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,