His cape flaps almost imperceptibly as he hovers there mid air just outside the window to the Daily Planet. General Zodd has just given the order to kill everyone in the room except Lois Lane (he intends to use the plucky reporter to lure the son of Jor El out of hiding) “General! Would you care to step outside?!” Superman taunts with an air of confidence, and then flies off knowing Zodd and his soldiers will follow. He leads them to an abandoned construction site. Zodd’s soldiers knock the tops off of buildings, blow up taxi cabs with their heat vision, and nearly detonate a gas tanker semi truck but each time Superman nullifies the threat before returning to face Zodd and his soldiers.
Wait… wait! HOLD UP! That’s not Man of Steel? I don’t remember anything like that in the movie! No, you’re right… that was Superman II staring Christopher Reeves as Superman and Terrance Stamp as General Zodd.
By comparison Man of Steel wasn’t ANYTHING like that…
(The title is not a misnomer. These reviews may involve spoilers. I will try not to ruin the movie with any kind of huge plot twist reveals but I will reference events in the movie that may give you insights into the film so if you don’t want ANY spoilers you should not proceed or do so with caution)
Man of Steel was the first Superman movie offering from the combined efforts of director Zack Snyder(300, The Watchmen), Screenplay writer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight), with additional Story writing by Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight). Now with Hollywood heavy hitters and comic book movie veterans like this at the helm, I thought surely this movie should be a home run! What I experienced was a difficult rounding of the bases…
We arrived about 20 minutes early on the night of the midnight release. We had concessions in hand ready to see Man of Steel in 3D at our local theater. We waited excitedly anticipating the movie previews and the film we’d been so eager to see which would finally relaunch the Superman properties on the big screen. Our early arrival was eaten up as we continued sitting patiently until 15 minutes after the movie should have started. That’s when the ticket taker came into the theater to nervously inform everyone that they could not get the 3D version of the film to work… so they would like to refund the difference of our Tickets and invite us in to watch the 2D version of the film in the theater right next door.
We went from our roomy 3D theater to a jam packed 2D theater which, surprisingly, still had room for all of us. The folks in this theater were apparently asked to start the movie over and watch the first 10 minutes again… When the movie started it jumped right in, skipping the previews. Well this wasn’t what we’d planned on but I thought “At least I’m going to see the movie…”
FINALLY! Wait… what’s that on the screen? Close Captioning is on?! I’ve never seen a movie with closed captioning… I must have been obviously annoyed by the words on the screen because my wife leaned in to point out… maybe someone here needs them… (oh… oh yeah… now I’m annoyed AND I feel like an insensitive jerk)
The movie gets going and we finally get to see the stage set for Krypton, a Brave New World! (if you’ve seen the movie you might have noticed that Krypton is rife with Auldous Huxley references) it’s cruising along at a pretty good clip and I’m enjoying it thoroughly… WHEN THE SCREEN FREEZES… oh boy, I start to assume that this theater’s not going to be able to show the movie either and this is not going to be pretty… It takes a minute… but then… the film is… it’s STARTING OVER!
We watch the first 10 minutes… AGAIN! Well I guess it could be worse, no big deal, and HEY! the closed captioning is gone, so I guess I wasn’t just a jerk to be annoyed by it! (That… or somebody else is really annoyed now…) We watch Russell Crowe as Jor El own Krypton “like a boss” again… until… OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! The screen freezes AGAIN!
This time we aren’t forced back to the absolute beginning… but we are shunted back to about the first 5 minutes… WOW… so now as we watch the movie EVERYONE knows the first 10-15 minutes and we’ve got a few actually speaking the parts along with the actors. Well it’s a good thing Krypton was handled pretty well because after seeing it that many times if it wasn’t very good there could have been riots. I watched Russell Crowe crash a Dragon Fly three times!
It wasn’t the worst movie I’ve seen. But there’s a lot I didn’t like about it. Right off the bat I didn’t like the experience, which is not a fault of the movie but it did taint my perception of it.
Let’s start with the good though! I liked Krypton (good thing cuz I saw a lot of it…) I would be thrilled if the sequel involved Brainiac and the bottle city of Kandor… more of this Krypton would not disappoint me at all. I’m sure not everyone loved the treatment but I felt it was new enough with enough nods to preexisting canon which most Superman fans could enjoy.
The cast was good… the folks I recognized were all very good actors, and the folks I hadn’t seen on the screen before did very well with their parts.
The visuals were convincing and the action was intense…
But it left me with a Prometheus/Phantom Menace kind of feeling… I wanted very badly to enjoy the movie but I was taken out of the film many times by events and plot points that were too jarringly different or violent, or surprising… I felt this movie was another case where newer is not necessarily better… the visuals rocked, my eyes and brain got candy galore… but I got Man of Steel, when I was hoping for Superman. You see… I’m of the unfortunate folk that didn’t think Superman needed a complete overhaul in order to reintroduce him to the world.
Unlike Batman, Superman doesn’t seek to scare people… he’s so powerful that he’s got an awful lot of options when it comes to being a hero and he goes to great lengths to make the people of earth safe and feel at ease. Batman doesn’t have those options so when he has to go to extremes to save the day I can handle it… at the end of the day Batman is just a man and he sometimes needs to be extreme to level an extreme playing field… Superman on the other hand does NOT.
Immediately we get a Hairy shirtless Superman who is surly and jaded… wait… I get you are alone in this world… but you are invincible… what’s your problem?…
I love Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine but is this a new norm for every male super hero? Will we forever get the “I haven’t shaved and it makes me all owly” treatment for our heroes?
The spirit of the film wasn’t what I was expecting… I was not drawn into a plot that made me feel like the Man of Steel was much of a hero… he felt like a broody invincible hermit. Hey maybe that’s Superman and I’ve been missing something all these years… but that’s not the feel I have ever gotten from Superman before…
When I detailed the scene from Superman II at the beginning of this review… Superman did everything he could to take the fight away from the city and it was all resolved in the Arctic. Despite Zodd’s overwhelming physical might and sheer numbers Superman could win by out witting Zodd. The Man of Steel on the other hand saves the day by using his power and might… solving everything with acts of strength or exhibitions of power, and in the end Metropolis looks like it’s been eaten by the monster in Cloverfield the Man of Steel did not do so well preventing collateral damage… it apparently wasn’t a priority for him.
The Man of Steel’s final confrontation with Zodd was the most glaring moment for me… when he has finally stopped Zodd… he stands behind his defeated form and snaps his neck… this will forever leave a foul taste in my mouth… It is that moment that solidified that I was not watching Superman…
The defense that people have thrown out for this act was that “Zodd said he’d never stop, he’d always keep coming… Superman had to!” No… not Superman… Superman wouldn’t have. Maybe the Man of Steel was so utterly desperate and without answers he felt he must… but Superman always found a way to depower Zodd or return him to the Phantom Zone or any other manner of solution because… Not even Batman stands behind a fallen combatant and snaps their neck.
Now having said all of this it’s not a horrible movie… I think I could even enjoy a Man of Steel sequel because now I know what I’d be in for, I do understand reboots… I get that this is a “new take”… and I can enjoy it for what it is… a Summer blockbuster action hero movie… but for me? It wasn’t a Superman movie… this was a Man of Steel movie. Apples and Oranges.