Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of Superman; that is, I didn’t read his comic as a child, etc. He was always too much of a one-dimensional, goodie-two-shoes for me; and one that was so powerful that there was very little that could threaten him. I like my heroes a bit less powerful and a lot more flawed (Make Mine Marvel!).
But I still want to see a good Superman movie (as I root for all comic-based movies to be good), and I want to see more good stuff come from Zack Snyder, too.
Having met Mr. Snyder some years ago after “300” was such a surprise success, I was stuck by how down-to-earth, friendly, and genuinely humble he was for a young guy with so much going for him. But then “Watchmen” happened; and then “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” And finally, “Sucker Punch,” which seemed to cement Snyder’s M. Knight impression.
But I think “Man of Steel” will change that trajectory; for both Snyder and the Big Blue Boy Scout.
Firstly, Henry Cavil’s body looks like I always thought Superman’s should; intimidating, big, and dense; while his demeanor reveals a more tender side. He also looks the part otherwise, and many times recalled an older Tom Wellington.
Secondly and thankfully; neither Lex Luthor nor Kryptonite are the threats, here. Fine by me. I don’t mind them being used, but both have been used too much. The only time I thought either were handled very well was in Superman Returns. Yes, Superman Returns.
Thirdly, some nagging quibbles are finally answered. How does Superman get to be so dang heroic being raised on a farm by near-pacifists who wouldn’t even let him play football? Good genes. Both of his fathers were courageous men in their own rights (Jor-El was an out-an-out badass, while Pa Kent was full of quiet passion, and a genuine hero). Both Russel Crowe and Kevin Costner are perfectly cast as Jor-El and Jonathan Kent respectfully; with Kostner especially being an unexpectedly powerful presence. Clark’s mothers also prove to be no pushovers themselves.
Fourth, the reporters who surround Clark are not idiots who are confounded by mere spectacles; they are willing partners, “in” on Clark’s cover story as a reporter for The Daily Planet.
Lois Lane is shown to be formidable without being a stereotype, and eventually lip-locks with Clark only after a truly harrowing near death experience that would have rattled anyone. She doesn’t simply fall for him right away when he shows up in his outfit.
It also answered why Clark falls so hard for Lois Lane; I’ve always wondered how a good-looking, nice-guy hunk would be so unsettled and taken by the first girl he meets in the big city. But after his earth mother, she is the first – and possibly the only woman – to have ever believed in him. His first kiss with her may be his first adult kiss, ever.
For the fanboys, there is some homage to Frank Miller’s depiction of Superman in his Batman graphic novels. But that won’t help; fanboys will not be pleased with this latest depiction of Superman. They will recoil not only at the rewriting of Superman’s history, but with how easily and totally he chooses his adoptive planet over his real one.
And some folks will probably read way too far into the revealed meaning of his iconic S chest-symbol (“Thanks, oBAma!”), as well as his age being roughly the same as one Jesus of Nazareth; but neither bugged me. I was too busy being surprised by how much I was enjoying this re-tooled Superman, even though DC seems to have ripped off much of what Marvel has done to be so successful with their movies. There were also some unfortunate lines of dialogue that too-closely recalled other recent flicks, and super-hearing that disappeared and reappeared when convenient for the plot.
Man Of Steel also at first showed a more thoughtful, introverted side to Clark, but then overcompensated with an incredibly long fight sequence that is not only repetitive (can’t these guys do more than throw each other through buildings?), but deafening; which you will notice as soon as the soundtrack dies down.
Sadly, there were some problems that were small, but obvious (why doesn’t Lois Lane show Perry White her heat-vision scar to help bolster her story about meeting an alien?); and others that were large (after a very long and loud action sequence with superpeople throwing each other around and causing demolition that puts the damage in Marvel’s The Avengers to shame, Clark abruptly ends the fight with something that could have happened much earlier, accidentally during said demolition). I was also hoping for some speeches from Clark to rebut those of Zod, especially considering Clark’s actions do kind of, oh, doom the remnants of his original homeworld… but none were forthcoming. I was also hoping that “Man Of Steel” would not succumb to the same malady that The Incredible Hulk did… but it did. The dreaded “If You’re Big You Know How To Fight” delusion…
Untrained Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk, while highly-trained in various fighting styles Emil Blonsky gets turned into The Abomination; who, unlike the Hulk, retains much of his earlier memory. But somehow, the Hulk still out-fights him. Nope. Abomination, armed with both super strength and the ability to know how to fight, should have had the upper hand in the Fighting Dept. Hulk should win by some other means rather than out-fighting him. Out-rage him and freak out and lose it or something; but just being big and strong does not mean you know how to fight. Bruce Lee and I are about the same height and weight, but you know who would win in a fight between us two!
So in “Man of Steel”, well-trained, born-to-be-a-soldier Zod is out-fought by farm-boy-who-was-never-taught-how-to-throw-a-punch-since-his-parents-were-afraid-he’d-kill-somebody Clark. Bullpucky. Zod should have upper hand in terms of fighting technique; while Clark has the upper hand in the strength department since he’s had some 30+ years to marinate in our yellow sun’s nourishing rays, and Zod’s been here like, a day. I’m sure his superior strength is what enables Clark to pull the stunt that defeats Zod, but again; almost any of the aforementioned carnage could have done that to Zod, too.
THERE BE SPOILERS HERE!
And although Superman has never been the brightest of super-bulbs, I’m sure he could’ve come up with another way to stop Zod than… well, than by snapping his neck. He already had him in a headlock… he can’t just aim his head elsewhere? Cover his eyes with his hands? Fly him up through the ceiling? Then again, since his soft spot for humans was always his Achilles’ Heel, why didn’t he draw the fight away from the city long before Zod forced his hand? The super-fight between them must have killed a boatload of people.
Those complaints are what hold back “Man Of Steel” from being a great movie; but it’s still a success for both Snyder and Superman, and undoubtedly will lead to a sequel and possibly a Justice League movie.
Overall Score for “Man of Steel” from Rich Bonaduce: B-
“Man of Steel” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some unexplained, dumb Kryptonian tentacles.
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David S. Goyer (screenplay), David S. Goyer & Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster (Superman created by)