Superman ‘Man of Steel’ Review #3 written by Justin Bolger June 14, 2013 ‘Man of Steel’ Focuses on the Man and Makes Him Super In the Process I’ve always preferred Batman to Superman. Identifying with the last son of Krypton is perpetually hard for me because I view his stories as less about the man and more about the world’s reactions to him. Sure, I like him, but I’ve never felt as if understand him in the same way I do Bruce Wayne. That changed with Man of Steel, a film that strips the Super from the Man to focus on his lifelong search for identity and purpose only for him to find that he’s always known exactly who he is and what his purpose is. Once he embraces this knowledge, he literally soars to greatness. This catharsis is excellently embodied by Henry Cavill. I found his powerful, yet understated performance to be the best portrayal of Superman on film. He carries himself with a natural and intense respect for all life that informs his every action. This is thrown into masterful contrast by Michael Shannon’s terrifyingly sympathetic portrayal of General Zod, a righteous zealot who will stop at nothing to rebuild a twisted version of his own culture. Shannon brings menacing gravitas to every scene he’s in (as well as a few that he’s not in) and is the personification of the old saying, “Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” Their conflict is eloquently and succinctly put into perspective with a question posed to Superman by his father Jor-El, played with contemplative urgency by Russell Crowe. “What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?” It’s in examining the dichotomy of the purpose for which these two men exist that the film’s exploration of this central question of identity becomes something truly special. You have Zod, whose purpose, preservation of Kryptonian society above all else, defines his identity. When that purpose is rendered obsolete, he is left with nothing. And then you have Superman, whose identity as an adopted human being defines his purpose as protector of the race that cared for him. Superman’s eventual triumph over Zod (not a spoiler, you didn’t really think Zod was coming out of this the winner, did you?) is the ultimate vindication of his father’s belief that individual self determination is more important and worthwhile than a predetermined destiny. Though the central conflict of ideologies between Superman and Zod is tasked with carrying much of Man of Steel’s weight, the film’s supporting cast superbly shares the burden, rounding out the edges of Superman’s world in exemplary fashion. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane strikes a perfect balance of assertiveness and affability, consistently conveying a vulnerable strength that makes her an equal worthier of Superman’s affection than the damsels in distress of old. Adams and Cavill share a natural chemistry that is assisted by an able script that demonstrates an insightful understanding of who these two characters are. When their friendship evolves into a romance, it feels both earned and earnest. A lot of credit must also be given to the two young actors bringing Clark Kent to life at ages 9 and 13, Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry, respectively. Their acting ability shined in their heartbreaking portrayals of a boy forever alone and in conflict between his astonishing nature and the necessity of concealment. Such emotion is conveyed in these early scenes with them and Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) as to connect you with the man Clark becomes. His identity is as much a product of their upbringing as anything else. Honorable mentions to Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy and Antje Traue as (marry me?) Faora. Meloni’s role is representative of humanity’s understanding of and response to Superman, and he acquits himself in admiringly heroic fashion. Traue makes the most of every second of screen time afforded her, from a deliciously evil sizing up of Superman upon their first meeting, to a silent and crushing despondency at the destruction of her world. Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead) has turned in a phenomenal piece of filmmaking, complete with the kind of fast paced action he has become known for. The only aspect of the film that seemed a bit off to me was its rather muted color palette. While that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film, I couldn’t help but think that the film looked as if Zack Snyder borrowed Christopher Nolan’s crayons. Such a palette worked well for The Dark Knight Trilogy, with its grounded approach to Batman, but in a film that placed more emphasis on the fantastic, I feel a more vibrant color would have served the story better. Being familiar with some of Snyder’s other more prismatic works, I got the feeling that this was more Nolan’s influence than anything else. For Man of Steel 2, let Zack Snyder be Zack Snyder. This film shows he can be trusted with the keys. Give him the room to make the Superman film that he wants to make. I’d really like to see that film, and I get the feeling he was held back a little here. In spite of this minor gripe, Man of Steel combines a touchingly human core story with gripping performances, fantastic visuals, dynamic action, and an intriguing approach to the Superman legend based in science fiction, heralding an impressive and satisfying return for its eponymous hero. Welcome to the 21st Century, Man of Tomorrow. 4.5 out of 5 ‘Man of Steel’ Review #3 was last modified: February 22nd, 2016 by Justin Bolger Related Man of Steel 13 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Justin Bolger previous post ‘Man of Steel’ Sequel Rockets Toward 2015 next post ‘Man of Steel’ Leaps Box Office Records in a Single Bound! (UPDATED) You may also like Filmmakers Share Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Of BATMAN V... April 1, 2016 Lois Lane and Superman Accept The ALS... August 27, 2014 ‘Man of Steel’ Teaser July 21, 2012 BATMAN V SUPERMAN Is On The Right... March 3, 2016 New ‘Man of Steel’ Banner! March 29, 2012 New ‘Man of Steel’ Banner! May 4, 2013 Rountable Review: Hardee’s Super Bacon Cheese Thickburger June 1, 2013 New ‘Man of Steel’ Character Posters May 21, 2013 BATMAN V SUPERMAN- Teaser Shown & Wonder... July 26, 2014 ‘Man of Steel’ Trailer Premieres at CinemaCon! April 17, 2013 Pingback: ‘Man of Steel’ Focuses on the Man and Makes Him Super in the Process « ApexFan() rOn Now that I’ve seen the movie and can read reviews without being spoiled I can honestly say I don’t get the hate this movie is getting at all, I loved it, it was awesome! I’m not a Superman fan at all and this is the best portrayal of him EVER! Actually made an incredibly bland and boring character interesting and had me invested in the character and caring what happened to him. My only grip was with the CGI in a couple spots, but other than that upon my initial viewing rank it as the 3rd best superhero/comicbook movie I’ve ever seen. Batfan27 I’m starting to wonder if the people writing all those negative reviews saw the same movie I did. T.J. I echo the sentiment. I don’t ever remember a movie where I didn’t understand 90% of the criticism hurled at it. rOn Yeah, it’s insane. Such a great movie. The critics loved a boring CGI fest with next no story like Iron Man 3, but want to try to find fault with a truly great genre film like MOS…makes zero sense. Stock 3 glowing reviews from MMM, where the worst that can be said is that it has a muted color palette. Everything else is pure perfection. Well, its not that I don’t trust you, Otis, but….I don’t trust you, Otis. I don’t buy the all too pessimistic reviews either, by the way. But they are saying some things that trouble me, like the movie takes itself way too seriously-Kal barely cracks a smile til the end- – the insufferable Russel Crowe shows up like a bad penny way too much. If only Batman’s Dad could just pop up whenever he needed him, maybe he wouldn’t be such a freak. Maybe I wouldn’t be either. So let me quote Jor-El from that first sub-standard Superman movie with Chris Reeve strung up on wires flyin’ “like a big blue bird, he was! Ya don’t believe me.” “My Thun, It is forbidden for you to change human hithtory.” And until I see different, history states Christopher Reeve was the best Superman ever to be put on film. Better Tech does not make a better film, period. I’m going to keep my expectations muted, like the palette. Hopefully, I’ll find a better movie than I expect. I do want it to be good. Just can’t believe its that good yet. mrhenry24 Guys, I have listened to your podcast and read you site since day one and even before going back to the BOF days. I have never been so disappointed in a film before and even more so, disappointed in a group that I have respected the opinions of. This movie is bad. It is a bad movie. It is an absolute stripping down of the character. It is all sound and fury signifying nothing. The “let your friends die even though you can save them” reaction of his father and that awful, awful misguided and foolish tornado scene were embarrassing. Why would Clark grow up to value human life (all life for that matter) when his father constantly tells him that protecting himself is more important than the lives of anyone else. Pa Kent never for a second allows his son to be who he is. Clark’s father should instill a sense of goodness and an absolute burning desire to do what is right beyond all else. Clark is shown to already have these qualities and instead of enforcing them, Pa Kent tells his son to stay in the closet and suppress who he is out of fear. Pa Kent doesn’t want Clark to be who he is, he wants Clark to be what Pa Kent wants him to be. You cannot argue this. Just before the tornado scene, Pa Kent is scolding Clark for not wanting to be a farmer. He wants him to be a farmer because that’s what Kent’s do. If he really didn’t think Clark was ready to deal with what the world’s reaction to him would be, he should have constantly been preparing him for it. It isn’t about not having faith in humanity, its about having faith in his son, and this Pa Kent has none. Everything in this film is heavy handed and forced. Clark and Lois’ relationship is earned? They barely even know one another when they start making out. Superman is constantly saving her life and that’s really all the interaction they have and she is constantly shoehorned into the story just so she has something to do because they were too lazy to figure out how to use her. Why does Zod want her on the ship? Because if she’s not, no one knows how to send them back to the phantom zone, and they need her to be the gun toting “Lois Lane Woman of Action.” Why , after telling her and only her how to stop Zod and his minions, does Jor-El then send Lois to a possible death just to tell Superman that he can save her? When Zod shows up, why doesn’t Clark go back to the scout ship and ask holographic Jor-El what the hell he should do? Instead he talks to a priest and we get more bash you over the head “Clark is Jesus” stuff. Why is the super suit in a ship that’s been marooned on Earth for almost 20,000 years? General Zod is not sympathetic. Not in the least. He is a constantly screaming lunatic played by an incredibly bored looking Michael Shannon. He seems to be constantly straining to figure out what exactly it is he has to work with. Which is nothing. He’s genetically engineered to be who he is. He has no choice to do what he does. He wants to install himself as dictator and decide who lives and who dies. And then he screams about it some more.And if everyone on Krypton is void of choice, is genetically programmed to be who they are and do what they do, and there is no breaking of this programming as it is coded into their DNA, why do Jor-El and Lara decide to have a natural birth and how does she hide her pregnancy from all of the other people? Why are they the only ones who break the programming and go rogue? Why are they special? The genetic coding was another of many story decisions in this movie that cause more problems than they are worth. Nothing happens organically. It’s all their to serve the story and not the character. Superman Returns has it’s issue but anyone who can slam the “emo” Superman from that film and accept the “super brooding, massive emo hero” we’re given in this film is an absolute hypocrite. Also, for years people have been begging for a Superman who punches things (even though he punches lots of stuff in Superman 2) and boy did they get their punch drunk Superman. He punches everything in this movie. He punches to the point where it’s all meaningless. As more buildings fell down and more punches were thrown, I cared less and less. I was utterly bored during the climax. To make matters worse, they kept cutting away to three Daily Planet people we don’t care about and if you did care, it’s because you know who Perry White is from several decades of history, not from this movie. And none of it was original. All of the destruction was stuff we’ve seen before. It was nothing more than a Transformers movie with Superman. And after years of complaining that Superman is too powerful, we are given perhaps the most powerful and indestructible Superman we’ve ever been given. Goyer and Snyder have no love for the character and you can tell. Snyder has even stated this several times. They don’t understand him. They believe it is more important for him to be”cool” than it is for him to be who he is. There has never been anything wrong with Superman. He’s extremely relatable yet no one seems to get this. This movie is ashamed of its hero. It doesn’t like him and that is the core difference between Marvel and DC right now. Marvel loves their characters. Their movies celebrate who they are. This movie is so embarrassed by who Superman is that they won’t even refer to him by his name except to say it in the most insulting unflattering way possible. This is why they cannot get a Wonder Woman movie made, they hate her too. There are great actors in this movie and there’s a great story somewhere in all of the noise, but neither Snyder or Goyer are willing or capable of pulling that greatness to the forefront. This is a writer who, other than being involved in Batman (and guided by Nolan) has written and produced nothing but garbage. He’s been given several TV projects, none of which has made it past one season. This is the guy who wrote the David Hasselhof Nick Fury movie. He’s clueless. Half of the stuff in this movie has been done before in other Superman stories and he acts as if this is the first time we’ve seen it. In fact, this movie has the same theme and story that Superman Returns has. Both films are about a sad and lonely Superman. I was cautiously optimistic knowing who was involved in the creation of this Superman, and I was still horrendously disappointed in what we were given. I think there’s a fear that if this movie failed, it would be the final nail in Superman’s coffin. I think there’s a fear that saying this movie is what it is would be another wack at that nail. I understand liking the movie, but I do not understand referring to it as the greatest origin or the greatest Superman film, or the greatest comic book film is disingenuous and a flat-out misrepresentation of the truth. Sean Gerber Thank you very much for being a reader and listener since the beginning of the site. I am sorry to hear you were so immensely disappointed by “Man of Steel,” as I can certainly understand the feeling that comes with looking forward to a film only to walk away from a screening strongly disliking it. I generally root for all fans to be able to enjoy films about the characters we love even though it never happens and only on rare occasions do filmmakers come close to achieving positive consensus. I am not sorry, however, and instead puzzled by your greater disappointment in us for essentially having opinions on “Man of Steel” that differ from your own. You say you would have been fine with us liking the movie, even though you think it’s bad, but just can’t understand anyone raving about the film as one of the best in the genre. So we’re allowed to disagree with you, but just not too much? Regardless, disagreement over the quality of a film is hardly cause for disappointment, especially greater disappointment than the film itself, unless one has an excessive need for validation of his or her own opinion. You’ve read our reviews, obviously, and the podcast posted today provides numerous examples of why we feel the film deserves so much praise, but I appreciate you taking the time to at least articulate why you believe “Man of Steel” is a bad movie. The conversation in the podcast covers many of the issues you raised, but I’ll still respond to some of them here in hopes of illustrating why I disagree with your assessment. *** I’ll do my best to avoid specifics, but there will be some SPOILERS in the rest of this response. *** Jonathan Kent prioritizing the safety of his son should not have come as anything new, given the fact that the “Maybe” line was uttered in the second trailer last December. This, in my view, does not adversely impact Jonathan Kent’s sense of morality. He’s not trying to protect his son purely for selfish reasons. He tells Clark that the latter was put on Earth for a reason, presumably some greater good and encourages Clark to find out what that reason is. The brief speech about farming was not about making Clark dedicate his entire life to the Kent family trade. Jonathan did not feel his son was ready for the world, nor was the world ready for his son. Jonathan is not the first parent to think like that. I will concede that some additional dialogue as to how the revelation of Clark’s abilities would have been a danger to anyone besides Clark would have helped in fleshing out Jonathan’s reasoning, but I still feel it works as it is. The relationship between Clark and Lois was built up enough since there’s no implication in the film as to how serious the relationship is beyond the audience’s own assumptions of what comes next. They kiss and are presumably dating, maybe even boyfriend and girlfriend, but no one is walking down the aisle when the film ends. That eventuality is assumed because of the audience’s own knowledge of what happens with the characters in other iterations, but it was not the job of this film to get Clark and Lois there in one shot. Over the course of the film, Clark saves Lois’ life multiple times. Lois also learns all of Clark’s deepest, most emotional secrets and earns his trust by not willingly revealing any of them to anyone despite the potential for significant personal and professional gain. They also work closely with one another to combat General Zod, providing additional time and reasons to bond. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen people make out after experiencing far less together. It was a kiss and the beginning of a relationship. That part was earned; the rest will come later. Regarding your point about Lois being on the ship, remember that it is explicitly stated information was extracted from her while she was there. That is why her presence was demanded by Zod. Her escape was not intended to go badly so that Superman could save her. Lois was attacked on the way out, if you’ll recall. Your question as to how Superman’s suit was present on Earth is addressed explicitly in the podcast. I’ll refer you there for more specific information, but here I’ll point out that there was a hint as to the House of El being very involved in Krypton’s space exploration. As for Jor-El’s free-thinking despite his standard Kryptonian conception, remember that he is a scientist and (as suggested above) comes from a family of explorers. It is not out of the question for a scientist to push the boundaries of the status quo in hopes of making new discoveries for the betterment of his planet and people. In turn, that could lead to Jor-El taking the actions he took in the film. It is really no different than General Zod taking his own genetic predisposition and interpreting, or perhaps even perverting it in a way that led him to harming some of his own people. Biological engineering did not remove all independent thought from the people of Krypton, as it turns out. I’ll again refer to the podcast for multiple explanations as to how we found Zod sympathetic. At no point did I detect any hatred of the character from anyone. A small group of creative minds put together their interpretation of Superman and I don’t see them dedicating so much time and to a character they hate. I understand, but simply do not agree with your assessment of the film for all the reasons stated above, in my review, in the podcast, and more. None of these words are intended to “defeat” your points, but rather shed light on why I feel differently about “Man of Steel.” It is, in my opinion, a great superhero film and one of the best. It is the best Superman film I have seen. mrhenry24 Sean, I appreciate your response and taking the time to put so much into. The greatest thing about these characters is that we love them so much. Please allow for just a tiny retort, this is a tad bit cynical, but I can see a giant reason why a bunch of creative minds can get together and work on something they don’t quite care for and that’s a boatload of green cash money. Back to valid points, even if they suggested that the house of El was involved heavily in the exploration it doesn’t explain why the super suit was there. This happened almost 20000 years before the day Clark finds it. There wasn’t even a guarantee that Clark would find it. There was also nothing in any of the designs to suggest why it looked somewhat like the classic super suit. Everything on Krypton was void of those colors. I agree that Pa was prioritizing the safety of his son, but he is such a sad cynical man, he instilled in Clark this constant sense of not knowing what to do. He made him indecisive, he made him afraid and that’s not what parents do. They want us to buy into him being the moral compass but suggesting he let children die is a huge misstep by Goyer and Co. In the trailer the delivery is restrained, almost like he doesn’t believe it, but in the take used for the film, it comes off as if he is resolute in the belief that he should have let those kids die and that letting them die would have been right. And I can’t get past the tornado thing. This isn’t about Donner versus Snyder/Goyer but having Jonathan die of a heart attack shows Clark that with all of his powers, there’s things he cannot do. It shows him his limitations, it adds to his character. Allowing Jonathan to die makes Clark weaker. It doesn’t really teach him anything, it’s just another Jonathan tells Clark to hide scene. If they were going to go this route with Jonathan, I think it would have been a better move to keep him alive instead. Jonathan doesn’t always die, it’s not like Batman. With Bruce, you always have to kill his parents when attempting to re-boot or re-imagine because it’s the core thing that sets him on his path. The stuff they got from Lois’ head they could have retrieved from Clark. They did not need Lois. It was a ham-fisted way of getting her involved. I’ll give you the damage done to her escape pod as the reason for Superman needing to save her there, but then he has to save her again when she falls out of the plane before SVU guy flys it into the phantom zone, condemning himself and a bunch of his men including Richard Schiff to an eternity of getting knocked around by Faora (which come to think of it, might not be such a bad thing after all) I just think it blows that they felt a need to “update” the character that needed no updating, it just needed someone to give him something to do. Everybody says making Superman Returns a continuation of the Donnerverse was a mistake, but if that movie had had Brainiac or another bigger threat a bit more action, it would have made more money and we’d be seeing more Brandon Routh movies. The mistake wasn’t the connection the mistake was litterally repeating Superman the Movie instead of upping the ante. And I don’t think the Donner way is the only way. I actually re-watched the Superman the Animated Series origin episodes (which is probably the best rendition of the character that’s been done) and they are so good and so similar to this movie in some ways, it was kind of eery. Clark has trouble when his powers manifest and runs away when he learns of his true birthplace and parents. He has his emo moments but they don’t haunt him, because that’s not who he is. It’s never who he is until now when, for some reason, people don’t get him because he doesn’t punch things. He also makes mistakes when he introduces himself. He almost blasts an airplane out of the sky and has to save it and help it land. They even set up Lex perfectly. It really shows why he is such a great adversary without being a super powered being. I don’t think they really needed to change anything. They just had to tell good stories with what they had and because Singer went with another Lex land scheme, everything got screwed up. And there’s almost no room to argue that all of these changes are about him punching things. That’s what everyone complained about more than anything for the last thirty years. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy when Superman punches things but it is the least important thing about him as a character. Sean, keep up the good work and thanks for letting me have my say. We live in the golden era of geek time. It’ll never be this good again so we really need to enjoy it and get the most out of it that we can. I’m gonna listen to the podcast and disagree with your thoughts some more, but isn’t that what makes this so great? Neal I just can’t believe people are actually defending a Superman film that has Clark letting Pa Kent die for fear of exposing himself to the world. Let’s not even get into the numerous moral issues this poses for him (letting someone die when you have the power to save him). It’s incredible to me that Clark won’t save his own father from a tornado for fear of outing his super powers, but will happily and publicly trash a dumb redneck’s semi for pouring beer on him – because THAT won’t attract any attention at all I guess. Glad to hear you all’s thoughts about the film but I’m shocked to see such support for it here when there are so many obvious problems. Henry Mayer The other main problem I had with the movie is if you are going for this ultra-realistic thing…then really go with it. Have the Kents be constantly moving from town to town whenever Clark draws attention to himself. Really play up the “Superman is religious” angle some if you are going to go there. And also, “Regarding your point about Lois being on the ship, remember that it is explicitly stated information was extracted from her while she was there. That is why her presence was demanded by Zod. Her escape was not intended to go badly so that Superman could save her. Lois was attacked on the way out, if you’ll recall.” Dude, they were able extract the information from Clark. He says that. She was brought up to the ship so they could do that action scene with her. This is where I feel you are being blindly forgiving. Sean Gerber It’s not blind forgiveness, but rather a different interpretation of what happened. When Zod meets Kal-El in the dream world or whatever you want to call it, Zod already knows Kal’s Earth name and has staged the whole sequence in Kal’s hometown. How did Zod know all of that information? Zod certainly did not have this information prior to Superman and Lois boarding the ship. If he did, he would not have needed to ask the whole world to turn Kal in. This leaves us with two possibilities as to how Zod gained this information, neither of which was shown in the film, but one of which was hinted at. The first possibility is Zod picking all of the information out of Kal’s brain before meeting him in the dream world. The second and I believe more likely possibility is the information being extracted from Lois prior to Zod invading Kal’s mind. It fits with Zod opening Kal’s dream in Smallville and calling him Clark. It also fits with Lois apologizing immediately before Zod and his crew attack Martha in Smallville. Why else would Lois apologize and feel guilty unless information she knew she provided was going to be used to hurt Clark? Blind or not, there’s really nothing to forgive when the film provides a valid reason for Lois being on the ship. Jiten Hi Sean and all at MMM Been a MMM reader for a while now. Just thought I’d shed some light on my own opinions of MOS. Personally, I loved it. I do have issues with it but I feel as though the pros far outweigh the cons. Starting with the cons, I felt like parts of the film were rushed or unneeded. I think the pacing was a little inconsistent and I don’t think the flashbacks were handled as well as Chris Nolan does in his movies. I also really did not like the sequence where Clark trashes the truckers vehicle because he was being an ass. As for the pros, I love Hans Zimmer’s score. It just gives the film its own unique identity. I’ve read and heard people complaining about the story but I think the story was pretty good especially considering large parts of it dealt with Superman’s origin which is already well known to most people. I think the writers did a great job freshening things up but I will admit that it felt at times like story elements were changed just for the sake of being different and distancing this film from the previous films as much as possible. Having said that, one of the things I really love about the story which is a Chris Nolan trademark is that every character no matter how large or small is well rounded and helps drive the story. The great thing about Zack Snyder is that from a visual standpoint he gets comic book characters so well. So many sequences in this film have really great superman imagery. I definitely think this film is one of the best comic book films so far, in my opinion. I don’t feel as though its anywhere near the Dark Knight Trilogy but personally I don’t think many comic book movies are. Anyway, thanks for the great site and keep up the good work.