Action/Adventure / Reviews

Man of Steel (2013) review

Man of Steel poster 4When General Zod (Michael Shannon) comes to Earth looking for Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill), it is up to Superman to stop him before he destroys the planet.

Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), Man of Steel is the strangest movie I have ever seen.  While it is a fairly straightforward super hero/comic book film, what was strange about it is that I absolutely adored and loved about half of it and hated the other half.  I have never seen a film that I have loved and hated at the same time.  Typically, I either love or hate or am in the blah category from the beginnings of the film.  I have never had an experience like this one before.  This has left me extremely confused on how I should write this review, let alone rate it.

My personal history with Superman began with the 1978 Richard Donner film starring Christopher Reeve.  Of course I didn’t see it in the theater, I was all of 2 when it came out.  With the advent of the VCR, I discovered Superman: The Movie and Superman II.  I adore those two films to this day.  To me they are the perfect example of how a Superman film should be done.  A little lighthearted and fun.  Sure, they are a bit silly nowadays but Christopher Reeve WAS Superman.  The boy scout in the blue tights.  The epitome of how the character should be portrayed on the big screen.  A nice Kansas boy who just happens to have amazing super powers.  A hero and a savior.

Man of Steel ZodI was a comic book kid growing up.  But I was more Marvel over DC.  I never read Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman or any of the other DC books.  So when I go into the meat of this review, keep in mind that I loved the original Superman films, but am not a complete stickler when it comes to the comic book source material.  I went into this film knowing that it was going to be different than what had come before.  I knew that it would be a bit darker for a more cynical world and modern movie goers.  I knew that the fantastic score by John Williams was not going to be there.  I knew this was not the Superman I knew and loved growing up.   And I accepted that, just as I accepted the way that J.J. Abrams dealt with Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t accept everything that Znyder and screenwriter David Goyer changed about  the character in this film.  While they didn’t change anything drastically, there were just some things that I couldn’t get on board with.  While I am not going to give away any major plot points, just be warned that there may be slight spoilers for the film from this point on.

The film opens on Krypton, Superman’s homeworld, while his mother is giving birth to him.  Literally, that is where the film starts.  It wasn’t enough to have the baby having been born already, we have to see it.  Within the first 45 seconds of the movie I actually said aloud to myself “uh oh.”  Luckily, it gets better from there.  We see Jor-El (Russell Crowe) arguing with the council about the planet being doomed and then General Zod (Michael Shannon) bursts in staging a coup.  Jor-El and Zod fight, Jor-El escapes and eventually sends young Kal-El to Earth to get him away from not only Zod but the destruction of the planet.

These first fifteen minutes or so are  intense and certainly feels more like a science fiction film than what we would expect from a Superman film.  Krypton isn’t all cold crystals but a thriving planet on the cusp of disaster.  I could have actually watched a full film of just the Krypton envisioned by Snyder.

What I did like about the film is that Superman’s origin wasn’t changed.  Some of the details, perhaps, but he was still sent to Earth to avoid the destruction of Krypton.  He was raised by Johnathon (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane).  Instead of getting the straight up, linear origin story, though, we flash between different time periods in Clark’s life.  We go from his ship arching over a Kansas barn to him as an adult working on a fishing boat.  The film then goes back to his time as a young boy in Kansas with his adoptive parents.  These scene I absolutely loved.  Honestly, at this point in the film I was leaning towards unabashed praise.  I was all in on Snyder’s vision of the character.  The changes were minor and I loved it.

Once Zod shows up, though, things start to go downhill fast.  Eventually we end up at a point near the end that completely destroyed all the goodwill I had for the film.

Man of SteelWhen I say things go downhill fast, I mean that once Clark puts on the suit and Zod shows up, the film becomes nothing but an action spectacle film full of explosions and fighting.  While I am sure this is what some people want to see, I didn’t need forty five minutes to an hour of it, which is what we get.  It becomes too much which peaks at an ending that is so out of character for Superman that it adversely affected the rest of the movie for me.  It forced me to shake my head and get up and leave the theater as soon as the credits started.  I did not stay to see if there was a scene after the credits.

I saw the film yesterday and am still struggling with it.  There was so much I liked about it, not the least of which were some of the performances.  When you have actors the caliber of Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Russell Crowe, you know that the performances aren’t going to be phoned in.  And all four of them were fantastic in their respective roles.  Especially Kevin Costner.  I have always liked him, but here, with little screen time, he is just as fantastic as his starring roles.  The dialogue in a particular scene and the way he delivered it actually made me tear up a little bit.  (The scene in question is the scene in the trailer where Clark asks if they can keep pretending he’s John’s son.  Truly heartrending.)

While there were a lot of things I loved about the film, there was just as much I didn’t.  Sadly, to go into what I didn’t like as much would require excessive amounts of spoilers, which I will spare you in this review.  Just know that there is a lot to love here, but just as much to hate.  And I mean hate.  There were choices made which made me question where Goyer and Snyder actually had any concept of the character other than he’s strong and can fly and shoot laser beams out of his eyes.

Just be prepared when you go see this film.  While I can tell it is a sure-fire crowd pleaser, it didn’t completely please me.  Perhaps on a second viewing I will have a different opinion.  I doubt it though.

** out of **** (This rating actually breaks my heart a little.)


14 thoughts on “Man of Steel (2013) review

  1. Good review Chris. It wasn’t as epic or amazing as I was expecting it to be, but still okay for being a superhero movie, that also happens to be an origin tale.

    • I absolutely loved the first half. But when it turned into nothing but punching stuff, it was too much for me. Breaking the characters golden rule also felt out of place and hurt the film for me a lot.

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  9. I know what the critics has said. They complained about too much action, superman being too serious, lack of romance, etc. Since Zack Snyder directed this movie, I don’t think he cared about the critics. Don’t get me wrong, he DOES care about the fans’ opinion. Seems like he really wanted to really satisfy the fans. I see why critics complained about too much action. For me it’s just his way to satisfy the viewers. This is the kind of movie that is just really satisfying. When the movie ended, I got that ‘satisfying’ feeling instead of the ‘wanting more’ feeling. It’s like it was really enough.

    Even Snyder’s best movies (before this) which were 300 & Watchmen didn’t have more ratings than 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think the fans should have anticipated the bad reviews. His style is actually what critics hate. The over the top action and CGI is actually his trademark. So, even from the beginning, I think this is actually the kind of movie the producers wanted. About the lack of romance, I really do think it’s saved for the sequel. The sequel will definitely explore more about the relationship between Clark and Lois. This film focused on 2 aspects: the origin (krypon,struggle finding his place) & the action (Zod and his army). Don’t expect humor or romance.

    The visuals were spectacular! What’s best about this movie is its action scenes. The action were just relentless. I think the fans would not be disappointed at all. Yes, I know there is only a very few humor this movie but that actually doesn’t even matter. The battle between Superman & Zod will definitely ‘wow’ everyone but the critics. I mean who cares about the critics opinion? A superhero movie MUST NOT be judged by the critics opinion, what’s more important is the audience’s opinion about the movie and especially the fans’. I think the movie really delivered. Most people will definitely like this movie. I am really sure that many fanboys will consider this as the best comic book of all time. This is a MUST SEE for people who like action movie. The action were better than last year’s The Avengers.

    The sequel really have a great potential. Considering the minimum amount of romance in this movie (since they just knew each other, and superman was also more focused on Zod), the next movie could explore more of that. One of the things missing from the movie was also the presence of Clark Kent at the daily planet. It’s one of the trade marks. But, I believe the sequel will show more scenes in the Daily Planet which is interesting to see.

    As a conclusion, I think Man of Steel is so far the best action movie this year. This movie really is a Snyder movie. But it also has a quite lot of nolan-esque feel to it especially in the around first 45 minutes.

    If this was compared to Iron man 3, if Iron man 3 was a 7, this movie is a 8.6.

    More about the information you can also find it here

    • Thanks for your review in the comments of my review. lol I appreciate your point of view, but I had a lot of gripes with the movie. Keep in mind, I am a fan of Snyder’s. I love 300, Watchmen, and even liked Sucker Punch. Not to mention his Dawn of the Dead remake, which I enjoyed quite a bit, too.

      It wasn’t Snyder’s style that disappointed me. Check out my editorials tab for a couple of articles where I delve into what he did right and what he did wrong for this film. I go into a lot more detail than in the review.

      Thanks again!

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