I have no questions about MAN OF STEEL as I have with previous movies because I saw it twice in two nights and the second viewing answered most of my questions regarding just what Zod was up to and why Superman had to use a Kotex to save
Anyway. I enjoyed MAN OF STEEL. It is not a great movie or even a great Superman movie (I guess there was only one of those), but it was a very effective superhero movie which brought out the scope and and power and speed of being super. The grim imprimatur of Christopher Nolan was all over it, but combined with a thoughtful script by David S. Goyer and the stunning visuals of Zack Snyder made for an exciting, memorable film.
Of course there were holes and one shocking character twist that I suspect will make this movie more controversial than the deadbeat dad/Peeping Tom Superman of SUPERMAN RETURNS.
So here’s what worked and what didn’t:
Hans Zimmer: the score for this movie smoothed over a lot of the storytelling rough spots as far as I’m concerned. A plangent, driving tone poem with notes of Sibelius, it left out John Williams’ trumpet and added lots of kettledrums and unresolved sixth and seventh intervals to give a restless, energetic mood. When the intervals resolved it was a great payoff. So yeah, a lot like the Inception score but more heroic. If the movie weren’t so ubiquitous, this would be the next “Gothic Power” for movie trailers. The only flaw: slow piano music for Kansas such as one might hear on South Park. Sorry people, South Park has ruined the emotional piano break for all times.
Henry Cavill: I saw this movie two night in a row and did not tire of looking at Henry Cavill. I would not tire of looking at him every night. OKAY OKAY so he’s a dreamy hunk. Is he a good Superman? He’s a good Superman for THIS version of the character. If you swapped him and Christopher Reeve in their movies they would both suck. (Brandon Routh, you will always be the perfect Todd Ingram.) Cavill’s steely gaze, adamantium abs and I’ll-open-that-beer-bottle chin are a great physical fit for the character, and he expressed the philosophical gravitas of a character who was basically the Kryptonian Jesus. In a movie that suffered from its humorless demeanor, Cavill displayed some courtly charm in the few places it was allowed. Basically, he sold me on being the guy who says “I’ve got this.” And more important for the goals of this film, he was a tough guy who did whatever had to be done, and not a dorky good guy who frets about doing the right thing.
(That said, the more Superman you see, the more you realize what a miracle Christopher Reeve’s performance was.)
Zack Snyder: Okay so I like his movies; sue me. I liked WATCHMEN. Having just recently viewed IRON MAN 3 and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, I found Snyder’s visual chops so much better than Shane Black or J. J. Abrams. If you’re going to blow things up, this is how to do it, turbo mode, nothing held back. Whereas so many CGI movies are basically slave to the green screen, the previz on this keyed in on drama, from the shaky cam—used effectively for once—to the loss of focus to indicate how we can never know what it is like to be Superman because…he’s Superman. The scene where Superman learns how to fly is great; for once a streaking blue dot is a symbol of joy and power.
While there was a lot of violence and punching in the movie, what else is a superhero movie supposed to be except a fight scene? Some people have told me that they were exhausted by the time Superman had to fight Zod; I felt that this has been set up as the real showdown and I had enjoyed the visuals so much previously that it became the climax that the film needed.
I don’t know how directly Snyder’s team looked at comics (for some reason that hasn’t come up in any of the publicity materials I’ve seen) but there were definite references to Alex Ross, Frank Quitely, and—in the final showdown with Zod—Jack Kirby. Zod’s bowl cut hairdo and glowing eyes were 70s DC all the way.
Lois Lane: I’m predisposed to like Amy Adams, so no surprises. MAN OF STEEL’s Lois was a comic book movie’s idea of a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter (“I have writer’s block unless I’m wearing a flak jacket.”) and all the Daily Planet stuff here was not much more convincing than that portrayed in the Superman musical I saw a few months back. But she was brave and smart enough to keep me happy. Adams and Cavill managed to work up some chemistry but I am sad to report (spoilers) that the “It means hope” scene from the trailer is about as far as the movie does for banter. The rest is mostly “Where is the Kotex?”
Faora-Ul: Making the secondary villain a woman was a great idea, and she is a badass with no apologies. Even in CGI, all the Kryptonians moved differently, and Antje Traue’s Faora was fast and lethal. Her character (like most in the film) was paper thin, but I liked seeing a female villain who was a real threat for a change.
The Budget: Warner Bros poured endless money into this thing and it shows. I tolerated GREEN LANTERN more than most humans because at least it showed some imagination on screen. Marvel’s movies are zippy and light-hearted but the art direction of the shared world is mundane and dull. I liked Krypton’s flying bees and the ship that looked like a mole rat.
Most of the Cast: Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, and Russell Crowe were all fine at what they had to do, but none of them were really a standout to me. Shannon was a strong villain who didn’t give the impression of excessive scenery chewing.
David Goyer: There were a lot of “Hunhhh????” moments in this movie that woudn’t stand up to logical scrutiny—the fate of Jonathan Kent being primary among them. The Daily Planet was a total throwaway, and the ending left the whole Clark Kent set-up a complete throwaway. But in general, this script had a through line which stayed consistent: Superman is an alien who must find a way to live up to the teachings of both his fathers. As a villain, General Zod wasn’t much different than Khan in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS or even “The Mandarin” in IRON MAN 3: all are foreigners with a muddled agenda to take control so their heritage can take center stage. Zod’s plot didn’t seem very clear when I originally viewed the film, but the second time it held together better. Superman’s journey is one of acceptance and self-discovery and that too remained consistent. I didn’t like all of the script, but I see what they were going for.
The sheer level of destruction: The last half of the movie is one giant fight scene that destroys most of a small Kansas main street and then a significant portion of Metropolis. I mean just shatters it. Do you remember that brief moment after 9/11 when turning a city to rubble was considered bad taste? I don’t want to come off like a PTSD victim who has trigger images, but I’m just sick of seeing skyscrapers fall down on movie screens. I saw that happen in real life and it haunted me for years. I know it’s all a video game but to tolerate the devastation I must go to a level of fantasy that makes everything that happens meaningless. It’s getting old, people.
Christopher Nolan: And now we come to the heart of the matter. Nolan’s Batman film’s were dark, unsmiling, and very serious. That same tone has been transferred to Superman, a character that doesn’t really wear it as well. The shift was necessary to give him a new lease on life from a business standpoint. WB has had so much trouble rebooting their superheroes they had to turn to the only guy who seems to know how to do it. But at the same time it’s not quite what you ordered from the menu: Nolan has made great salami sandwiches, but instead of giving us a ham sandwich he gave us another salami sandwich only with pickles. At the end of the movie Superman does something that everyone will complain about. It’s something that Christopher Reeve or Brandon Routh would never have done, but Cavill’s Kal-El can. It’s done, as I suggested, to make the character more dangerous and unexpected. Will this version fly into the hearts of filmgoers? MAN OF STEEL is easier to admire for its technical skill than to embrace like a pal.
Plus, I’m not sure how the young male movie going audience will like it. Guys ate up Batman because everyone thinks, deep down, that they can be Batman if they just work hard enough. The whole point of MAN OF STEEL is that no one can be Superman because he’s an alien Jesus, and that isn’t as relatable. (The Superman-is-Jesus parallels are laid on with a trowel from revealing he’s 33 to his standing in front of a stained glass image of Christ while talking to a priest to his cruciform pose in some scenes.)
Above all, this film could have used some laughs and humor. As mentioned, Cavill and Adams have charm to spare… by making Superman a tortured savior and not a do-gooder, that’s mostly jettisoned.
In the bigger picture, WB has feared being too lighthearted with its superheroes ever since the Batman TV show. Marvel gets away with a wink and a nod in its movies because they’re Marvel, and it’s built into the DNA of their characters. WB has struggled desperately with tone, veering between failed concepts like Jack Black Green Lantern and ice cream social Wonder Woman and serious creepy Routh Superman and now remote Jesus Superman. The Green Lantern movie was about a dull hotshot who had no inner life. This Kal-El is all inner strife.
Now where do they go from here? MAN OF STEEL is tracking to make a lot of money, but the film itself sets up Superman as impossibly powerful—an ongoing problem with the character in all media. My biggest problem with the film aside from it being way too serious is that it left nowhere to go. This Clark Kent can smash through a mountain and jump up a second later. A bone crushing battle with someone as strong as he is crumbles a city. Is the next movie going to be just Superman fighting oceans of CGI henchmen (aka Avengers)? Because the character as shown has virtually no limits and that makes it way harder to tell a story.
Is MAN OF STEEL the key that will open the lock to the WB/DC superhero film universe? Not yet. The past decade has shown us that the Legendary/Nolan/Goyer crew can make good to great Batman and Superman movies. Can they vary the tone enough to make us fall for Martian Manhunter? The source material is thin and will require a LOT of intelligent rethinking. WB chose Snyder over Darren Aronofsky to direct the movie because of studio loyalty, but it was a safe choice given the stakes. (And we were talking about this three years ago, remember?)In the future they need to reach out to quirkier, fresher talents. Marvel Studios has had a great run of effectively matching directors who aren’t exactly at the top of the A list to material— but they’re also confident in their material, something that WB isn’t.
In thinking about the road this darker, serious attitude might take to get to a JLA movie, I keep thinking of Alan Moore, believe it or not. In a few pages of SWAMP THING he introduced the team with the grim, godlike tone that has filled comics ever since. I’ll leave you with a flashback while you go see MAN OF STEEL, if you haven’t already. And then come back and let me know what you think.
Great review, Heidi, loved your inclusion of this Alan Moore Swamp Thing page (pages)! I expected to hate this movie, but liked it despite my not needing to see another origin sequence (and there was too much Krypton and Jor-El, but better than them overusing Lex Luthor again). For me it could have been 45 minutes shorter, but I wasn’t bored and there was a lot of action and the cast was great.
I loved it. I thought “the controversial” scene was necessary for the character and was likely done to play out over future movies. Most of all, this for all intents and purposes is “Superman Begins.” A lot of the criticism seems to be based towards him being out of character compared to what a more experienced Superman would do in similar situations. This is not the more experienced Superman of the Donner or even the Singer movie. This is a character who is just testing out his power set, when a military trained squad comes gunning for him with the same power set.
I think there is a gravitas that had to be established with this movie lest it becomes yet another direct comparison to the Donner movies. Singer went down that road and fortunately or unfortunately, that’s just not the character that can draw people to the movie theaters like he once was able too. I think there were definitely attempts at humor and lightness, especially at the very end of the movie that seem to foreshadow there could be an attempt to lighten the tone in future movies down a notch while still retain the action of this movie.
A lot of the complaints I feel I’m seeing relate to the preciousness that some people hold with the character. “My Superman” wouldn’t do this or that. They are right this isn’t their Superman. It’s not an experienced Superman. He’s rookie. His first threat after being a mystery savior to people on oil rigs are people with his own power set, people he is not prepared to meet because he’s always been told he can’t use his power to it’s full extent. I respect and like that fact that unlike the Singer movie, they weren’t precious with this character. They did make an attempt to make him a deeper character then just the boy scout or the Jesus figure.
I think the “controversial” scene sets up the next movies splendidly and there absolutely is someplace for this franchise to go. Especially with the threats and villains that have never been translated. The “another origin story” holds no water for me. Enough of the interactions have changed that they make this origin story his own. And wile comics readers have read this story ad nausea, has the general public? The last origin story for this character in movie theaters was told over 30 years ago. Spider-Man had his origin story told over in movie theaters twice in that time.
All in all, I fell this was this was “Superman Begins” as much as Batman was Batman in “Batman Begins.” Much like the mirror of “Batman Begins,” I feel this is a movie about Kal El/Clark Kent learning to become Superman. I’m very excited to see where the story goes next. Crossing my fingers for Braniac in the sequel.
The first two sentences of Dana Stevens’ MAN OF STEEL review at Slate: A colleague of mine made the astute observation that superhero blockbusters have something in common with medieval religious art. Both rely on rigidly fixed iconographies drawn from a narrow range of canonical subject matter. The subhead is Can America stomach a superhero this saintly?
If Superman had any depth, he wouldn’t be Superman. Perhaps his origin story hasn’t been told in over 30 years, but the Donner movie is still there, can be watched at any time by anyone, and is still the reference point for critics. Remaking his origin merely demonstrated Stevens’ point.
“If Superman had any depth, he wouldn’t be Superman. ”
While I understand, I’m not sure a prescribe to this interpretation/critique of the character.
It’s just that fighting a super villain is the simplest possible approach to doing a Good vs. Evil story. A friend of mine had a blog entry this morning on income inequality in the U.S. A writer’s calculation showed that if the U.S. tax rates in 1979 had stayed in place, income inequality would still be going up; there would just have been less of an increase. That type of disparity in earnings is evil, but it’s evil that Superman can’t do anything about. Doing anything about it would require shifts in society that are unlikely to happen.
Superman won’t be a deep character until he tackles situations that are relevant to the real world.
Of course he’ll be a deep character whether or not he tackles “relevant real world” situations. Since when is that the measure of meaningfulness for fantasy heroism?
I can see the tagline now — “Man of Steel! For people who thought Iron Man and Star Trek were too hard to understand!”
I thought the cast was great all around (though I tire of.seeing Michael Shannon type cast like this), I thought the story was painfully by the numbers.
Change the names of the characters and places, and you’ve got just about every other superhero movie.
Heck, you’ve got most action movies in general.
You’re city destruction points were pretty spot on.
The movie had falling buildings, tornadoes, explosions, and even a military drone. This movie picked the wrong month to come out.
The building that accidentally collapsed here in Philadelphia last week was on my drive home from the theater, and it was just a big depressing reminder that Superman isn’t real.
Superman can inspire people with power to loosen their grip and employ some influence toward the betterment of others. The character is meant to be aspirational and build off of things like hope, which can breed trust and with enough people buying in, make a better world. This is the power of Superman. This is the power of the idea of Superman.
The business of this movie is business, however. Do not confuse this movie with the power of the idea of Superman.
Yes, the massive destruction in virtually every superhero movie is tiresome. But it sells in the global market these films are intended for. Explosions and falling buildings require no subtitles or dubbing.
What the massive destruction in movies like this and The Avengers does more than anything else, I think, is underscore how ridiculous super hero comics are in the first place. (But we already know that, right?)
When I think about how 9/11 affected the country, events like those in this movie would ruin us economically and emotionally, maybe for all time. Even if we were saved by alien Jesus. But hey, The Daily Planet was chugging right along like nothing happened so I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal. Myself, I would be scared shitless to leave my house. And I’d probably be scared shitless inside my house also.
As far as the controversial moment, well, (MILD SPOILER) John Byrne put him in essentially the same situation with no real choice and other writers got some pretty good stories out of it subsequently. But I doubt it’ll come up in the sequels.
But I loved that that they had Faora-Ul instead of Ursa and even had Jax-Ur (along with a subtle reference to him in the Krypton scenes).
And was that supposed to be Jenny Olsen? IMDb gives the character no last name.
it was refressing to see a superhero who doesn’t wax his body.
And, yeah, it’s amazing that Alan Moore totally got the Justice League right in those three pages, and pretty much ever since then people have been scrambling to live up to the vision of them that he turned us toward.
I’m not from USA so i’ll apologize for my insensitivity.
What happened during 9/11 was definitely tragic but does that mean that movies can’t show big buildings falling anymore?
Obviously dumb analogy but what happened to Jews during WW2 was tragic yet we have no problems with WW2 movies (that seem to come out every year) showing Nazis killings Jews.
“But hey, The Daily Planet was chugging right along like nothing happened so I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Reminded me of this Onion classic from last year.
“What happened during 9/11 was definitely tragic but does that mean that movies can’t show big buildings falling anymore?
“Obviously dumb analogy but what happened to Jews during WW2 was tragic yet we have no problems with WW2 movies (that seem to come out every year) showing Nazis killings Jews.”
The difference is that the killing of Jews, in movies set during WWII, is depicted as tragic and horrific, while the destruction of buildings in superhero movies (and other action flicks) is depicted as fun. As entertainment. The audience is supposed to say “Wow!” or “Cool!”
I liked the movie, but thought it suffered from a few things.
First, the film was humorless. By that, I don’t mean that it wasn’t funny or that it didn’t lean towards some form of campy humor. I mean that it was without the capacity to crack a smile. Someone elsewhere called it ‘joyless’, and I guess I would agree with that.
Secondly, the collateral damage in the film was astounding. I couldn’t figure out why Superman wasn’t trying to work the battles away from the populace into the unpopulated areas, like he would in the comics, or pay more attention to protecting the civilians from harm. Seemed like he was more interested in the fight than he was with getting innocent bystanders out of the way of danger.
Thirdly, I absolutely hated his killing Zod. I don’t care if there’s a precedent for it. That’s not Superman. He’s supposed to be above that and able to find a way to prevent it. I don’t buy the notion that it was impossible for him to avoid.
And I thought Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois was flat and rather lacking. She started out well, but soon fell back into a cookie-cutter leading lady role. She didn’t have very much of Lois’ traditional feistiness past that first act.
I thought it was a good movie, but missed the mark of being a great Superman story.
The nine-year-old I saw the movie with, after giving it his absolute attention the entire 2.5 hours, spent the credits bouncing in his seat, saying, “That was awesome!” over and over again. Which says a lot more about a Superman film, I think, than what we older people think.
I really, really enjoyed it, and felt the scenes on Krypton would have made an old pulp SF fan like Jerry Siegel pretty happy. Not that anything else DC/Warners does with the property would have, but I kept seeing Burroughs, among many others, in the Krypton designs/ideas, which I think would have tickled a guy who really wanted to write SF.
I am so taken aback by some of the reviewers sad, sad reviews of one of the greatest superhero movies of all time! This is the Superman movie of this generation. By today’s standards the classic movies don’t even come close to capturing what Man Of Steel has. If you have a happy go lucky comic book image of Superman and you don’t want to see him reinvented into modern times in a way that feels a lot more real, and yet maintains the essence of the timeless character, then by all means skip this movie.
The older generation who cannot get over their attachment to their childhood image of Superman are biased and have no business reviewing this movie! Simply look on rotten Tomatoes for instance…. Look at the discrepancy between the Audience reviews and the “professionals” as a whole. On this one, the reviewers are WAY, WAY out of touch
I thought this movie was pretty much a complete POS. Am I out of touch? Maybe. But one thing you can say about Marvel movies is that, no matter their flaws, they do their best to convey the heart of the character, what they represent, and what makes them relatable. This one had absolutely no soul to it. The opening sequence was felt like a cut sequence of Suckerpunch, the acting was flat, and the film was incredibly bleak. The only reason you know that Superman is supposed to stand for hope is that the movie tells you that’s what the ‘S’ means. There were lots of missed opportunities to convey a character that is meant to inspire humanity. Drab and uninspiring. I wish someone would fly around the world and turn back time to before this movie was made.
Is it a good Superman movie? Hell, no. It’s f’n terrible. Is it a good science-fiction movie? Enh, sure. But a forgettable one.
Also, Pa Kent may be the worst father ever.
@SSpencer – Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s good.
Heidi — I’m not 100% sure you weren’t making a joke rather than an auditory error, but Zod wanted the genetic *codex* that Jor-El had put in his son. Superman being imprinted with a Kotex is dubious no matter how different Kryptonian biology.
You mean there is no Kotex ? Kryptonian Jesus, this film sounds less and less interesting the more I read.
To be serious Stephen Spencer is quite right that Superman has to reflect modern times. I get the two fathers thing but I’m not entirely clear how the consequences of that are being represented. Is all this violence intended to be some sort of overcompensation ?
Your review is probably the closest review that I’ve found that fits with what I felt. I also watched it twice and, for the most part, really enjoyed it for what it was. Probably even more the second time.
I absolutely hated the way Jonathan Kent was written and portrayed. That was probably the weakest part of the movie, for me.
I think the ending where Superman makes the decision to do what he does was interesting and unexpected, especially considering the story in the comics with Wonder Woman. I don’t know that I find it out of character, as much as a “what would you do?” type situation, which could potentially be explored in a sequal. And I don’t think everyone will complain about it because both of my screenings erupted in loud applause at that scene, which actually kind of disturbed me.
Went with my 11-year-old last night, after spending the two previous evenings watching the 1978 version with him.
He loved it. Thought it was better than The Avengers. When I asked hiim which was better the one we just saw or the one we saw on TV, he said they were about the same – which is not typical for him (usually the old stuff is worse).
I walked out of this new version thinking that this was a very angry movie, without a lot of fun or charm. It was very much a sci-fi movie…like Star Trek meets Die Hard, but an all-Spock movie without the charm/wit of Kirk, or the wisecracks of John McClaine. I think I saw one smile on one character the whole time. Everyone, including the main character, was just pissed off and resentful the whole time (not sad, just mad). I was also much less enamored with Amy Adams. I was fine with this version of Lois, but to me her acting seemed kind of stiff.
But if you like things blowing up, buildings smashed, and a lot of angry characters, this is a fantastic version of Superman.
What about the deliberate Jesus allusions, and the character never progressing beyond his 30s? If you can think of a way for Kal-El to forge an actual life for himself (vs. a fairy tale marriage to Lois Lane and living happily ever after) on Earth, and have him endure a midlife crisis, you might be the first person on Earth to do those things.
Kal-El’s trip to Earth by itself makes the storyline pure fantasy. His singular power set makes religious analogies practically unavoidable. If writing him as having a real-world life is impossible, what is a moviemaker supposed to do with him besides have him fight a couple of momentous battles and then wait until his origin can be told again to a new audience?
Why do so many movies now suck? Netflix.
When the DVD market collapsed, it took away FIFTY PERCENT of the movie studios’ profits. And nothing has come along to replace it. And so, this article states, the studios are “frozen,” terrified to make anything but sequels, remakes and reboots.
Those still sell in foreign markets, which is where almost all the profits come from now. This is why American movies are no longer made for American audiences.
“…the destruction of buildings in superhero movies (and other action flicks) is depicted as fun. As entertainment. The audience is supposed to say “Wow!” or “Cool!”
I don’t agree with this assessment;but for the sake of the argument, let’s say that its true. The Man of Steel, however, does not fit into this characterization. The vignette with Perry, Jenny and Lombard barely dodging debris and then switching to rescue mode was meant to show how dangerous a superhuman battle would be to the normal people. The panic shown in some of the skyscrapers and on Pete Ross’ face in other sequences reflect the danger regular people would face in a situation like this also. Finally, the one complaint that I’ve seen that drives me bonkers is the “Superman should have moved the battle out of the city” lament. Without going to far into spoiler territory; Zod had the high ground, his position was fixed and his ship was anchored in place by the device he was using. Superman was temporarily weakened by what he had done before heading to Metropolis. He was out numbered, by people who were temporarily stronger than he was, operating out of a ship that was anchored in place by a gravity weapon (only partially operational when the battle started) powerful enough to affect the mass of the planet, led by a genocidal nut case bred to be a military genius. If Superman had managed to relocate the battle away from Metropolis, Zod would have moved it back, and most likely carved a swath of destruction while doing it. Maybe the film should have shown an attempt being made, but then the Jenny, Perry and Lombard scene might have been lost.
Doug, you’re assuming logic plays a role in big, expensive franchise movies, rather than the need to blow things up really good. That’s what wows the overseas audience that all studios now cater to. They want big, loud, explosive action, preferably in 3-D. The superhero movie is perfect for this audience.
What, Michael Shannon uttering the line “RELEASE THE WORLD ENGINE!” wasn’t funny enough?
The whole theater I was in (The Village Fox Regency Theater in Westwood, Ca) immediately burst into laughter.
I demand a Russell Crowe Jor-el prequel. I thought that was hands down, the best portrayal of Supes’ daddy ever captured on celluloid. That whole Kal-el being the first natural child born in generations on Krypton background reveal fascinated me and making Crowe into some kind of Ben-Wan Kenobi figure was a stroke of brilliance.
Jor-el would also fit great in the sequel leading Kal-el to the Bottled City of Kandor and Brainiac.
And what the hell, throw Supergirl into the mix too
After reading the article and the reviews from other posters, the one thing that people seem to forget is that: Clark Kent/Superman does the one thing that is Spoiler – He has to kill – is that in the comic-books from 1986-2006 he was put into a position that shaped his personal view on not attempting the deed again, and to find another way. Which was published in Superman (Vol. 2) #21 & #22, and Adventures of Superman #444 which written by John Byrne in 1988. This was shown in the film differently; but has the same consequences. If you want a Superman that doesn’t kill but somehow wins – then watch the two original films Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1981); sure Zod and company got away with a lot in the sequel, then be happy that one can watch the simpler time that’s desplayed there. A lot the influences from 1986-2011 era is there if one see’s it for comic-book fans; and introduces new concepts to new comers as well.
Agree pretty much with this review, which I think is very fair. The problem with Superman has always been that he is so all-powerful, he is boring and pointless character as a superhere. Nolan/Goyer/Snyer take as their starting point, what would it be like to be veritable god come to Earth, apparently to “lead” them to a brighter future? He has basically exterminated the last of his kind to save the human race. What is the emotional legacy of such an act? And it’s not as if the humans are obviously worth saving. The US governing structure obviously mirrors the governing structure that doomed Kryption: weak ineffectual civilian government and a warrior class that gets the job done. Kal-El’s rejoinder to Zod is that Krypton had its chance, now it’s the humans’ turn. A scene close to the end pits Kal-El against the modern surveillance state. While there is a blunt environmental message behind the end of Krypton, there is also reference to the environmental catastropher that is now threating our own destruction (polar bears hopping between ice floes in the foreground of the Fortress of Solitude). It will be interesting to see what extent the creatives will do anything with these nascent themes in future films in the franchise.
I agree completely about the wanton destruction of NYC. At this point city-destroying fights that reference 9/11 have become a cliche. And turning 9/11 into a cliche in the name of popular entertainment is obscene. Let’s call a halt to it from now on.
David L PAtterson —
Superman DID kill Zod in Superman II. And unlike in Man of Steel, it was an unnecessary kill as Zod had been rendered powerless.
It seems forced whenever writers try to play Superman up as a Christ figure, when he’s more of a Moses figure: a man who was sent away in a small vessel as a baby to a different world. Only, in Man Of Steel he’s defending his adopted people from his birth people, rather than the other way around.
On an unrelated note, did anyone else notice that the terraformer landed in the Indian Ocean? We took the country over from the “Indians” and largely replaced them, just as Zod wanted to do to Earth. The original inhabitants of this country sold it for much less than it was worth, just as Siegel and Shuster sold their property for much less than it was worth. Am I reaching here?
Nice try, but the fans who are really in an uproar over Zod’s fate (nobody who has posted here yet qualifies) would point to the Donner cut and a supposed ABC cut for TV that show the Mounties leading the trio away in cuffs. Why the Mounties know the location of The Fortress of Solitude, isn’t explained.
Kate Willaert: I think you’re reaching in ascribing extra significance to the Indian Ocean setting of the Zod’s terraformer. I think the pseudo-science in the story pretty well established that the two parts of Zod’s World Engine had to be set up on opposite sides of the Earth. With one part in Metropolis (the east coast of the U.S.,) that’d place the antipode in the Indian Ocean just as a matter of simple geography rather than any real symbolism toward the historical treatment of Native Americans.
This is the smartest and most well thoughtout article I have read on the film. By a lot. I really enjoyed this more than the movie.
Over at Grantland, Alex Pappademas has surveyed Superman’s movie and TV histories. He has a point of view, without being sarcastic, or worshipful, and refers to Superman’s comics as well. One block of text that relates to MAN OF STEEL:
I agree with Ebert’s sentiment. Superman, acting as Superman, is a thudding bore. Kent is a character a writer can do something with.
I’m going to see “Before Midnight.”
After taking in “Iron Man 3,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Star Trek: Into Darkness” over the last few weeks, I need a break from spectacle, bombast and special effects. Watching two people talk for 90 minutes might be the remedy.
Bully, the Little Stuffed Bull, walked out on the movie:
I do think the movie shows how horrible it would be to live in a world of super powered beings. The thing that bothered me most was the lack of blood and death, when you know that hundreds, if not thousands, of people would have died in Metropolis. (It was up there with the old A-Team series, when they would fire hundreds of rounds but no one ever got shot.)
I also don’t buy Superman beating Zod. Zod was a trained warrior while Superman never had to fairly fight anyone until the kryptonians arrived. But I do buy Superman having to kill him, as there is no prison capable of holding him.
Finally, I am tired of people whining because destruction in movies reminds them of 9/11. Move on or watch something else.
For me, this is the least worst Superman movie that I’ve seen (the others being Superman I through III). Plenty of good choices and plenty of poor ones. Not a great movie by any stretch, but its flaws bug me less that the flaws of I-III.
Don’t get me wrong, Christopher Reeve was great. But the movies he appeared in? Not so much. His first Superman movie was far too mired in camp to get my seal of approval. I like whimsy – heck, when done right, I *love* whimsy – but I have a really low camp threshold (you might say it’s like Kryptonite for me). And the turning back time thing? A bad idea executed badly. The forget-me kiss at the end of Superman II was another bad idea executed badly. And Supes was only able to save so many people from Zod & co in Superman II because Zod & co politely hovered around and let him do so before attacking him again. Not an approach I’d particularly want to see replicated today.
Was there too much disaster porn in Man of Steel? Yes, without question. On the other hand, I do approve at least *some* of it. If aliens really were invading/terraforming the planet – if ruthless super-powered aliens really were ganging up on an inexperienced defender who had steadfastly avoided violence all this life – there would indeed be a lot of property damage and loss of life. Should Superman have tried leading/dragging/throwing his foes away from Smallville and Metropolis? Heck, yes. That was a huge missed opportunity. However, had he attempted to steer ruthless, super-fast, and super-powerful enemies away from the populace, should he have successful in such efforts? Frankly, no. But I’m very disappointed that he didn’t at least try. I can understand that the filmmakers might have figured they’d already showed the futility of such tactics, what with the whole “Come out or we’ll kill your planet” thing – or the “For every one you save, we’ll kill a [I forget the number]” line. Still, Supes woulda/coulda/shoulda tried. Ditto for a) visibly attempting to save more civilians and b) visibly showing more concern about the collateral damage prior to the fateful neck-snap. In addition, some snippets of post-disaster mourning/rebuilding/etc would’ve been most welcome. So, do I maintain that a considerable amount of destruction was a good idea? Actually, yeah. We’re well beyond the hugely-powerful-Kryptonians-fight-but-there-isn’t-all-that-much-damage route of Superman II. But it’s truly unfortunate that they let a yes-there-would-realistically-be-considerable-damage approach devolve into a brainless, heartless (and frankly boring) orgy of destruction in the second half.
Quoth Rollman: “I also don’t buy Superman beating Zod. Zod was a trained warrior while Superman never had to fairly fight anyone until the kryptonians arrived. ” Actually, I buy that because Superman was more powerful and more experienced in using his powers, but those advantages were decreasing by the minute as Zod continued to charge up and gain experience.
What I didn’t buy:
1) Why Supes flew off with Zod (leaving his Mom to the mercy of the remaining Kryptonians) instead of flying off with his Mom.
2) Why Pa Kent headed off into the hurricane to save his dog (?) instead of having his super son do that (and expecting us believe that Supes would leave his dad to die instead of doing anything to save him).
3) Why Perry White was so intent on extracting Jinny (Olsen?) out of a relatively-safe hole so she could be with him on the street and get hit by a falling building (and why we were expected to identify with unidentified Daily Planet employees during lengthy stereotyped reaction shots).
4) Why Supes took down a $12 million spy satellite to preserve his privacy, when the military knows at minimum that he’s from Kansas and almost certainly knows his secret identity given that Lois was shouting it in public when Supes arrived at Ma Kent’s doorstep .
However, a lot of it I did buy, which isn’t a bad batting average for an inherently implausible concept like Superman.
One more “didn’t buy”:
5) Why were the Kryptonians so intent on Krypto-forming Earth to increase its gravity, when that presumably would eliminate much of their new-found powers?
If one were to make a movie of the Moore Miracleman arc vs. evil Kid Miracle man, this movie would nearly be it. Especially the woman Kryptonian vs. soldiers.
Most every scene was just about a frame short of the Moore excess violence. Certainly, there weren’t severed body parts raining down. But they nailed the deconstructionist realism of super heroics PERFECTLY.
I appreciate things from that perspective.
But, it’s not Superman.
Silly But True
I saw it with my ten year old and his friend and they were both meh about it.
And for me, I may be old fashioned, but heroes are supposed to do things that cause them to sacrifice. Superman killing his foes totally did not work for me.
But old fashionedness aside, it also didn’t follow through on the themes of the movie.
One is that Clark (and humans) have the capacity to change and Kryptonians do not. They are locked in to their DNA. So if Zod is pre-programmed to protect Krypton, and Clark is the sole survivor of Krypton Zod should have destroyed himself.
The other is about trust. Can Clark trust humans and can we trust him. If Clark can decide to kill anybody he sees as dangerous enough, then we can’t trust him. He needs to do something more noble than suddenly being able to hit the bad guy hard enough after two hours of not being able to do that.
I did not dislike the movie anywhere near as much as I expected. But I’m tired of these movies pandering to the X-box generation’s need for non-stop incoherent shaky cam visuals. Would it be so bad to actually see Superman do some cool stuff without eye stain? As for the controversial ending. It would have been less jarring if it was followed by a scene of some regret and pathos rather than cutting to the first full on cheeky scene in the film. It told me and the kids that the violent act in question was no big deal. Just move on and get to the jokes.
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