As you may or may not remember from my review of Superman Returns, I have never really had a strong connection with either Superman as a character or in any sort of cinematic experience. Obviously I’ve seen that film, and I’ve definitely seen the original Superman film at some point, maybe I’ve seen parts of the second movie, but I’ve just never had enough interest in the character to seek out all cinematic versions of him. If that wasn’t reason enough to have doubts about Man of Steel, the fact that the movie was directed by Zack “The Hack” Snyder didn’t get me super excited about seeing it either. Even though Snyder does have an interesting visual style, all of his films lack depth of character and story. Even though I had my doubts about this film being any good, I was actually quite intrigued by how Snyder would take a character that I had no connection with to see how he’d make Superman look “cool”, and from some reviews I had read, Snyder seemed to make a pretty good movie. Although the more good reviews came out, the more negative ones came out, so I was totally willing to let this movie either completely blow me away or be a steaming pile of shit. Ultimately the film ended up not really making me feel much of anything, with a slight edge being given to the “pile of shit” end of the spectrum.
See? Even Superman knows that dogs are the best.
With the planet of Krypton being destroyed, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) puts his baby into a spaceship and sends him out to a distant planet. Decades later, we see a man working on a ship fishing for crab jumping onto a burning oil drilling rig and saving everyone on it, despite it being on fire. That man, as you could expect, was Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), despite the fact that he doesn’t tell anyone his real name and quickly gets out of town after the rescue. Clark is a drifter, going from one job to the next and never revealing his identity to anyone. Clark is able to get involved with the mysterious discovery of a ship that’s been discovered frozen in the arctic that is from his home planet, and a hologram of his father explains who Clark is (his real name is Kal-El), where he comes from, and information about his people. This information is also seen by a reporter who has sneaked onto the ship, Lois Lane (Amy Adams), but Clark seems to trust her, despite then abandoning her and keeping his distance. While Lois tries to track down the origins of the mystery man, everyone on Earth is sent a mysterious message from former Kryptonian warrior General Zod (Michael Shannon) about how they need to turn in Kal-El or their planet will be destroyed. Even after Kal-El willingly turns himself in, Zod knows that Earth must be destroyed if there’s any chance to keep the Kryptonian species alive. Kal-El, a.k.a. Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman doesn’t really agree with this and the punching commences! After the punching is over, the movie ends. Yeah, I’d say that about covers it.
Very nice of Michael Shannon to bring his own armor to the set.
Speaking strictly from the plot, the movie follows more of a science fiction tone with the fact that Superman is an alien and the general public reacts to him as such. In that respect, it’s definitely a much more interesting origin story than most other comic book/superhero movies currently being made. I didn’t really mention the flashbacks that were shown to help give you a better sense of who the character of Clark was and his upbringing on a small farm in Kansas with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane acting as his parents. Well, those actors play the roles of the parents, it’s not like Clark Kent’s dad was actually Kevin Costner. Anyways, Clark parents want Clark to be safe so they emphasize how important it is that he refrains from using any of his superpowers, even if it means other people could get hurt from his inaction. I really, really liked the tone of some of the opening sequences where Clark has chosen a life of isolation so that way he can rescue people as necessary without bringing unwanted attention to his personal life or anyone Clark Kent might hold close to him. I also really enjoyed the character of Zod, as he wasn’t necessarily a figure of anger and vengeance, but merely as a character who was destined to do one thing and one thing only. In fact, some of the mythology of children who grew up on Krypton was that they were all biologically designed to fulfill one destiny, and in Zod’s case, it was to be a warrior. The ONLY thing he cared about was the survival of Kryptonians and he didn’t care what planet or species slowed him down. When it got towards the end and Zod’s plans were ruined by Superman, it was only then that he acted out of rage, and when he did, who better to have pulled that off than Michael Shannon? The character of the drifter and Zod’s character were both really strong, and the tone of the character who is a product of two worlds but feels alone in both were things I really enjoyed, but for as much as I enjoyed those aspects, they things I didn’t enjoy felt all the more terrible.
This cape must drag on the ground a lot. Nobody respects a man with a dirty cape.
I mentioned how I can generally enjoy Snyder’s films at an aesthetic level, but this movie looked terrible. I get it Zack, you can reduce the color saturation to get a “gritty” effect, but it’s become such a cliché with all of your films and it’s lost its appeal. There were sequences that were so washed out that it felt like I was watching something in black and white. I understand the departure from the more bright, colorful Superman films, but everything felt so unnatrually colored that it brought more attention to how fake everything looked. Superman and Zod are practically gods on Earth, so I appreciate the attempts made at showing the mass amounts of carnage and destruction that would result in the two colliding. When these two finally duke it out, everything looks so bad that I felt like I was watching one of the Transformers films or The Matrix Revolutions. OH MY GOD IT WAS SO BORING TO WATCH. In the climax of The Avengers, you have just as much carnage and collateral damage happening, but you see the active attempt to clear out the city so these people could stay safe, and every time you see a building get destroyed, its clear of people who were presumably evacuated. Not so much the case with Man of Steel, as you’re constantly seeing people running around the city, most likely dying by the thousands as Metropolis crumbles around them. Speaking of fighting, the opening sequence shows Jor-El and Zod going toe-to-toe with one another, and if Jor-El wasn’t designed to be a warrior, how did he get to be so good at kicking the shit out of Zod? Also, why was the scene where Jor-El opened up a closet and basically told Kal-El “Hey put this Superman suit on because I told you to,” so lame? Why didn’t Kal-El mind that a random lady just saw him learn his true identity after spending so much of his life avoiding the public’s attention? Hopefully without spoiling anything, why are we supposed to feel anything for Superman and how difficult it is for him to handle Zod without any prior information as to why it’s so difficult for him? Unfortunately, there are so many questions like that about simple things where, similar to Superman Returns, get you really frustrated at the good ideas and concepts that were presented, only to have them abandoned.
Wolfman Moon Scale