Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel
is a noble attempt at selling Superman to modern film audiences but it falls short on almost every level. I tried viewing this film as both a former comic book geek and as a cinephile, hoping that one aspect might balance out the other but alas, I was disappointed on both fronts.

As a film, Man of Steel is a jumbled mess. First, the script is bad. I mean plot, dialogue, character development, all of it. This film relies so heavily on visual spectacle that it temporarily numbs the viewer to the asinine dialogue repeated throughout. There were moments where I wanted to cringe at the drivel these characters were saying ("You're a monster Zod and I'm going to stop you.") but was immediately bombarded with explosions and almost forgot...almost. Just about every character feels like a caricature, leaving us indifferent to their onscreen exploits. Lois Lane is about to fall to her death, oh wells. Superman is yelling about something, he's mad, I guess. What should have been a simple origin story gets convoluted with tons of unnecessary "filler." The sci-fi battle sequence on Krypton looked kinda cool (Star Wars meets Prometheus) but was totally out of place. Why was superman smashing the giant spider machine when he should have...nvm. He's gotta smash something I guess.

Outta the way...I'm fighting here!
Henry Cavill looks likes the perfect Superman specimen but alas, he and the rest of the cast can't overcome such a sorry script. I usually love Amy Adams, but she and Michael Shannon's talents were largely wasted. There are plot holes galore and some of the most blatant product placement I've ever seen in a film. I think Nikon and IHOP should have been credited as actual characters they got so much screen time.

The film's pacing is also totally out of whack. It feels like director Zack Snyder tried making two different movies and spliced them both together...while blindfolded. A series of somber flashbacks show Superman's coming of age in Kansas with the Kent family after he arrives on Earth. These scenes are probably the best of the entire film and are shot in a pseudo Malick style. Imagine Clark Kent testing his super powers on the set of The Tree of Life. Something like that. Then we get to the other half, the Michael Bay disaster porn portion of the film that totally lost me. The action is so fast paced, there's so much CGI tomfoolery onscreen that it's hard to focus on anything in particular. Buildings, jets, trains, Kryptonians, all fly through the air at breakneck speeds, it all becomes a giant exhausting blur. Also, the high octane fight scenes would have been more impressive, if they weren't straight Dragon Ball Z ripoffs. If you've seen the final fight between Neo and Agent Smith in Matrix Revolutions, you've basically seen the battles in Man of Steel.

Watching this movie as a former comic book geek, Man of Steel was even worse.


Superman is one of the most beloved fictional characters of all time. He's been fighting crime and saving the world in the pages of DC comics for 75 years now. In terms of popularity it goes something like, Mickey Mouse, Jesus, and Superman...and not necessarily in that order. Superman has survived through the ages because his character, the ever vigilant boyscout supreme, has remained a consistent symbol of goodwill, truth and justice in a continually dangerous and scary world. From the Great Depression, Hitler, the Cold War and 9/11, Superman has been there. He never falters or waivers in the face of evil, he always does whats right. Hell, he doesn't even age and has outlived his original readers by this point. He's Superman. Calling him an icon, would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, the traits that have made Superman such an endearing figure for nearly a century, also make him extremely boring and one dimensional. Yes, I said it, Superman is boring. He has to be though. It's in his character's DNA. Marvel Comic's Captain America faces a similar problem as Supes, the whole goody two shoes/hall monitor thing. Both characters are displaced loners, (Supes is an alien refugee, Cap is from a bygone era) but only one of them can fly and is indestructible...and that is Superman's main problem, he's too powerful and too one dimensional for audiences to relate to. But why would you? He's that unattainable image of perfection we all secretly yearn to achieve. He doesn't second guess himself or drop the ball, ever. Why would we want to bring him down to our level?

That's Man of Steel's biggest mistake in my book. They try to humanize an alien demigod. Nolan's Batman movies had a certain grit and harsh sense of realism because 1) Batman has serious psychological problems and 2) He's a just a regular dude under that mask. Superman is, well, Superman! He doesn't mope around, he doesn't recklessly endanger innocent lives (demolishing Smallville and half of Metropolis in DBZ fistfights) and he doesn't kill! In trying to make Superman hip for modern audiences Man of Steel totally destroys the essence of who Superman is and why he's endured for so long.


  1. I had a feeling that you might watch Superman and drop in with a review and honestly man I'm shocked that you've came down so heavily on it. With that said I completely take in everything that you say and know that I'll have the same issues with it as well. Superman has never been my favourite superhero because he's so perfect and not flawed but turning him into some amazing dark and brooding villain isn't a good idea. Thanks for the review man, don't think I'll be checking it out now, this has reaffirmed what I thought.

  2. It's a shame that the movie isn't very good. I was looking forward to watching it because it looked like such a good movie but if it only *looks* good then that's not enough for me. I personally do find Supes a bit boring and one dimensional like you said but I have read some Superman graphic novels and they were pretty awesome.

  3. I was sad to see all the mixed reviews

  4. Nice review Jim. Can’t go wrong with a superhero movie in the summer, especially one with everybody’s favorite. Or at least the most definitive.

  5. Superman's best solo storylines are when he died against Doomsday and Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman (which is not part of the DC canon due to it's all-star status. Still fantastic though.) I dislike Superman because of his inherent Vanilla nature. Yes, he's an important facet of the DC Universe, but he's always overshadowed by other characters. In all the DC Universe's crossovers, he plays a big role, but other characters are more important.

    I just hope that future Man of Steel movies don't tread on ground that should be done by the Justice League. Superman should stick to his own stories and villains to make the justice league movies awesome by utilizing villains that operate on a huge scale like Darkseid or the Anti-Monitor(I still think one of the movies should be JLA Earth 2. Would be fucking badass).

  6. I have heard a lot of mixed opinions about this movie...with the majority saying "skip it" and wait to watch it on DVD. This was by far the most concise review thus far.

  7. I'm so happy. I really didn't wanna see this one. Everyone's telling me about how good it is.. I just couldn't see it. CONFIRMED!

  8. My Man of Steel review is simple.

    -It felt like Catherine Hardwicke or Alfonso Cuarón directed it

    - Apparently out of focus and heat waves are an artistic choice now?

    - I understand the color and handheld style for the origins portion, but once the costume comes on you got to drop that shit.

    -30 mins too long

    -It's hard to look like a supreme being villain when you look like you're chewing tobacco in every scene, Sorry Never been a big Michael Shannon fan

    -Was Zack Snyder even on set?

    -The price of greatness is loneliness

    - Oh the horrible action sequences nowadays (Fukin China)*

    -There was a great movie in here somewhere, but they got greedy with the action

    -It also occurred to me that maybe Superman is not a very good story to tell?....

    *A recent article touched on China being the reason for all the CGI action porn in todays movie, apparently it's HUGE and pretty much the only business over there, and since we can't count on people in our economy to go out and catch a flick, studios are relying on china.

  9. everyone is saying it was better than Iron 3..

    but I don't think so. Man of steel was way too serious and so was the actor compared to iron man 3, so I say..

    Iron Man 3 is still the best so far..but anyway, who's arguing? haha!!!

    should have read this review beforehand. hmp!

  10. Two words, THE Best! i never really liked superman before this, thumbs up for the fighting scenes and the actors most especially the guy who played commander zodd.

    Dwayne Johnston (Limo in Seattle)