I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into the theatre for this one. I had purposely avoided any talk about it, and hadn’t even seen most of the trailers. I knew they were going for more of a mythological take on the character, which sounded awesome and appropriate, but that’s about it. However, since I did procrastinate on seeing it, I had heard from several people that it wasn’t so awesome. Not that it was bad, just that it didn’t really live up to the current slew of superhero movies coming from Marvel and DC. Those people were right. Man of Steel is far from a bad movie, but there are enough confusing plot elements and just enough lazy writing to keep it from stacking up to Nolan’s Batman films.
First off, the good stuff. Henry Cavill is a good fit for Superman. He definitely looks the part (though I seriously don’t understand how being that ripped is comfortable, the guy couldn’t even put his arms all the way down at his sides), and he brings an element of naivete to the role that’s really nice. Compared to Brandon Routh’s Supes, Cavill seems more alien and yet ultimately more human at the same time. Not an easy feat, but something that has defined the character in his deeper stories. Superman is constantly at odds with himself over his human upbringing and his Kryptonian heritage, and he often has to choose sides. Man of Steel nails that dichotomy. Also Amy Adams is, unsurprisingly, fantastic. She’s really shaping up to be one of Hollywood’s best actresses, and she manages to avoid the “damsel in distress” cliche of most superhero girlfriends. Her Lois Lane is brave, passionate, and a damn good journalist.
I really loved how they made Superman almost non-existent at first. Clark was just a dude with superpowers that wanted to figure out his place in the world by helping people. It wasn’t until Zod arrived that he really had to take up the mantle as the Protector of Earth. That being said, after the opening sequences, the plot seemed a bit rushed leading into the first confrontation with the Kryptonians. This is a long movie, so I get why they wanted to keep the plot moving, but I think we could have used less time on Krypton and more time with wanderer Clark. It would have let us in on his struggle a little more so that when he sacrifices himself for the people of Earth, we would have identified with his plight a little more. And that would have made all of the flashback scenes less necessary. I understand that when you cast Kevin Costner, you want to give him a good amount of screen time, but the flashbacks seemed like more of a pathos-filled crutch than something that was absolutely necessary to the plot. Have a little more faith in Henry Cavill, I’m sure he could have gotten us on his side without them. The same could be said for Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Again, I’m sure they wanted to get their money’s worth, but that first Kryptonian scene was way too long. I get that they wanted the audience to understand what Zod was fighting for, but there were several unnecessary sequences that could have been trimmed down.
But really the biggest thing that bogged this movie down for me was just that Henry Cavill didn’t get to do enough. Yeah he fought a lot and he yelled some and cried a bit, but I never really connected with his character. And I really think that’s more about the writing than it was about his performance. The most vulnerable we saw him was when he was with Mama Kent, and those scenes were few and far between. I just think that they focused a little too much on the Superman part of him towards the end, and not enough on the human side. This could have been a very personal story, but since Clark had no connection to Krypton or Zod, all of the emotion felt a bit forced. Honestly the remedy for that would have been taking some of that first Krypton scene and have it happen in front of Clark’s eyes when he spoke to his “Father” in the ship. Then he would have known exactly what happened and why the Kryptonians didn’t deserve another chance, instead of just getting a cliff’s note version in the form of floating metal wall art.
All in all, Man of Steel sets up a good universe for DC heroes going forward. It’s a world where superpowers exist, unlike Nolan’s Batman films. I’m not sure that Zack Snyder is the right pick for the Superman/Batman film, but we’ll have to wait and see.
-Henry Cavill grows into the role
-Superman as a myth
-effects look great for the most part
-plot pacing feels awkward
-not Michael Shannon’s best performance
-some cheesy dialogue