(WARNING: SPOILER ALERT)
Man of Steel is an American superhero film, based on the DC Comics character Superman. It stars Henry Cavill in the lead, with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Directed by Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300, Dawn of the Dead), and written by David S. Goyer. (Assuming everyone is familiar with the basic premise of who Superman is) The film casts an eye on the origin story of Superman, looking to Krypton and his parents, but also his adaption to face earth in all its blessings, misgivings, and wonder. (Running Time: 143 minutes)(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language)
To set things straight, I am not a Superman fan. Just to give you a taste of where this review is going. Not that I absolutely hate the character, but I feel there is a limit to who/what he is, and the stories that bind him to earth. However, when I heard Warner Bros. was planning a reboot with David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan penning the first draft of Superman’s origin story, I was excited! The two—more specifically, the one dude that brought Batman back to life. And my respect for Batman was only relative. Now, I practically worship The Dark Knight Trilogy. So, Nolan, Goyer, Warner Bros., and room to do whatever they wanted? What more could a fanboy ask for?
Sadly to say, I was disappointed.
When the first trailers came out…Christmas 2012?…I looked at the teasers, and was puzzled for the theme they were already trying to spread. Naturally, they were huge teases; not giving away anything about the story. Casting results started to pop up, and I became intrigued. The official trailers arrived and I thought I would wait for the cheap theater. When that came around, I forgot to go see it. So now, “only” a year later, did I mingle my way to the library and get my hands on a copy. Having heard mixed reviews, I wanted to watch it with an open mind.
Zack Snyder is not my first choice for directors, let us start there. I saw Watchmen and most of 300, and although the visuals were stunning, there was not too much direction to them. So when he was selected, I hoped Chris Nolan would be laying into him about what he should and should not do in the prestigious chair.
I have never seen all of Superman Returns (2006). What I did see was not too good. Although Bryan Singer is high on my list, there was not much to the film. The best part was probably Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor. So because the majority of audiences and critics felt the same way I felt, they decided they would not continue that reboot of the series and thought they would try a few years later. In 2008 or so, Warner Bros. kept an open mind to dozens of comic book writers on how they would approach the series. David S. Goyer was somehow inspired and told director/writer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and other fantastic films) his method of approaching the Superman origin story. He listened, agreed, and pitched the story to the studio. They liked it and went with it. Producer Emma Thomas (Nolan’s wife) has stated that Christopher and David had brought the story to a manageable script, and left it in Zack’s hands to do with whatever he wished. Personally, I cringed at that.
At Rolling Stone, Peter Travers says “Man of Steel soars high”, and TIME’s Richard Corliss wrote “Thrills await you.” I read some of these reviews, and…well, overall, they are moderate. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times said that the film covered no new ground with regard to Superman films and, instead, “we’re plunged back into a mostly underwhelming film, with underdeveloped characters and supercharged fight scenes that drag on and offer nothing new in the way of special-effects creativity.”
Clearly, the studio and filmmakers alike tried desperately hard to match Man of Steel with the fragility and power of Batman Begins. Attempting to juice up the lengthy prologue to another successful series, partly by playing Clark Kent’s flashbacks in a non-linear style caught my eye the most. It comes as no surprise that Warner Bros. are gearing up for a superhero team up of Justice League, and are merely laying the foundation as they try to catch up to Marvel’s Avengers (2012) and other competing series.
This extensive bash of one film might be justifiable if I state some of my quibbles with the movie. Keep in mind, there were several elements that I liked. I enjoyed Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Henry Cavill did a good Superman from the little bit of character he was given, so the cast overall is well selected, and the visual effects are good…but after these, I begin to try and grasp for straws.
Superman is a character tricky to develop. I say that in defense of the filmmakers. A man who is almost completely invincible will have difficulties appealing to a broad audience. The main connection is his struggle for identity in our world—that and kryptonite. But there was a lack of story in the movie. Very little compelled me, except to see Kevin Costner sucked into a tornado, or General Zod’s third or fourth attack on Superman in the streets of Metropolis.
The camerawork was too shaky for me. I mean—what was Snyder going for? Found footage? It did not work for me. And Zod’s death? So, Superman had the power all along to snap his neck and did not do it until the end? Also, wasn’t the end a bit…sudden? Could we have at least had him fly up up and away past camera and cut to the credits?
Man of Steel is unfortunately a lackluster for plot, with over usage of destruction and mayhem that decimates a heckuva lot of the city. Yes, it added all the necessary elements to begin a hero’s journey, but failed to give us a good reason to keep on watching. I would watch the next one for the supporting cast members and that is probably it.
Still, in being kind to the filmmakers and their endeavors to expand their DC Universe (as Marvel has so cleverly done in the last six years), I will grant the movie 3 out of 7 stars. It will be a good amount of time before I watch it again. Perhaps I watched it in the wrong mood. Was it better in the theater? Did I wait to long? Am I judging it too much on Snyder’s previous work or the disappointing use of its star-studded cast?
For now, I prefer the Christopher Reeve version. “I’m here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way.”