Ravingnerd Reviews: Man of Steel

Finally, after two viewings of the film, I have finalized and completed my thoughts on the movie.

To start, most of you know I was apprehensive about the movie for the longest time. I already had multiple issues with the Dark Knight franchise (and not just the most recent one), and seeing Nolan’s name attached to a Superman movie terrified me. Still, I hoped that Snyder and the cast could ease my worries and give me reason to enjoy a Superman movie. Upon seeing the trailers for the film, I began to hope and dream that the movie would break my ever expectation. That it would completely blow me away. And it did. But before I discuss it in depth, lets analyze the key parts to the film.

The cast was absolutely stellar. Pitch perfect on almost every level. Henry Cavill was astonishing as Superman and honestly blew me away. He was able to get past the angst that looked to surround the character and present an interpretation of Supe’s that I would want to see over and over again. At points he even sounded like DC giants George Newbern and Tim Daly (legendary animated voice actors for the character) and that was a wonderful thing. Amy Adams as Lois Lane was a bombshell of a part. Stealing almost every scene she was in, in character fashion. From her opening conversation to her glass of Scotch, Amy played a gutsy and bad ass woman, who didn’t need a man to protect her (well, until she did). I was pleasantly surprised with the solid and stellar performance done by Russell Crowe, given my issues with his most recent role (damn you Javert), I was pleased to see him so effortlessly embody Jor-El, and in a way that didn’t feel like an homage to Marlon Brando. Diane Lane was a down to earth Martha Kent, but was upstaged by Kevin Costners flawless and moving turn as Jonathan Kent. I was moved to the brink of tears in almost every one of his scenes. Perhaps because I’m a sap, and perhaps because he was perfect. The ensemble was remarkable, full of two Battlestar Galactica alumni, Michael Kelly (of House of Cards and Law and Order fame) was a fun Steve Lombard, and Laurence Fishburne was a phenomenal Perry. The movies shining star though was Michael Shannon as Zod. Terrifying all the while sympathetic, Shannon’s Zod outshines even the great Terrence Stamp’s. Nearly perfect in direction and motivation, Zod managed to achieve something that no Superman villain has ever done before….. more on that later.

While most people have criticized the plot, I cannot do so here. The plot was rather well done. While the first half of the film is as non-linear as Doctor Who, it still gets all the points across. Having Zod be the villain of the movie feels like a natural choice and allows us to see a side of Krypton that has never been shown before. While most critics have cited the lack of answers and direction as their problem with the film, I cannot do that either. The sum of all the questions in the film is “what is the meaning of life” and as we all know, that is an unanswerable question. So critics’ issue with this seems trite and ill conceived. Finally, I felt the movie had a clear sense of direction. Clark goes from the reluctant hero to symbolic idol within the course of the movie. Or at least he makes the steps to do so.

This is easily the most action packed Superman (and DC for that matter) film ever. Its over the top fight sequences and CGI-A-Palooza help make for a truly stellar looking summer blockbuster. The final thirty minutes have you almost biting your nails, you know it has to end, but you are honestly concerned about the ending (as you all should be).

This movie was full of nerd references and easter eggs. From the debris in space that mimicked the original Phantom Zone door from the original movie franchise, to the Lexcorp tanker, to the Wayne Enterprises Satellite, to Emile Hammond, to STAR Labs, and more. This movie was an open book for DC fans, with new easter eggs in almost every scene.

Next the category that proves to be the bane of my existence. The “Closeness to the comic it hails from” category. Where this movie scores negative points. This movie actually undermines the comic books. How’s that for a step backwards?

Overall feel and fun? It has it all, well at least for the first two thirds of the film. The first good half of the film was an epic joyride, one that came crashing down around us as the movie ended.

Comparison to other like films? This movie easily is on pace with/outshines the Avengers. It has greater more thrilling acting sequences, comparable levels of humor, with an added dose of humanity. In short this movie offers everything Avengers does, and more. Well, without Robert Downey Junior.

Favorite part of the movie: Zod taking off his suit and mastering his powers. Can anyone say epic?
Least favorite part of the film: We’re getting there.

Now before I continue, know that this movie had one major flaw. One flaw that undermines not only the integrity of the movie, but threatens to destroy the comic books as well. That being said, I cannot discuss this flaw without spoiling a substantial aspect of the plot. After I am done scoring the film, I will explain why. Just know that spoilers await you. You have been warned.

Man of Steel earns the rank of………………………… 1

 

SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ONWARD. FINAL WARNING

 

Recently I was invited to share with a children’s performance camp that was “teaching performance through super heroes” sounds up my alley right? When I walked in, the director of the camp proudly exclaimed “I taught them the golden rule of being a super hero!” to which the children then yelled “NO KILLING”.

And here we are. Not only is not killing a fundamental part of being a super hero (unless you are in the Marvel Universe), but it defines two key super heroes and their quest for justice. Superman and Batman. There are currently no in continuity stories in which Batman and Superman have had to kill to achieve their goals. Even other Leaguers such as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and even Aquaman have had their fall from grace, but these two. The Big Two. They will never do so.

Unless they are in a movie by Christopher Nolan. At the penultimate climax of the movie, Superman kills Zod to protect a family. Though I can tell you a dozen reasons why this was stupid, and list a half a dozen ways Superman could have gotten out of it without doing so, I am not going to. To know that this key matter has escaped the radar of critics and fans alike is the real issue. Superman’s greatest power is not his strength, flight, or heat vision. No. It’s his super morality. Most people have a hard time with Superman, because they can’t relate to him. Which is the point. We can’t relate to him. He’s years ahead of us. He possess wisdom, ethics, and morality that we as humans can’t understand. He is the Man of Tomorrow, and he represents a Utopian vision for what humanity can become. Or at least he did.

By having Superman murder someone, even a vile a foe as Zod. Superman no longer represents the best in humanity. He represents the worst. He no longer brings out the best in the human race. He instead serves as our agent of justice. Doing whatever society demands of him. In killing, Snyder, Nolan, and Goyer throw away the most fundamental aspect of Superman. Alienating the character I invested the previous two hours in from Superman. They no longer make this narrative about Superman. They make it about a character with a similar look, with similar powers, but who will sacrifice his morals. To quote Superman “There is always away”. If that were true, and I believe it is, there was another way for Superman to have solved his issues in this film. But Snyder, Nolan, and Goyer miss the magic and the key aspect of the Superman character. And that’s just depressing. For those of you who enjoyed this, keep in mind there can not be a sequel. In killing Zod, Superman presents no reason not to kill his foes. Thus even if Lex makes his way into this movie franchise. He doesn’t stand a chance. For if Superman could stop the carnage by killing him. He will do so.

And finally, for all of my friends, followers on Twitter/Facebook, and for all of you passerby’s checking this post out. If you don’t understand why this movie was the worst interpretation of Superman ever. If you don’t recognize that this single moment undermines the Superman character built up in the film. Or worse, if you don’t see it as an issue, then you don’t understand Superman. I would suggest and invite you all to invest some time learning up on the character, but I won’t. If you fit the above criteria you are already a lost cause. One who fundamentally cannot understand and enjoy Superman. And that, that is the saddest thing I can think of.

If you don’t believe me, then here are similar sentiments from legendary Superman writer Mark Waid. If you refuse to accept my thoughts, this man literally wrote the book on Superman. Several books.

Until the next time,

Rn

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19 thoughts on “Ravingnerd Reviews: Man of Steel

  1. Your comments are valid… It’s funny when it happened it bothered me, but I got so tied up in the next flashback scene ( as a dad— just hit my core) I honestly let it slip away. Yet at time thought I had is Supes doesn’t kill. Truth is I’ve not followed him since DcNU, I guess I just assumed it was like when Storm killed for 1st time… It would be about the guilt.

    • And I am pleased that he was remorseful and felt guilty. But can’t wrap my head around it all. I’m still shocked. And I’ve even seen it twice. I made the comment to one of my friends that I wanted to throw off my Superman shirt I was so disenfranchised.

  2. Didn’t Superman kill Zod in Superman 2? Zod was powerless at the time. I don’t hear anyone complaining about that.

    • To my knowledge, no he didn’t. Granted I haven’t seen that film in years, but to my best recollection they were simply defeated and eternally banished to the Phantom Zone.

  3. See I viewed Superman killing Zod a little differently. When I first saw that I was shocked, Superman killing? No way. Impossible. Superman has always been my favorite superhero from marvel and dc. And knowing full well that superman has always been the person to always find another way, one of the reasons why the Justice Lords plot was so interesting but that’s a bit off topic, but I think nolan and snyder took it as he made a mistake in the moment, he was still new to this public display superman hero and this was his first time actually facing something that was equal in strength and at the moment of sheer terror he crossed the line and made a mistake; which is the reason that he was on the verge of crying and screaming in terror to what he had just done. It was his first real hard lesson, was to never kill. Ever. Which would make sense why later on he would hold the no killing real so highly and continues to always find another way. I dont know, maybe im far off and maybe nolan and snyder just f*cked up. Who knows. But that’s how I took it. Anyways, great review!

    • It was a cop out. In the comics his phrase is “there is always away”. There was indeed a way, and he didn’t take it. Fundamentally, Superman isn’t Batman. He isn’t dark and redemptive. He doesn’t need that dark edge hanging over him. Take a look at the final issue of Justice League Unlimited, that’s the edge he’s supposed to have. Not a failure. That’s a Batman thing.

  4. I had hoped that you would have given yourself a little more time before seeing MOS a second time. I take it that you let the emotions burn and fester in you only long enough to to cry out and give in to your immediate second viewing. I will give you this:Kevin Costner’s performance was flawless. As a character actor, he impresses me more and more (Re:The Upside of Anger with Joan Allen [another underrated great]), and I will be disappointed but not surprised if KC does not get a Golden Globe or Oscar nod for his turn as Jonathan Kent. Yet, you are a purist in the best sense of the word. I agree. MOS should have taken the higher road, and I was left confused as to how Zod even survived the black hole return. Yes I was excited by the throwdown with a fellow Kryptonian, but the damage went on too long for my money. Also Metropolis looked too much like Ground Zero and that was all too disquieting. Favorite H.Cavill moment When he was in the church having a casual confession with the priest. I loved the shot of Clark talking to the priest and the stained glass of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemanee. To which father should Clark/Kal submit?

    • Unfortunately there was only one way to view the film. Superman murdering is an unforgivable action for the character. And only seeks to point out the film makers’ lack of understanding the character.

  5. I’m going to try and defend this decision even though I do not agree with killing Zod. At all. This was establishing a franchise and I know that the decision to kill Zod was discussed over and over and over again and I think it happens for one reason. It’s Supermans first villain, he was desperate, and he made a mistake, and now it will define him. They want to be able to have this moment haunt him for any other movies they make for, you know, character development purposes. I don’t agree with it, but I don’t think this will destroy Superman. And I know there was a lot of thought but into it.

    • I disagree. This is only a lynchpin for worse actions. Superman has no reason to not kill his villains now. He snapped Zod’s neck, what’s stopping him from killing a lesser powered threat such as Luthor? Nothing. And just a statement. Superman isn’t Batman. And I’m ashamed that Snyder, Nolan, Goyer, and the rest of the comic illiterate world doesn’t understand that.

  6. To strengthen my point Superman also kills Nuclearman in Superman 4. As to Superman 2 Zod is dropped down an icy precipice never to be seen or mentioned again so in layman terms dead.

    • Nuclear Man was just a clone. Just like Bizarro. And Superman killing an evil clone of himself is par for the course. The prime problem with this movie is that Superman actively killed another being. Superman doesn’t do that. He did not actively kill or seek to in Superman 2. Leaving the possibility that Zod survived (much like Sherlock and Moriarty in the Final Problem. This movie was more like “What’s the problem with truth, justice, and the American Way” (the movie Superman VS The Elite). Except in the movie, Superman faked the entire thing. Demonstrating that a murdering Superman is not what we want or need. Only in Man of Steel, he didn’t stop. He didn’t care for collateral damage.

  7. Superman killed all three original Phantom Zone criminals in the original Supergirl arch. He also killed the original metallo, a sentient Doomsday and was a direct and major force in the death of Darkseid.

    • Superman has done so in the past. Yes. But the version I enjoy most. The depiction of the character that seems most dominant in the media is that of a non-lethal Superman. It is not only the one I enjoy reading the most, but the Superman that inspires me as an individual. Thus introducing millions of people unfamiliar with the truly inspiring Superman to this version is appalling and saddening to someone like myself. Glad the movie did well, but not my cup of teas. And it never will be.

  8. Okay. I’ve finally gotten the time to see Man of Steel (after complications prevented me from seeing it Friday). I agree with most of what you said. The actors were amazing (perfect Kal-El and Jor-El), as was the story, effects, and the score. I miss the original Superman theme (although I understand why they didn’t use it), but this score I greatly enjoyed. I loved this movie, and I’m sure I will watch it whenever it is on TV in the years to come (which I’m guessing you won’t). That said, and my love for superhero and sci-fi movies aside, I was very disturbed by Zod’s murder. Very. It would be like Batman breaking the Joker’s neck. It should not happen. I feel like there were plenty of ways he could have saved the people (fly into space? there are others too).

    However, I still hope they can make a movie franchise out of this. DC’s animated shorts are great, but Marvel’s phase one was pretty incredible and DC really needs to start putting out high quality films for more other their characters. If this film leads to a good Green Lantern film (Nathan Fillion, anyone?) or a good Superman/Batman or JL, I’ll take it. If they make a sequel that is exclusively Superman I won’t immediately mark it off as trash (but he better not kill again…). Maybe I’m making a deal with the devil, as it were, but for the greater good of the DC movie franchise, I’ll take more quality films like Man of Steel as long as they don’t push me anymore, and I’ll try not to let this ruin the film for me. That said, I do agree with you, and I’m desperate that they don’t go the route of killing the villain with every hero (or ever again with Superman).

    So that’s my 2 cents, but maybe you think I’m giving too much leeway, and I can’t completely blame you if you do. Hopefully, this is a one time mistake they will learn from to help make future high quality movies, more like the other parts of MOS. I can’t hate this movie, the rest is too good for that, but I can’t ignore my gut feeling of discomfort either. I hope for the future.

    • I’m pretty sure they are going with the “Has to learn from his mistakes” aspect of a sequel. Trying to make him a redemptive hero that has something to prove and something to redeem himself from. Just like all of American Media. Damn you American Monomyth!

  9. Arrrrrgh. A fine movie ruined by a lame final act. Superman doesn’t kill…or use stupid wrestling moves. Or even allow a mega fight to go on so long in a highly populated urban area. And Superman versus the world machine thing is Mr. Incredible vs. the Omnidroid. Terrible editing, too. Transformers length fights with no discretion in editing story or idea. The jump from weeping with Lois to dropping a spy drone on The General to the worst line “he’s hot” from the lamest captain in the Air Force, it just feels like they ripped off parts of Thor…

    • No one seems to have cared that Superman didn’t try to take the fight elsewhere. I know he’s a “new Superman” but come one. We are expected to believe that Superman ever did all this? No way.

  10. Pingback: Ravingnerd Reviews: The Lone Ranger | Ravingnerd

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