming the world, taking odd jobs and using his powers in secret to help out where he can. In between we have Lois Lane (Amy Adams) Colonel Hardy (Christopher Meloni) and Dr. Emil Hamilton (Richard Schiff) investigating an alien craft found in the Arctic that has a connection with Clark and ultimately leads her to Kansas.

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But here comes General Zod and his posse again, having been freed from The Phantom Zone when Krypton blew up. They’ve been wandering around the universe all this time and thanks to Clark’s fooling around, they come to Earth. Zod looks around and likes the property. He’ll take it. Clark has to convince Lt. General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) that he’s here for Truth, Justice and The American Way and they have to work together if they’re going to stop Zod.

I realize I’m being a little more flippant in this review than I usually am but that’s only because I wish MAN OF STEEL had been a little more flippant itself. This is a movie that takes itself way too seriously and moves ponderously from one drama drenched scene to another groaning under the weight of its own solemnity. It’s not a fun movie and there’s not a single moment where I felt like standing up and cheering when Superman flies in to save the day. Which is what I want to see when I go to a Superman movie.

There’s going to be plenty of Superman fans who are going to like this movie because they want their superhero movies to be stonefaced serious. Me, I think you can be serious and have some fun. Maybe I want too much, I dunno. I know that Superman fans desperately wanted to see a Superman movie with some action and him hitting things. Well, with a bunch of Kryptonian villains all with superpowers, there’s plenty of that. And the final throwdown between Superman and Zod will satisfy in the amount of sheer destructiveness. I myself don’t believe there’s a building left standing in Metropolis after the day the Kryptonians came to town.

I have no complaint with the acting at all. Especially Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon. Bravo, Mr. Shannon. I believe he’s one the best and most underrated actors working today. The guy’s Brando level good, trust me. And if you’re not familiar with his work then you need to be.

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As to what I didn’t like: so much added to the Superman origin story that I thought wasn’t needed was put in there simply so that audiences wouldn’t feel they were watching the same old same old. The fate of Jonathan Kent. The wonky direction by Zack Snyder in the fight sequences which really surprised me. In his past movies Snyder’s fight scene were really crisp, clean and well-choreographed, leaving no doubt as to who was getting hit and by whom. Here in MAN OF STEEL most of the fight scenes are just blurs going from one side of the screen to the other.  The ghost of Jor-El showing up just when he’s needed in places he has no business being. Superman’s resolution to the General Zod problem. I mean, I realize full well Zod left Superman with no choice but the Superman I know would have found another way.

And at the end of the day I suppose that’s really all it is. This isn’t a Superman I felt was my Superman. That’s not to say that he’s a bad Superman. He’s pretty good, in fact. Henry Cavill is a new Superman for a new generation and he does the character proud. But I’ll still stick with the 1978 model if that’s okay with you.

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143 minutes

PG-13

8 thoughts on “Man of Steel

  1. I realised something last night. In his own way, Jor-El is as bad as Zod. maybe worse. Zod wants Earth to be Krypton right-the-hell-now. Jor-El is thinking long term. He put the entire genetic repository in his son. That means that IF humans and Kryptonians are genetically compatible enough to breed (and I’m sure they are, Jor of the House of El wouldn’t have made that kind of mistake) any children would be Kryptonian. And when they have kids, they’ll be Kryptonian too.

    It may take a few hundred years, but sooner or later Earth will be populated by aliens who were born here.

    1. @Jason Cleaver – Jor-El hopes for the classic Immigrant’s History, which most Americans are well-aware of. My last name may be German, but I’ve got French, American Indian and Polish Jew on my father’s side – and Scots-Irish, American Indian and (I think) Italian on my Mother’s! You’ll find my story is a common one among Americans – in fact, if you know any “pure Americans” (or can even tell me what that means!), I’d be very surprised.

      So like your description of Jor-El’s Dream for his son, I too am an Alien Who Was Born Here – or as we call it, “An All-American Boy”….

    2. I actually like theory a LOT. It would explain why Jor-El infused his son’s cells with The Codex first instead of simply just putting the kid in the rocket and shooting it off. And let’s take a step further: since we know that Kryptonians visited Earth long ago, how do we know that humans aren’t a product of Kryptonian genetic engineering? Jor-El’s a guy play a Long Game that will take hundreds of years to play out but at the end he’s going to get exactly what you suggest: a Earth populated by Kryptonians.

  2. First of all, let me say that I loved this movie.

    But from those who don’t like it I keep hearing similar criticisms and it all seems to boil down to “this isn’t how I like my Superman”. The enjoyment of the movie seems to be weighed down by their expectations of what Superman is. But what Superman is has and will continue to vary Action Comics #1 Superman is different from Silver Age Superman who is different from 80s Superman who is different from New 52 Superman who is different from the various animated incarnations.

    Also, if you;reading the New 52 or read Kingdom Come, this isn’t that different. Yes, this leans more toward Miracleman, but there are worse things to use as inspiration.

    I went in wanting to see this take on Superman, whatever it was. I love my 1978 version, but if you’re going to revisit the character, you can’t do that again. And one of the things I really liked about this movie is the storytelling device of using flashbacks to tell the story of Clark Kent. That really worked for me as it wasn’t the standard linear storytelling path we get from origin stories. It made it feel different for me.

    And I realize that this movie is less of a comic book/super-hero story and more of a science fiction story about an alien coming to earth and trying to fit in and finding it difficult.. It’s DNA is actually more “Aliens” than “Iron Man” and I’m OK with that. But I realize that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Because a lot of us are spoiled by reading comic books stories where the hero does his best to minimize casualties and saves people during the fight, the problem is that in order for that to happen, the villain often has to stand around and wait. Giving the pacing of this movie, that didn’t make sense. Also, given the SF DNA, that also didn’t make sense. That made sense in this Superman Universe and again, I’m OK with that.

    But the one thing that REALLY gets me about most of the criticism of this movie is about how people feel about the climactic choice. As I commented on my own FB, it’s not the choice that makes that scene matter or not matter. It’s the payoff afterward. That’s the value. Superman takes that emotionally exhausted beat, looks at what he did and falls to his knees in AGONY, and ends up leaning against Lois. The strongest being in the world is laid low and on his knees by what he did. The core of Superman is his humanity. That he is honorable and good. There isn’t a single path to those things, and the way he responded to what he did is still on that path, That’s still human. It is still honorable and good. It’s still Superman. And it works in this universe as it has been established.

    When I left the theater I knew this was going to be a polarizing movie, because while people generally agree what Batman is supposed to be, many people’s visions of Superman are driven by Christopher Reeve’s portrayal. I’m nerdy enough to have Action Comics #1, Red Son, Birthright, Kingdom Come, the Timm/Dini Superman, the radio program, etc. in my head. I love Superman a lot, and I’ve stuck with him through many incarnations.and this was just one more.

    So yeah, I liked it.

  3. Two points: on Superman’s choice, what was his other alternative? Flying around the world, spinning it backwards and turning time back? The other is on the lack of reaction to the massive destruction. Let’s use The Avengers as an example. What did they do after they defeated Loki and the Chitauri? They had a quick get together and then shwarma. So in that respect, the ending made sense.

  4. Having seen this now, I can say this: it was a good movie. I liked it for the most part. But there’s one word above all others I would use to describe it:

    Cold.

    I just really don’t get the sense that anyone in this movie believes what they say they believe. The romance between Superman and Lois felt like it skipped a whole bunch of scenes. Jonathan’s death feels completely ridiculous and out of place. And I agree completely, Derrick, the Superman I know and love would have found a better way to deal with Zod. I didn’t like it when John Byrne took that route in Post-Crisis, and I don’t like it now. It feels like a lazy attempt to shock viewers.

  5. The prob I had with it is the codex business. To wit: If the Krypts really needed to withdraw it from Supes’s cells, why couldn’t they have done it from the needle the Kryptonian doctor jabs him with? Even if it was an injection rather than a blood sample, he’d have left enough blood cells on it for them to do the job. Unless the people of Krypton were stored hither and yon about Superman’s heroic bod, which boggles the mind…Uncle Sammy’s on his right bicep, Aunt Minerva’s on his spitcurl, and you don’t wanna *know* where Cousin Irv is hanging out…and so forth. Didn’t have a problem with Superman’s execution of Zod. The bastard didn’t give him a choice. Only thing I didn’t like is that Supergirl wasn’t around to kick Faora Hu-Ul’s ass!

    1. And you’re telling me that in all the time they were out there wandering around, the Kryptonians never encountered another planet with a yellow sun or capable of sustaining life? I don’t buy that at all.

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