Man of Steel – A Movie Review

(Spoilers at the very end of this review.  I will warn you before going into them.)

If you’ve been waiting for a Superman movie that shows our hero strutting all of his super stuff, then you will be very happy with Man of Steel.  In fact, I’ve never seen the kind of all-out action depicted in Man of Steel.  As you can expect with a Zach Snyder film, it is visually astounding.

However, there’s some real depth to the film as well.  Kevin Costner nearly brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, and Russell Crowe gave us the most likable and formidable Jor-El I’ve ever seen.  Diane Lane as Martha offers a fresh take on the character, and Amy Adams owned a tough, charismatic Lois Lane.  Michael Shannon had very big shoes to fill with General Zod, but because the character is far more military science fiction oriented, he was able to make it his own.  Henry Cavill looks like Superman, sounds like Superman, and moves like Superman.  He’s a very serviceable Superman.  No one will ever be as charismatic as Christopher Reeve, we all just have to accept that.  Cavill didn’t have the sparkle in his eyes that Reeve did, but that’s okay.  I think Cavill did an adequate job with the character.  I certainly look forward to seeing him as Superman in future movies.

Speaking of which, they made a necessary departure from Reeve’s Superman.  They had to, really.  This Superman is a physical force.  Cavill got huge for the film, and you could cut diamond with his jaw line.  And while there is a kindness in Cavill’s eyes as Superman, there is not a twinkle.  He’s a very serious Superman – lots of frowning.  But hey, that’s all right. We needed a different take if a new Superman franchise is going to work.  The fact he’s serious makes him no less noble.  In fact, they really made the strong and silent thing work well for him.  This Superman is clearly haunted by his being different from everyone else.  I can deal with a moody Superman.

I also love the science fiction route they took with this film over the super hero fantasy angle they could have used.  The movie starts off with an amazing scene on Krypton.  They truly strived to ground the movie in some aspect of technology with scientific explanations.  We know the story well at this point, but Snyder and company, again, took it in such a different direction that it felt totally new.  It was pretty much nonstop action from that moment forward.

As you’ve gathered from the commercials, we see a lot of Clark as a young man, but Snyder employed flashbacks to deliver these scenes to us, and, in my opinion, they were the best scenes in the whole movie.  Clark discovering his powers and using them to help people showed us the true hero within, and, like I said before, the scenes with Kevin Costner interacting with his adopted son choked me up on several occasions.

The storyline pretty much made sense, the characters all had fairly strong motivation, and, until the very end, nothing seemed to go off the tracks too much.  This is an epic, gigantic, mesmerizing movie that will not fail to keep your attention.  For a two and a half hour movie, it flew by.  No pun intended.

All in all, if you want a Superman movie that’s a visual spectacle with tons of action and Superman doing everything you ever wished you could see him do, then Man of Steel is for you.  I sincerely hope they continue with this cast and take Superman in exciting, new directions.

However, the film is not without a major problem.  That problem is detailed below the spoiler break.  Do NOT read if you don’t want the ending revealed:

 

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Turn back now if you don’t want spoiled …

 

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Throughout much of the movie, Clark Kent goes to great lengths to help people.  Every time he helps someone, though, he pretty much has to move on.  His concern for the world not being ready for him forces him to relocate time and time again.  But, no matter the personal sacrifice, he does the right thing.

That is, until he puts on the suit and adapts the guise of Superman.  Now he can actually help those people in need right out in the open, but instead opts not to.

Case in point, he fights Zod and his soldiers in the streets of Smallville.  There is maximum carnage.  Things are blowing up.  Trains are flying.  Missiles are exploding.  He keeps fighting.  Okay, hey, Smallville is small.  Maybe he did an X-ray vision sweep and saw that every single building on Main Street was cleared of people.  Probably not, but I’ll go with it.

And then we get to Metropolis, and that’s where I can’t turn the other way.  We’ve got entire skyscrapers falling.  We’ve got people dying left and right and left and right.  Superman and Zod are flying through buildings, and the buildings topple as a result.  What does Superman do?  Keep fighting.  At no point does he seem concerned about the people suffering and dying by the thousands.  If I’m a kid, I don’t understand why Superman isn’t helping people.  If I’m a parent, I don’t know how to explain the gratuitous destruction.

In a final inexplicable scene, Superman has Zod in a choke-lock, and Zod is about to kill a family.  The choice Superman makes is utterly senseless.  I won’t go into too much detail, but why is Superman suddenly so concerned about a family of four, and how is he suddenly able to break Zod’s bones when they just got done destroying half the city without either spilling a drop of blood?  I don’t get it.  Yes, I realize you have to have Superman stop Zod somehow, but it felt cheap and too easy to me.  It fact, it reminds me of this.

You know how they could have overcome the whole Superman fighting as a city dies thing?  At the end of the movie, if they had just had Superman issue a speech, apologizing for his role in the deaths of thousands and vowing to help the city rebuild, that would have gone a long way to showing me that he cares – that he has a noble heart.  Here’s a guy who risked everything as a child to help those in need but now doesn’t bat an eyelash at mass slaughter.

For me, this is a serious misstep.  Yes, they got all of the physical super stuff right, exceptionally so, and for most of the film, they got the hero stuff right as well.  But, at the very end, Superman came off more as an action character than a hero, and for some that works, but for me it doesn’t.  Superman always has to be about the people first and foremost.

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