“…some poor directorial choices that make the movie less than desirable.”
Last night, in complete darkness, I huddled around the screen of my 15 inch laptop and watched Man of Steel. You may be asking yourself, “Why was it completely dark?” or “Why did you watch Man of Steel on a laptop?”. Both of these are very good questions and I can answer both of them with one concise statement: my power was out. But I have a schedule to keep so I soldiered on and watched Man of Steel on a less than ideal screen, with less than ideal audio because I like to keep to my schedule. Man of Steel, much like Tomorrowland (which I reviewed here) is a movie that everyone seems to hate, and I don’t understand why they do. For those who don’t know, Man of Steel is director Zack Snyder’s take on the one, the only, Superman. Of course this movie hits all of the origin story stuff that other movies have, so I’m not going to go into plot details, just know that it is a movie about Superman. I watched Man of Steel to refresh my memory before going to see Batman v Superman tomorrow (I sure hope it doesn’t suck), and much like the first time I watched it I enjoyed myself. Before I start my review, I want to put my bias out in the open; Superman is my favourite superhero and has been since I was a young boy. That’s not to say that I am completely blind to any errors anything Superman related has, it’s just to say that I am a little more forgiving than others may be.
That being said, I’m going to talk about the objective things in the movie first. By that I essentially mean that I won’t give spoilers. Man of Steel opens with a great sequence of Superman’s home planet, Krypton. I absolutely love the look and feel of Krypton in this movie. Superman’s father, Jor-El, is played wonderfully by Russell Crowe, and really the whole Krypton sequence is great to see as a Superman fan. The thing that really punctuates this movie for me is the wonderful score. Hans Zimmer did an absolutely fantastic job at creating a new Superman theme. Not that I don’t love the original Superman theme, but this one fits the new character so well. It is just a powerful score that elevates the feelings in the movie far beyond where they could ever reach without it. The movie then transitions from Krypton to fully grown Clark Kent, and the origin story we do see is through flash backs. This is refreshing because everyone knows the story of Superman, but the origin story we do see is very different than what we are familiar with but I’ll get into that later. One stand out scene from the movie for me is the “make the world small” scene. It really resonates with me and it was beautifully executed. The acting in this movie also has to be discussed, I think it was great. I think Henry Cavill does a great job as Clark Kent/Superman and I think Amy Adams does a good job as Lois Lane. I also think that both Kevin Costner and Diane Lane do a great job as the Kents, but I’ll get into why later. Now this movie is far from flawless in my eyes, because it has some fairly large issues. I’m going to start small with the look of the movie. Man of Steel has this bizarre bleak look to every scene. It really captures how shitty the world would be if our only source of light were fluorescent bulbs. Couple that with the obscene number of lens flares in this movie, and at least 30 percent of the time the screen was mostly white. I used to poke fun at JJ Abrams for using lens flares, but he has nothing on Man of Steel. The next problem I have with the movie is the camera work. Zack Snyder seemed to want to make this movie feel as ‘real’ as he possibly could. All of the swish pans followed by zoom-ins gave me a headache. Honestly, I don’t know why he decided to shoot the movie like that. It could have been to help hide the CGI (which was great by the way), but even then it didn’t have to be so drastic. It also could have been that he felt the movie needed a “home-made” feel to it, so he captured scenes like someone with a cam-corder would. If that’s the case I have one thing to say: It’s a fucking movie about fucking Superman. Nobody is going to believe for one second that the movie is real life. Stop using distracting camera shots, it gets annoying really fast.
From here on out I’m going to be discussing spoilers for Man of Steel, so if you haven’t seen it you can just scroll to the bottom for my rating.
The biggest problem I have with Man of Steel is the pacing. The entire movie is pretty fucked up, but I’m going to use one scene as an example. After Clark finds the spaceship (that just happens to be there for some reason) he takes off in the spaceship and leaves an unconscious Lois Lane in the snow. The movie then shows Lois Lane traveling back to Metropolis, then back to the fishing town where Clark had a job, then to another town where Clark had a job, then to Clark’s home town of Smallville, and then the movie cuts to Clark who is still flying in the ship. WHAT THE FUCK?! Was clark flying around for a couple of weeks? Is Lois Lane really the one with super powers? That is just an example of the pacing issues in the movie and unfortunately they make the movie feel really muddled when looking back on it. Sometimes it is kind of like the story is out of order, with scenes not making sense, and lots of exposition in between big scenes.
Those are all of the issues I have with Man of Steel. Now I’m going to talk about what doesn’t bother me about man of Steel, and that is the destruction. The main argument I hear from people about why this movie is bad is “Superman would never destroy a city, he cares about people”. I have to disagree with that. I do understand that the Superman you know wants to save everyone, but this is not the Superman you know. The Superman you know crash landed in Kansas and was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent to love everyone, and use your powers for good. This Superman crash landed in Kansas and was taught by his father to not use his powers. This Jonathan Kent told Clark to literally let a bus full of little kids drown, so as not to reveal his powers. But guess what? This Superman didn’t let those kids drown and what happened? The mother of the boy he saved came to the Kent Farm and was pissed that Clark saved her son from drowning. Sure Clark has this natural instinct that tells him to protect people, but he also has this “devil” on his shoulder telling him that people will be afraid of him if he shows who he is. I mean shit, the people of earth technically killed his father. There was no reason for Jonathan Kent to die on that freeway because any regular boy Clark’s age could have saved him no problem, but Jonathan didn’t want another instance of Clark saving someone to be in everyone’s minds. So Clark ultimately has this complex that tells him that the people of earth are not good people. They are people who are more comfortable letting men die than living alongside someone who is a superhero. With that in mind, Clark will protect the only person that legitimately cares about him now, Martha Kent, his mother. So when Zod decides to threaten her you don’t see a Superman who is rationally making decisions. You see Clark Kent, a boy who has nobody in the world except for his mother. A boy who has been alienated by the world. A boy who just met his real father (in hologram form) and was given the Superman suit. The man who fights Zod isn’t Superman, he is the boy Clark Kent, who has just had the only thing that matters in his life threatened. Superman in Man of Steel is not a man who will go into a fight and think to himself “Now how do I safely neutralize this threat while at the same time keeping casualties to a minimum?”. No, the Superman we see is a man that goes “You just threatened my mother, I am going to literally kill you motherfucker”. He doesn’t give a shit about the people on the ground in those moments. He only cares about keeping what he loves safe, at whatever costs necessary. I feel that I‘ve pretty much explained myself here, but another point to add to the destruction argument is even if Superman was super conscious about not harming anyone (which I just explained why that’s not true), Zod doesn’t care. In fact, Zod wants everyone on planet earth to die anyway. he doesn’t care if he has to do it or if his machine will do it. And Zod is Superman. He has all of the powers that Superman does, but he has the opposite of the instinct to keep people safe. So honestly, the destruction caused isn’t even the fault of Superman. Sure you could say that Superman brought it on Earth by being there, but Superman only found out that he was wanted by Zod like a day before the fight. That motherfucker had no other option than to stay on Earth. So all I’m saying is that Superman was overcome with emotion during the fight, and he has little reason to actively care about the people of Earth. Couple that with the fact that he was literally fighting another Superman who wanted everyone dead, and I say that not only is the amount of destruction caused in Man of Steel fine, I would say that it was justified.
With that out of my system I just want to recap and say that Man of Steel, while having major issues as a film, is not bad for the character of Superman. By that I mean, the story lives up to the character, it is just some poor directorial choices that make the movie less than desirable.
I give Man of Steel a C