Released in 2013 under the direction of Zach Snyder ("300," "Watchmen," "Sucker Punch") on a budget of $225 million with distribution through Warner Bros.; "Man of Steel" is the 6th theatrical film adaptation (I'm not counting "Supergirl") based off of the 1938 release of Action Comics #1, Superman has since his first publication become a cultural American icon for his tagline of "fighting for truth, justice and the American Way." The first feature film to star this comic book hero was the 1978 Richard Donner film, "Superman: The Movie." By today, it's considerably dated, but it still remains a ground-breaking spark in cinema for these of special effects to create the illusion of Superman flying and grabbing things with his strength as well as kick-starting interest of the Superhero film genre. But the 80's wasn't very kind to Superman, giving forth to some rather lousy movies and only continuing on from then, giving some embarrassingly bad Superman video games. Eventually, Zach Snyder announced he was going to reboot Superman along with "Dark Knight" trilogy director Christopher Nolan. I…did not see it when it came out, but perhaps that was the best thing to have done as there was no safe place from this movie as a war seemed to break out from people who either loved the movie and called it a masterpiece or from people who hated the movie and called it "a betrayal of the Superman name." So I waited until it was available for OnDemand, so what did I think then?
Um….I've used 'disappointed' too much in the past, so the only other term that comes to mind is "underwhelmed."
Plot: In a far off galaxy, the planet Krypton, which looks more like a dustier version of Vulcan from J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek," Scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) tries to warn the council that the planet is doomed to explode due to the depletion of their natural resources. Yet this doesn't seem to stop General Zod (Michael Shannon) from staging a coup d'état against the council. Despite this, Jor-El manages to steal a Kryptonian Codex that contains the genetic code of artificial children, graft the code to the cells of his newborn son, Kal-El, and send him off before the planet explodes, though not before Zod and his flunkies are banished to the Phantom Zone.
Then, in a series of flashbacks interwoven throughout the movie, we see Kal-El try to control his powers as he attempts to find his place in the world while keeping his powers a secret as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), only to occasionally reveal them to people when he comes to save them. Eventually he finds his way to the Arctic where he locates a spaceship that contains a hologram consciousness of his father explain his origins. Now wearing a blue costume with a red cape, Clark runs into Daily Planet Journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who figures out he has superpowers cause, well, he's really lousy at covering his tracks apparently. But things take turn for the worse when General Zod finds his way to Earth and wants to terraform the planet so they can have a new Krypton. Deciding he's the only one who can save the planet, he suits up and goes on a colossal fight that causes immense collateral damage.
Storywise, the movie has no surprises. It's the traditional Superman origin lifted straight from the Richard Donner movies; but the major problem with the movie is that is doesn't really say anything new about Superman himself. It just plays up the paranoia of people not trusting him because, ooh, he has super powers! Really, it's nothing new that we haven't seen in that other movie Christopher Nolan did, I forget the name, but it had a guy in a suit in it and nobody fully trusted him then. Honestly, the movie just feels like another summer blockbuster and all the visuals are the only thing that keeps it from falling into the same issues I had with "Elyisum" and "Pacific Rim."
But I know what you're all thinking, what do I think about the whole Superman killing Zod thing? Yeah, sorry for the spoiler alert, but I had to tolerate this annoying internet war that started because of this one moment where Superman is forced to kill General Zod while he fires lasers at innocent people. While I could be that "one guy" and say this contradicts Superman's ideology of not killing this foes, honestly, there are many other things Superman could have done to avoid that and make him, you know, not look stupid:
-Superman could have poked Zod's eyes out while holding him in a headlock
-Subsequently, Superman could have tilted Zod's eyes upward to keep them from moving to the side.
-Superman could have just just flown Zod away from the city and from civilians.
-Subsequently, Superman could have punched Zod's head in the ground, zoomed in and got all the innocents away and then come back to Zod who is still pulling his head out of the ground.
-Superman could have kept fighting Zod in outer space.
-Superman could have just lobotomized Zod, sure he'd be a vegetable, but he'd still be alive.
-Superman could have used a Kryptonite bullet (oh, I'm sorry, Kryptonite was lame? Well I'm sorry you fail to comprehend the concept of weakness for this god-like being that could stop a supervillain)
-Superman could have flung Zod onto the other side of the planet, where there is no sunlight, and keeping fighting Zod until he runs out of juice from the sun's yellow rays and Superman could beat him into submission.
-Subsequently, Superman could have tunneled Zod to the center of the Earth, away from the Sun's yellow rays and let him burn up.
-Superman could have used his freeze breath to freeze Zod in place and then fly him to the Arctic and leave him to be frozen until Global Warming frees him.
-Or, instead of fighting General Zod, do what HowItShouldHaveEnded.com suggested: Instead of talking to a priest for advice, talk to the hologram consciousness of your father for advice then take the ship you came to earth on, set it do that dimensional thingy and throw it at Zod's space ship and force him and his cronies to avoid this huge battle that cost billions of dollars in collateral and untold lives to be lost in the fighting.
All these options and more, Superman could have done to have prevented killing him, but do I call this moment offensive? Oh no, that's not the most offensive moment.
It's the moment where Superman let's his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, die.
In one of Superman's flashbacks, Clark is having an argument with his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) when they suddenly get out of the car and witness a tornado approaching all these other cars. Clark and his adoptive mother run away to shelter when Jonathan runs back to save a dog, yes a dog, left int he car, at the cost of spraining his ankle, Clark wants to run out and go save him, but Mr. Kent just holds up his hand and Superman lets his father get sucked up into a tornado.
Now you might say that he didn't save him was because his dad didn't want him to reveal himself in front of all these people, but this is offensive to Superman. How is it he decides not to save his adoptive father JUST BECAUSE his dad didn't want him to do so? How many times has Superman flown up to people attempting to jump off of rooftops and talked them down from killing themselves? How many times has Superman ever let anyone kill themselves just because they told him not to save them? When has Superman ever stood around and let someone die when he had it in his power to stop them?
This is why I love Glenn Ford's Pa Kent in the original Superman movie, right after Clark has shown off to his jerk classmates, he has a very touching conversation with Clark about being on this planet. Clark playfully races with Pa Kent to the barn as Pa slows down, breathing heavily. He checks his pulse and then collapses on the ground, Clark runs up to check on Pa, but the next scene shows that Pa has died. This is brilliant because it shows that even with all the powers Superman has, he is powerless to stop his adoptive father from dying from a heart attack.
But here? Clark had the power to save him father. He could have used his super breath to blow the tornado away. He could have used his super speed to zoom in and save his father while the tornado sucked him in and fly away while everyone didn't notice. He could have just taken his father's place to save the dog, since he is younger and he could have been smarter to get the lousy dog out.
What is frustrating is how this movie seems to take from other movies:
-The Matrix: Artificial babies in orbs that are collected? Can they be used to power the machines of Krypton as well?
-The Matrix Revolutions: A huge fight of two super powered being flying around causing destruction to a city while being knocked back and forth? I'm convinced the reason Zach Snyder didn't use his slow-motion technique he's known for this movie was because people would then figure out he was stealing from the Wachowski Siblings.
-Avatar: Jor-El flies around on a winged creature, how could Avatar not come to mind?
-The Tree of Life: the editing focuses on an wheelbarrow turned on it's side and a bucket filled with water with clothespins left inside. You're not Terrance Malick, Snyder, stop pretending you're deep by using these images when they have no poetry to them.
-J.J. Abrams Star Trek: this, more than any of my previous comparisons, it seems that Zach Snyder not only rips off this movie's visual look, but also the lens flare and the computer technique Abrams does where the camera zooms in on a particular action during a fight.
But thinking back to all of Zach Snyder's other movies and how many of them have scenes that directly rip off other movies (ex. "Apocalypse Now," "Spartacus," "Enter the Dragon") it really should come as no surprise to me the lack of originality Snyder has that he is willing to rip off of better movies to make his movies. Now you might call me out on this and say Nolan did the same thing with "Inception," but there's a major difference between directly stealing scenes and ideas from better movies and paying homage to these movies and using them for inspiration to create a movie that feels fresh.
Henry Cavill: Well, I'll give him this, he really looks like Superman, look at that jaw of his! It looks like he personally chiseled his jaw but as Clark Kent, I'm sorry, but he looks like the cover of a GQ magazine model. Take anther look at Christopher Reeve, the guy did a great job balancing both the stoic and humble Superman with the nervous and stuttering honesty of Clark Kent, if you looked at Reeve's Clark Kent, you'd never even make the connection that he'd be Superman. But just like Christian Bale, you can't really buy that this guy can have an alter ego, he just looks like he's hiding something. But I admit, the parts of the movie that show a young Clark Kent trying to control his powers, are really the more fascinating elements that the movie covers to show how scary it is for the young Clark Kent to discover all these powers and not understand what is going on.
Amy Adams: She's…just there. I'm sorry, but she ultimately leave no impact to me as Lois Lane. Amy Adams just feels like she's playing the same kind of character Maggie Gyllenhaal and Gwyneth Paltrow have played in superhero movies. Amy Adams is a fine actress, don't get me wrong, but she lacks character development as a romantic interest, hell, when she and Superman kiss, it's one of the most out of place moments I've ever seen a kiss to happen since they never even spent pivotal time to develop the tools necessary to develop characters, especially romantic interests.
Michael Shannon: Hey, surprise, surprise, I prefer Terrence Stamp's General Zod than Michael Shannon's General Zod. Terrence Stamp was a guy who had regality to him, he was boisterous and full of pride, he had a charm to him that couldn't be matched. Michael Shannon was just a guy who shouted a lot and a beard. The movie tries to make him looks sympathetic with trying to bring back the Kryptonian race, but he never seems to explain this plan and just seems to yell a lot.
Laurence Fishburne: He's………..there………..he doesn't make his infamous "Great Caesar's Ghost" but he does threaten to fire Lois Lane…honestly, this role could have been played by anyone, he was picked so his name could put more butts in the seat.
Kevin Costner: I already went on a tangent about how offensive it was that Superman doesn't save him, Costner is just doing his same shtick he's done for years. Monotone and uninterested. Now that I think about it, maybe Superman did us a favor in letting the tornado suck him up, no more box office bombs from you.
Diane Lane: The only memorable moment she has is a moment where she an intimate moment with Clark about holding him close to her when he was but a baby years ago, she would listen to him breathe. It shows the intimacy of Clark and his adoptive mother.
Russell Crowe: Word of the wise General Zod, don't pick a fight with the Gladiator himself. He's okay, he's no Marlon Brando, but then again, who is? Brando was an actor nobody will ever match and I highly doubt anyone of Brando's caliber will ever come again in this lifetime. Russell's main job is to dump exposition about Krypton.
Christopher Meloni: Word of the wise to future screenwriters, if you make a character who is so forgettable and is only memorable because of the actor who plays them, you know you could do better. All through this movie, I kept calling this character Elliot Stabler cause I recognize him the best from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He has no actual character though and he could have been played by anyone and it wouldn't have made a difference.
This entire movie does have a long line of all-star actors, but barely any of them get any proper character development to make these characters that interesting.
Maybe this is coming from a sense of burnout from seeing all these summer blockbusters, but I am starting to get a little tired of Green screen. Even though green screen really opens up the possibilities or visual effects, they just don't impress me all that much. The visual landscapes on Krypton look unimpressive, in fact, it just makes it look like the Kryptonians just landed there in these ships and they haven't colonized the planet yet. While I admit, the visuals work in effect to show the destruction of Superman fighting with other Kryptonians, the fights go on for far too long and eventually, wear thin on my patience. Even the final fight with Superman and Zod, while, I admit, visually impressive, just left me cold and tired. In fact, I'm getting tired of seeing big budget mano-a-mano fight scenes in movies nowadays. "Pacific Rim," "Elysium," "Transformers," it's like the entire movie builds up to the protagonist and the antagonist engaging in a fist fight that runs on for 10 minutes. While I may not agree with RedLetterMedia about everything they say, I will agree with their statement that "stretching a fight scene out for so long in an over-the-top and show-off way is the equivalent of a middle-aged business man whose short, balding and has a tiny penis so he buys a red Lamborgini to compensate."
This ending fight with Superman and Zod is the film's version of compensating for the lack of character development and ability to connect to the audience on an emotional level by using overblown visual effects.
Costuming is…not as bad as I thought of it before. The spandex looks a little silly on Russell Crowe and General Zod, but I admit, I'm not so much bothered by the Superman costume anymore. It is a little jarring to see Superman without his iconic red tidy-whities, to have that weird padding thing on this sides, it made it less awkward to me.
Music is…really forgettable, which is a shame cause Hans Zimmer can make memorable music when he's allowed to experiment: "The Lion King," "The Thin Red Line," "The Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Dark Knight" if you need examples. Frankly, I didn't find anything that memorable. The official theme does have a dramatic sense of building bravados, but it doesn't lift a torch to John Williams' 1978 theme. Yeah, it seems unfair to compare, but if I ask you to look at the Superman logo, are you going to think of Hans Zimmer's theme from 2013 or John Williams' theme from 1978 that has become the staplemark of a Superman theme (kinda like how the 1960's Batman theme is iconic and remembered even after all these years).
There are a lot of people who are calling this movie a masterpiece and a brilliant reboot.
I say, it's a bloated run-by-the-numbers summer movie that has to take ideas from the original Superman movies and insert over-the-top anime style fighting because it cannot come up with anything new. While the visual effects of all the destruction looks nifty, the lack of character development makes the movie seem pretentious in the parts with Clark Kent trying to adapt the the real world while the parts with Superman lack the suspension of disbelief or majesty. This movie constantly hammers in the issue that if people saw Clark Kent with superpowers, what the consequences would be, but we never see those consequences outside of fear from a Kansas mother and some concerned soldiers. If they really wanted to show consequences of Clark's actions, they could have shown on the news cults be formed proclaiming Superman as "the Messiah's return" and the arrival of Zod as "Judgement day." Missed opportunities to explore these themes are lost to showing off special effects. The parts with Clark as a kid honing his powers are neat, but we don't get a genuine sense of his abilities outside of just a vague idea of it that you have to be a Superman fan to already understand or know. The movie looks impressive visually, but, just like the Star Wars prequels and "Transformers" it favors special effects over story and character development.
Say what you will about the costumes or special effects for the 1978 Superman movie, the original had one thing this movie lacks: interesting people and the human factor. We see Clark land on Earth and we see him arrive in metropolis under his mild-mannered identity. "Man of Steel" focuses on Superman, the Kryptonian instead of Superman, the Hero of Earth.
A lot of people love this movie, I won't be one of them. I'll stick to that "old and lame" Superman movie that had interesting characters and a likable Superman that I would feel comfortable to save me from a falling helicopter, I'd probably suffer whiplash from this Man of Steel if he grabbed me from mid-air.
Final Rating: 2/5
As for the upcoming "Superman Vs. Batman" movie, how will that pan out? Well, Ben Affleck is playing Batman, a nice choice actually, considering the last three movies Affleck has directed and the fact he played Daredevil once, I think he could pull it off. But frankly, leave David S. Goyer out of the screenwriting process and get a more mature screenwriter, or in the case of the original, four seasoned screenwriters (said four are Mario Puzo of "The Godfather," David Newman and wife Leslie Newman of "Bonnie and Clyde," and Robert Benton of "Kramer Vs. Kramer.") I'll see it, sure, but after seeing this movie, my expectations are pretty low.