MAN OF STEEL opened last night at midnight. It was probably my most anticipated movie of the last 5 years.
I was there at midnight, ready to soak it all in.
And I did not like it.
From here on out there will be pretty huge spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie you should not read any further.
Seriously. Major spoilers will come.
First, let me start off with what I liked. There was quite a bit that I liked, even loved.
The cast was amazing. Really great choices all around.
I thought Henry Cavill was a very good Superman. In the first few scenes with Amy Adams he had this great boyish charm that played really well.
Amy Adams sold me as a Lois Lane. I was skeptical about her because I haven’t seen her in a lot of things, but she was really good. They tried to show that she’s a good investigative journalist, but the trail that lead her to Smallville was way too easy to follow. The whole thing was very poorly written and sloppy. Sorry, this is supposed to be the stuff I like.
I don’t mind that Lois figured out that Clark was the mystery man, but I feel like the writers will miss a lot of great moments of her figuring it out and/or Clark telling her that he’s Superman. Just missed opportunities.
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent was amazing. He has one of my favorite film moments in Field of Dreams with his father, and in Man of Steel he’s the father who had some really great moments with a young Clark Kent. Every scene with Kevin Coster in it was so great. You could feel every emotion. You could feel his love for his son, and the fear he had of what would happen if anyone found out the truth about Clark.
Jonathan’s death on screen was very moving, and as important as it was for Clark to witness it, it was equally important for Jonathan to see that Clark understood that exposing his powers could be dangerous, and that he should trust his father. Really powerful scene. I hope people saw that.
Michael Shannon. Wow. Zod was chilling. Very evil. Shannon was really great.
Christopher Meloni’s Colonel Hardy was a great character. He was a true hero in the movie.
The rest of the cast was good, too.
Hans Zimmer’s score was amazing. Zod’s theme was really great. On par with other great villain themes. Hans had a huge hurdle to overcome with John William’s score hanging over the Superman films, but I think he did a great job.
I was pretty happy with the suit. Especially from the waist up. I don’t mind that they got rid of the red underpants. Superman doesn’t wear them in the comics any more, and that’s fine with me. However, in the comics Superman wears a belt with gives clear definition of a shirt and pants. Superman in MAN OF STEEL is wearing a jumpsuit, and that just looks odd to me. The cape was awesome. I love when Superman has a long regal cape, and that is exactly was his cape was.
I liked how they jumped back and forth in the timeline, and that they didn’t tell the story in the first act chronologically, from Krypton, to Smallville, to Superman. They intercut it all and I thought it played really well (as overstuffed and rushed as the story was).
Now, the painful stuff. The stuff I didn’t like. And worse, the stuff I hated.
First I want to start off by saying that they tried to cram way too much into this movie. The movie was really long at two hours and twenty-three minutes, but they tried to fit in so much story into the movie that it all felt rushed. I had a feeling this was going to happen.
The movie started off on Krypton, and that’s when things got weird. Yeah, right off the bat. Krypton is portrayed different ways in different mediums. In all of them Kryptonians are a humanoid race who are highly evolved. A society of science, arts, politicians, etc. Krypton in MAN OF STEEL really made me think of the Matrix. Advanced technology in what looked like a run down world.
And then Jor-El rode a dragon like Gandalf rode giant birds in the Lord of the Rings. What the hell? Okay, okay, I’m sticking with you here. Giving them the benefit of the doubt. For now.
Natural childbirth is nonexistent on Krypton? Suddenly we’re in Children of Men. Children are born in birthing pods?Whoops, right back into The Matrix.
Okay, whatever. We’re done with Krypton.
On to Clark, traveling the world, trying to find himself. Which wasn’t very obvious to anyone who doesn’t know the Superman story, but whatever.
Clark takes on a series of jobs and winds up saving a crew on an oil rig that’s about to blow up. He saves them and then swims to shore and decides to steal some clothes out of someone’s car.
Um, that’s not Superman. He wouldn’t steal. Okay, I tell myself. We’re only 20 some-odd minutes in.
Next he demolishes a bully’s truck by making it a shish-kabob. That’s not Superman. That’s not how Clark was raised. There was a scene not 10 minutes earlier where Jonathan asked Clark what good would getting revenge do?
Okay, Mike. Stop looking for things to not like.
Skipping ahead a bit, let’s just get to the action. Never mind all the plot holes in between. I can overlook plot holes to an extent.
The first big battle happens on Main Street in Smallville. There are innocent people everywhere, running from and around Superman fighting Faora and the other Kryptonian (his name escapes me). Trucks are being thrown through buildings, with people in them. Superman makes no attempt to move the fight away, protect the innocent people, or at the very least, tell them to run away. Well, maybe he told them to leave once. People obviously died in that battle. We don’t see it on screen, but Main Street was leveled. Superman didn’t seem phased by that.
The What the Fuck…
Then comes the big moment in the movie. The battle in Metropolis. Shortly before this, Superman and his allies succeeded in sending Zod’s soldiers back into the Phantom Zone. Only Zod was left for the epic brawl.
Before the fight between Superman and Zod even started Metropolis was a mess. As bad as Smallville was demolished, Metropolis was decimated. There were jokes about how much it would take to clean up New York City after The Avengers. Someone even did the math on that one. Metropolis barely exist anymore. There was rumble and ash.
And then Superman and Zod threw and punched each other through buildings. Buildings that would most likely have more innocent people in that Superman showed no concern for. Metropolis is a major city, an equal to New York City. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people died in the city as Zod and his troops attacked. There is no question. Superman, again, did not seem phased by this.
More fighting, more destruction.
And then comes the worst part of the movie. The part that made me go from “MAN OF STEEL is an okay movie” to this is complete shit. Superman killed Zod.
Superman killed Zod.
Superman does not kill. Well, he has, but most of that has been retconned away. But it still stands. That’s the rule that Superman doesn’t cross.
This is where Snyder and company lost me.
Superman killed Zod to save the lives of four innocent people (now he cares about saving innocent people).
Superman could have done any number of countless things to stop Zod while he had him in a head lock. He could have fallen backwards, pointing Zod’s eyes up to the roof so he didn’t incinerate the family. Or he could have flown them both away. Or turned slightly to his left. Anything besides killing him. Superman had choices. The writers took the lazy way out.
Mark Waid, Uber-Superfan and comic writer of truly amazing Superman stories such as Kingdom Come and Birthright, really summed up my thoughts on the movie a lot better than I could (writers are good like that).
As Superman’s having his final one-on-one battle with Zod, show me that he’s going out of his way to save people from getting caught in the middle. SHOW ME that trying to simultaneously protect humans and beat Zod is achingly, achingly costing Superman the fight. Build to that moment of the hard choice…show me, without doubt, that Superman has no other out and do a better job of convincing me that it’s a hard decision to make, and maybe I’ll give it to you. But even if I do? It’s not a victory. Not this sad, soul-darkening, utterly sans-catharsis “triumph” that doesn’t even feel like a win so much as a stop-loss. Two and a half hours, and I never once got the sense that Superman really achieved or earned anything.
I can give the filmmakers a little credit because immediately after he screams in agony at what he did. Good. He should be ashamed. That’s not Superman. That’s not who Martha and Jonathan Kent raised.
But then I take it back. Fuck that. The writers do not deserve credit here.
What were they thinking? What was Warner Brothers thinking? What was DC Comics thinking? Did no one at DC Comics read the script and go “hey guys, we have a pretty big fucking problem here on page 193″?
This isn’t Superman. The sound of Superman snapping Zod’s neck was heart breaking. I was pissed.
What pissed me off even more was that people in the theater I was in cheered, CHEERED, when Superman snapped Zod’s neck.
I’ll try to wrap this up now…
This movie was action packed. Maybe too action packed. It was unrelenting. There was no room to breathe in between all the violence and destruction.
Glen Weldon’s review on NPR summed it up correctly:
Man of Steel‘s violence doesn’t escalate; it simply, tediously, iterates.
The final act of MAN OF STEEL is nothing more than disaster porn. Just destruction upon destruction. Metropolis looked like it experienced 30 consecutive 9/11 attacks.
I’m really not interested in seeing MAN OF STEEL again, at least not anytime soon. And as it stands now, I’m not interested in seeing the sequel that was fast-tracked before MAN OF STEEL premiered this week, let alone a Justice League movie.
MAN OF STEEL was definitely the Superman movie that the studio wanted to make. They wanted an action-packed, non-stop slugfest. And that’s exactly what MAN OF STEEL is.
To steal a line from The Dark Knight, MAN OF STEEL isn’t the movie that Superman deserves, but it may be the movie he needs right now. And I hate that.
MAN OF STEEL will probably be a hit. The general movie going population will really enjoy this movie. And that bothers me. The Superman in this movie is not the Superman that I know and love. It really bothers me to read comments online of people saying that MAN OF STEEL was great, and that the filmmakers got everything right. Because they didn’t get everything right. They barely got anything right.
I understand that writers like to put their own spin on long running stories like Superman. But this was just not Superman.
I’m really disappointed in Zach Snyder, David Goyer, Christopher Nolan, DC Comics and Warner Brothers.
I’m disappointed that they made me disappointed in the Man of Tomorrow. The hero who was supposed to lead us to a better tomorrow.
We are the ones who supposed to stumble. We are the ones who are supposed to fall. Superman is our model for who we should strive to be.
In a movie that talked a lot about hope, MAN OF STEEL sure was devoid of hope and optimism. Devoid of the things that makes Superman Superman.
2,000+ words later and I don’t think I got to the root of the problem that I had with MAN OF STEEL. I don’t think I’m done writing about this movie yet.