Man of Steel seems to be the most polarizing film of 2013. You either absolutely love the film, or you absolutely hate it. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between. With that in mind, we would like to take a look at DC’s latest film and third incarnation of Superman on the big screen. This review will be different from most. It will be from the opinions of both a fan of Superman, and someone who isn’t too fond of the big blue boyscout.
Man of Steel is a retelling of Superman’s origin. The film starts on his home planet of Krypton. Lara has just given birth to the first natural born child in centuries. Jor-El goes to tell the counsel of Krypton that the planet is dying, but they refuse to listen. Zod attempts to usurp the planet in order to ensure its survival, only allowing pure bloodlines to remain. Jor-El disagrees and retrieved the Codex that contains all of the Kryptonians’ DNA and puts it in his son. Then they set him on a course for Earth. Zod is punished for treason by being put into the Phantom Zone and Krypton dies.
We are told the story of Clark Kent in a series of flashbacks that relate to the events of the film. I thought this was a brilliant way to do the origin story. In most films we get a long and drawn out origin story for a hero and it’s only in the last 30 minutes of the film that we see any action with them in the suit. This film balances that very well. Clark has a more troubled background this time. While still being raised by a wholesome, all-American family in Kansas, he also has to deal with the fact that he is not human and that he is different from everyone else. This adds another layer of depth to the character that is not normally seen. It takes him a while to realize that the world really needs him and that he is needs to fulfill his destiny, but he accepts it and it is beautifully done to see him become a hero.
Zack Snyder has definately matured as a filmmaker over the years. He still incorporates over the top action scenes in his films (as is to be expected from a Zack Snyder film). But I felt he added a layer of depth to the dramatic scenes and the overall ambiance of the film. It is beautifully shot and has a good balance of the slow character and plot building segments along with the over the top action. Unlike a Micheal Bay film, the action sequences are well choreographed and everything is clearly visible. None of the action is unintelligible. However, the destruction of Metropolis is a bit much. I can understand the destruction once the World Engine is set in motion.
After a brief fight with Superman, Zod initiates the World Engine, which was designed to terraform planets in order for it to be sustainable for Kryptonians. He was born to keep Krypton alive and safe, no matter what cruel measures he had to use. The World Engine is a giant machine that blasts energy in order to terraform the planet. Unfortunately, it’s not all that easy to shut down. It’s in two parts, the second part that causes everything is in the Indian Ocean and Superman has to destroy it first. However, after destroying the World Engine and sending most of the Kryptonians to the Phantom Zone, Zod is still left over. They fight through the streets and buildings of Metropolis. By this time, most people have evacuated the buildings and are running for cover in the streets. The collateral damage would bug be a bit more if they had been destroying buildings with millions of people in them.
In the end, Superman is faced with a deep moral quandry. Does he allow Zod to murder a family with his heat vision or does he do the unthinkable? I think this was a great situation to put Superman in. Because Zod is one of the last remaining Kryptonians, and one of the only other people on the planet like him. However, Earth is his adopted home, and without it he would be one of the many dead on Krypton. He had decide which home was more important to him he chose Earth. He snaps Zod’s neck, killing him. What was beautiful was the cry of pain, sadness and anger he let out afterwards. It showed that Superman felt bad about it, and that he may never kill again.
The acting was great all around. Cavill is Superman, for all I am concerned. He feels like Superman, and has a commanding demenor while still being a soft-hearted character who is all too human. His smile can be very contagious as well. Amy Adams performs better than expected as Lois Lane. My only slight nit-pick is the fact that she is a redhead, and that Lois in the comics is a brunette, but that’s neither here or there. The battle of the Robin Hoods charges forward with Russel Crowe and Kevin Costner playing Clark’s biological and adoptive fathers, respectively. I think they were a perfect fit for the characters.
The writing can be a little off at times and the dialogue goes from poetic Shakespearean to Stephanie Meyer in no time at all, but there is more good than bad. The plot is a basic alien invasion story, and God knows how many of those we have had in the past few years, but honestly it fit with the story they were trying to tell and for that Superman movie the alien invasion was needed. I think if Goyer can get Jonathan Nolan on the horn for the sequel it could be an even better film. The script does get points for having themes of hope and inspiration spread throuout the film as well as trust and faith. We see that many other characters are inspired by Superman to be braver than they normally would, that is the reason he was sent here. There is also a clear religious theme in the film. Superman is a metaphor for Jesus, and other than the balls to the wall action scenes, it works very well. He is sent to Earth by his father to inspire and lead the people of Earth to be better people. When he is 11, he learns of his true heritage and is burdened with the responsibility and the next time we see him he is 33 and has to face his biggest challenge. While not a perfect metaphor, it is definitely in there.
One note before I am done. I noticed a very prominent anti-communist message in film which was interesting. Krypton was set up as a group of people who all had one singular purpose after birth. They would only ever do that and could never venture out in other areas and it is basically what lead to their downfall. It would make sense considering the works that version of Krypton is based on was written in the 1980’s. It is also worth noting that Zod’s chest emblem looks like the sickle from the Soviet Flag.
Yes the film does have its flaws and the dialogue can be very stilted at times, but it is by far one of the most entertaining Superman films that I have seen. It got my heart racing and I loved every second of it. The negatives of the film can drag it down slightly, but it did what it set out to do, be one of the most action packed and emotionally driven Superman movie out there. I give Man of Steel 8.5 out of 10 Capes.
Okay, and here I am with the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t like Superman. It seems to shock everyone. I just don’t like him. I never have. But I went into the film open-minded.
First, I was thrown off by the fact that Death from Supernatural is the head honcho on Krypton. And, knowing the mythology of Superman, I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. I understand that Jor-El and Lara wanted their son to be safe, and that they wanted a better future for him, but I still don’t understand why they didn’t just leave in the first place, as soon as Kal was born. Unless they just didn’t want to taint his purity with their own faults from being true Kryptonian. Either way.
I will admit, I enjoyed the way the flashbacks were used to tell Clark’s story. And everything is just so beautifully shot. I had a cinematography boner the whole time, not gonna lie. I thought the action sequences were very well done. Well…up to a point. This is where my logic kicks in.
Why on earth (or Kryton) did Clark not just kill Zod as soon as he found out what his plan was? Or, even if you want to think that maybe Superman could change Zod’s mind (HA good luck with that), why not kill him as upon discovering that Zod killed Jor-El? It would have saved billions of dollars of destruction, and thousands of lives. Mr. Positive Thinking up there is of the belief that since the buildings were empty, no one died. Okay, even if every building that was destroyed was completely vacant, that would mean every person in Metropolis would be out on the streets. In the open. Unprotected. Vulnerable. And with the buildings collapsing, people had to die. So, in short, thousands of people died because Superman didn’t want to kill the last surviving Kryptonian.
I will say that I also enjoyed that he regretted killing Zod, because it shows that he is that kind of person. But still.
Henry Cavill was a great Superman. Amy Adams was brilliant as Lois Lane. I loved that they didn’t make her helpless. The situations she was put in where Superman saved her, they were legit damsel-in-distress moments. You know she would’ve fought for herself if it were physically possible. I liked the change made to where Jonathan died in a tornado and not of a heart attack. It was as if to show that, Clark could have saved him, but a) some people don’t want to be saved, and b) sometimes, you can’t save everyone. And I thought that was great.
While I’m still not a big Superman fan, I thought Man of Steel was done very well. I honestly rank it higher than Nolan’s Batman trilogy (just wait for that article, it’ll be up there with The Odyssey on length/detail). I give Man of Steel 7 out of 10 LexCorp tankers.
—Coty and Ley