Superman: Man of Steel


I saw Man of Steel today. I had not heard very good things about the film going into the showing, so I had reservations. I'm happy to report, they were unfounded. I thought it was a good movie that could have been a great movie. [spoilers ahead]

The previews that played before the film included:

  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (This preview looked better than the entirety of An Unexpected Journey.)
  • 300: Rise of an Empire (I wanted the two hours of my life back after seeing 300. I'm certainly not motivated to see the sequel.)
  • Turbo (Looks cute, but I'm not sure how motivated I am to shell out money to see a racing snail.)
  • Despicable Me 2 (I loved the first one and this one looks hilarious. Definitely going to try to get to see this one ASAP.)
  • The Lone Ranger (Sigh. Johnny Depp as Tonto? I'm so worried this film is going to be horrible. Which makes me sad, because I really liked The Lone Ranger TV series.)
  • Paranoia (A film I hadn't heard of before this preview. Harrison Ford vs. Gary Oldman? Sounds like a must-see, if only on Blu-Ray and not in the theater.)

The film starts on Krypton. The technology the film envisions for Krypton is really neat - it's very Mass Effect/Halo-like in terms of the look of the ships, guns, armor, etc. I really liked the interplay of Zod and Kal-El and the ruling council. I wish there had been more explanation of why Jor-El is such a naturalist, flying around on animals (rather than spaceships) and having Kal-El via natural childbirth when the rest of his entire civilization is dedicated to mechanical/artificial ways of doing things.

The natural childbirth decision is explained, but you get the impression Jor-El and his wife are the only people on the entire planet who feel this way.

The storytelling of Clark growing up is beautifully done. You jump around in time, out of chronological order, seeing him perform various acts of good from young school age through his early 20s. The various scenes are well strung together in terms of pacing and theme.

I have an issue with how Pa Kent is written. There's nothing wrong with Kevin Costner's portrayal of him, I simply don't agree with the direction they went. The Kents are supposed to raise Clark to be the truly Good person that he grows up to be. However, Pa Kent has this whole "don't reveal yourself to the world, they aren't ready, they will hate you -- even if it requires you to let some people die" philosophy that we see him repeat to Clark at various times while Clark is growing up. Pa Kent's self sacrifice in the tornado was… absurd? A meaningless death? Yes. That's how I felt about it.

For Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series) fans, I felt like Pa Kent's death reminded me of General Zhao's refusal to accept Zuko's hand to save him from the Ocean Spirit.

I am not a fan of Russell Crowe. That being said, he does a fantastic job with Jor-El. The use of Jor-El throughout the story is very well done, and I love that Jor-El works with Lois to escape Zod's ship and get Superman the information he needs to defeat Zod's forces. I honestly wish there had been more of him in the film.

Henry Cavill is a great Superman. I never thought I'd say that about anyone other than Christopher Reeve, but he really does a great job. He's heroic without being arrogant; thoughtful without being weak. If I have any criticism about Superman, it's not with Cavill's portrayal. It's, again, with how the character is written. He's oh-so-concerned with saving lives so it's supposed to mean something to us when he kills Zod. However during the course of his fight with Zod, thousands of people must have died in Metropolis (New York). I guarantee you people died in the little town where he has his knock-down-drag-out with Zod's henchmen. His concern over personally killing Zod left me a little flat, given all of the collateral damage deaths that he caused.

Amy Adams does a solid job with Lois Lane, and Lois is written marvelously. She's strong, confidant and never the screaming woman-in-distress. She has her own career, and pursues reporting with passion and skill. She drinks straight bourbon (mad props). She rolls with the punches of alien technology, outer space, and threats to Earth with aplomb. I like the fact that she knows who Superman is at the end when Clark takes his job with the Daily Planet.

Michael Shannon as General Zod (does he remind anyone else of Bill Hader?) was over-acted at parts, but for the most part he was a competent villain. Again, my complaints are with how the character was written. Why couldn't Zod be given a bit more depth? He needed more explanation of his viewpoint and rationale for his stance that Kryptonians were worth the extermination of another people other than "I was born to be this way". He needed to be less megalomaniacal and xenophobic. If he had been a character that one could even slightly empathize with, it would have made his villainy less two dimensional and improved the film.

Why was Laurence Fishburne in this film? He was given absolutely nothing to do as Perry White. Every time I saw him on the screen I thought "Hey, there's Laurence Fishburne. He's a really great actor. I wish he was doing something other than sitting at a desk or dodging buildings."

To be honest, I would have been ok with the film ending with the implosion of Zod's ship (assuming Zod had been on board). I felt like the Zod/Superman fight at the end was entirely unnecessary. Though I did laugh when Zod grabbed Superman's cape and swung him around by it. Did anyone else think of Edna Mode in The Incredibles?

All in all, I enjoyed Man of Steel. I think if the script had been a bit tighter, the film could have been a truly great superhero film. As it is, it is a good film and worth seeing.