Man of Steel

man_of_steel

A new Superman inherits the cape in an epic, dark, angst-filled drama.

I struggled with the somber tone of “Man of Steel”, but have to concede that it’s a potent, action packed film.

On the dying planet of Krypton, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) prepares an escape pod for his infant son. Prior to launching it, however, he witnesses a violent coup d’état perpetrated by military leader General Zod. In response, Jor-El infiltrates the planetary archives and takes the codex holding the genetic information of all yet-unborn Kryptonians, and places it aboard his son’s escape pod before launching it off to a far away planet. For his violent uprising, Zod is captured, court-martialed, and sentenced to suspended animation in a prison ship orbiting the doomed planet, but his conviction only serves to get him off-world when the planet explodes.

Young Kal-El (Henry Cavill), meanwhile, lands on Earth and is adopted and raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) as their own. The differences between the suns of Earth and Krypton empower the (now renamed) young Clark with numerous special abilities that he struggles to keep secret, in part because his father insists that revealing his abilities to the world too soon would have disastrous consequences. As he grows into a man, Clark sets out on his own, seeking to help people without betraying his identity or powers.

Things change, however, when an ancient Kryptonian probe ship is discovered by the military frozen in polar ice. Reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) catches Clark exploring the ship and witnesses his superpowers. Unfortunately for Clark, the ship also sends out a beacon that is picked up by Zod in space. So, soon, while Lois Lane is reporting to the world that a “Superman” lives amongst us, Zod is heading towards earth seeking revenge on Kal-El and looking to obtain the codex that will help him restart the Kryptonian race… on Earth.

Will Superman be able to fend off the Kryptonian invaders? Will the revelation of his existence turn the planet against him?

“Man of Steel” is certainly not the Superman movie that I’ve always wanted, but I’ll grant that it was a pretty good movie.

There’s a great deal of set up and character establishment, but once the action starts it’s a nonstop barrage. The flight sequences are powerful; audiences can feel the hypersonic speeds involved. With modern CGI, Superman is finally afforded the sky-scraper pulverizing aerial fist fights that he so rightfully deserves. Surrounding areas are the recipients of a good deal of demolition work as Superman throws down with Kryptonian powered equals. The action has a couple of hokey segments, admittedly. I’m not certain that we needed Jor-El on a flying dinosaur or Superman against the tentacle machine, but for the most part the brawls that Superman gets into against the other Kryptonians are the kind of super-powered slugfests that previous Superman movies have sorely lacked.

The tone, unfortunately, is smotheringly serious. This is “Superman dark”, without a doubt. There was literally only one or two attempts at humor in the entire film, and although much lip service is paid to the fact that Superman is supposedly a symbol of hope, it certainly doesn’t make him a happy person here. He may smile a mere handful of times the entire film. The film is also shot with a darkened palette. The Kryptonian design work is reminiscent of “Dark City”, with everyone in black leather aboard dimly lit ships. 3D printer effects abound, dark and dreary. Those looking for this Superman to counterbalance the trend of angsty superheroes in dark movies will be sorely disappointed.

Henry Cavill is an excellent Superman, however. If sequels ensue, and things like the long rumored Justice League movie finally occur, we’re in good hands with him wearing the cape. He’s good-looking and charismatic, and for once we have a Superman actor who looks like he put in the requisite hours at the gym. Kevin Costner also shines as Pa Kent… he’s the emotional core of the film. Diane Lane was fine as a still young Ma Kent, but she wasn’t given the heavy lifting of the Kent parents. Amy Adams was passable as Lois Lane, though she may have been hindered by the film’s insistence on constantly shoehorning her character into illogical places for her to be. Frankly, I don’t think this production team knew WHAT to do with the Daily Planet, as Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White was an afterthought as well. Russell Crowe is fine as Jor-El, though I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of the opening sequence featuring Krypton’s demise. Finally, I have to confess to being disappointed at Michael Shannon’s General Zod. Shannon is a normally a force to be reckoned with, but he gave a constrained performance for the most part here. I’m certain that that’s a directorial choice, but I missed the bellowing, frightening Shannon that I expected.

I’ll touch on a couple of specific disappointments in a spoiler section. Please highlight below ONLY IF YOU’VE SEEN THE MOVIE. DISCUSSION OF THE END FOLLOWS!

I rolled my eyes at “Man of Steel” having Clark forego rescuing his father from certain death in order to protect his secret superpowers. It didn’t add up to me, and felt much too “Batman”. Did Superman need that level of parental angst?

Also, as a fan of the character of Superman, I was greatly disappointed by the film’s decision to have Superman ultimately defeat Zod by snapping his neck. It makes the film far too dark for children, betrays the nobility of the character, and contributes greatly to the “dark tone” I was discussing earlier. There have to have been other ways to choose to resolve the conflict. In spite of the immediacy of the situation, the Superman I know would not play executioner to someone. This isn’t your father’s Superman, boys and girls, and I for one, am sad about it.

With all of that said, “Man of Steel” is an epic, dramatic superhero film with great special effects, powerful action scenes, and a new iteration of one of the greatest superheroes of all time. As a comic-book fan and a fan of the character, I’m not 100% on board with the tone and some of the decisions they made for the character, but they definitely created the kind of heavily serious, new mythos film that Hollywood feels audiences crave.

A-

Daniel Fogarty

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123 thoughts on “Man of Steel

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  3. Though the tone of the movie is dark, I love it because of Henry Cavill haha…he’s my favorite Superman in the big screen now, Tom Welling still holds his place in the tv series. I wish Tom did it also in the big screen. Well, I don’t remember liking any superman except for Christopher Reeves, he remained my favorite and still is because he’s a classic but damn, Henry is super hot! Perfect body worthy to be called Man of Steel.

    The action didn’t bore me at all and I love the CGI. I have to agree with you though with the tentacle scene, I mean where did it come from? I think it was out of context and when Superman coughed, I thought it was someone in the theater. It was very funny, I was laughing at myself when I realized it was not the man sitting in the next row LOL…

    In whole, I love it and thanks for giving it an A- in spite of. ;)

    • No problem, triple L! I wish I could have loved it, but I didn’t really connect with it fully. I did have to admit though that it was a solid movie.

      Cavill definitely looks like Welling a bit, I think. More than he does Reeves… And I also appreciate the fact that he hit the gym so hard. LOL. I was getting sick of people who didn’t look like they could lift any weights putting on the suit. Definitely not Cavill!

      That tentacle scene was just silly though, LOL :roll:

      • Yep! I couldn’t agree more…Cavill definitely looks like Welling..their eyes, jaws and even their teeth looks the same haha…and yes, he did a good job not just by playing the part but also working out so hard to fit with the character physically. Excuse me when I say he made the other Supes look too gay in the red suit haha well, except for Welling :P

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  5. On the spoilery bit:

    Pa Kent, in the comics, dies of a heart attack. I don’t get why they couldn’t do that here, except that the point is to show how much it means to Pa that Clark hold back his powers. In the comic, Pa’s death is meant to show the limitations of being Superman; it’s the one form of death that Kal-El can’t do anything to stop. All of his powers are useless in that scenario. The byproduct is that he’s shown to be helpless and he’s forced to confront that.

    This film doesn’t really have room for anything of the sort, but it would have been a nice inclusion. More is more with Snyder, though, so I’m not surprised that we saw something that over-the-top.

    • “In the comic, Pa’s death is meant to show the limitations of being Superman; it’s the one form of death that Kal-El can’t do anything to stop” – Well put. I thought the scene we got here was a little overwrought and unnecessary… all it illustrates (as you point out) is how far Supes will go to protect his powers, but was that really necessary? I think it was just their way of giving Supes that core of emotional pain/guilt that Batman has, and… I don’t think he needed it. :(

  6. Great review man. Not growing up on Superman or the comics, I actually didn’t realize “that one scene” wasn’t true to Superman, but it did still seem really dark and heavy for this kind of blockbuster; only reading reviews later did I learn that Superman was never intended to kill a person!! So knowing that now, that is honestly really surprising they would do that. Nolan/Goyer seem/ed to be all about portraying superhero stories realistically, and they both seemed to abandon that tactic this time.

    I wasn’t as turned off by certain other parts, particularly with Jonathan Kent — I thought the scene, although another alteration, fit the particular story and yes I think Superman does need to be this angsty. I have a real concern that if they do roll out The Justice League in a couple of years (I’m assuming they’ll try to get at least one sequel to this in beforehand) that putting Batman next to Superman on screen, would result in Batman’s dark past seriously outweighing that of Kal-El’s. I don’t necessarily think they need to make Superman AS dark, but it needs to at least keep pace I think if they are indeed going to make a JL pic.

    At the end of the day my big disappointment was really that this film wasn’t PERFECT, as I was assuming it to be. haha damn those trailers!

    • Superman has a code he lives by, similar to Batman. He probably has killed people over the years, but I’m not sure. (I did a little looking up and apparently in the Golden Age he did) Certainly in the non-comics media he never has, though. I just thought the Pa Kent death was unnecessary for the movie. Superman didn’t need parental guilt/blood on his hands, in my book. :( Nolan/Goyer also had a very dark take (in my opinion) in terms of gritty realism, and that includes these I guess. :(

      I don’t think there needs to be any competition with the “dark backgrounds” but they definitely WILL be making the Justice League, there’s no doubt. The Avengers made wayyyy too much money, they will definitely at least be taking a shot at the Justice League. ;)

  7. Almost posted this to this week’s TIOT by accident.

    Glad for your sake to see the sum of this one was greater than the parts for you, Fogs. Wish that was the case for me.

    I disagree with a lot of your points, and completely agree on others. I thought Michael Shannon was among the best things about this movie, along with Cavill and the action.

    Kevin Costner was wasted on a character that made poorer decisions than Obi-Wan Kenobi, and is probably the only “Wise Old Man” on screen to ever be a more complete failure than ol’ Ben. He was the polar opposite of Jonathan Kent in almost every way, I thought.

    Great write up, as always.

    • LOL at the image of like, a drunk, dumb, Obi Wan Kenobi chasing a dog into a tornado. “Come back here!” :D Funny stuff.

      I’ll have to read your review to see where you stand with it Spike, I just haven’t had the chance yet ;)

  8. Great review – was hoping you’d reviewed it as I’m just now finally catching up on my blog reading. I agree that the tone was a little TOO dark for my liking. And the over the top action that went on FOREVER at the end really annoyed me and ended up almost entirely ruining the movie for me. I really wasn’t very kind in my review but did think it showed promise for a hopefully much better sequel…

  9. Good review. I enjoyed this one. I could definitely see Nolan’s influence in the film. Although I did like the darker, grittier take, I would would like to see a few more moments of humor in sequel, and maybe a tad lighter tone.

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