By Michael Kaye, Contributing Writer - @CaptainKaye42
March 18, 2016
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language
Welcome to the final installment of my DC/Snyder retrospective. Today, I'm going to be covering what is arguably the most divisive film to be released in the past decade, a film that has sparked numerous conversations, civil or otherwise. This was actually the movie that inspired me to become a film critic, and has introduced me to several of my favorite film-related podcasts such as (the show formerly known as) AMC Movie Talk, Schmoes Know Show and What the Flick?! The DC Cinematic Universe begins here with Man of Steel.
Here's the story. A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
I'll be honest, I was not a fan of this movie the first time I saw it. I got too wrapped up in the initial backlash, and it also didn't help that I had just finished watching all 10 seasons of Smallville, my personal favorite live action adaptation of Superman on television. But after giving the film a few more chances, I've really grown to love it for what it's trying to accomplish! Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Good god in heaven, where do I begin? How about we start with the Man of Steel himself, Henry Cavill! He's Superman, both on and off set. Yeah, how strange is it that a British actor has done the best job of capturing the essence of Superman since Christopher Reeve. Don't get me wrong, Reeve is still the gold standard, but Cavill comes damn close! Everyone else in the cast does a solid job, and we'll get to them in a moment, but Cavill is the one actor who absolutely nails it! This movie has also gotten me to change my mind about Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner, two actors I'd never really been a big fan of until recently. Costner's not completely off the hook though, as he factors into one of my negatives, but there are a handful of scenes with him and the younger Clark Kent that had me tearing up, especially when he reveals the truth to his adoptive son. Amy Adams makes a fine Lois Lane, and I really commend her character for being more proactive in the narrative, and Laurence Fishburne plays a cooler Perry White than the one in the comics. Diane Lane as Martha Kent is one of the more underrated performances, and she has some of the best scenes in the movie, helping Clark in any way she can. Finally, the two scene stealers are our main antagonists Zod and Faora, played by Michael Shannon and the stunningly beautiful Antje Traue respectively!
Zack Snyder did the best job he could bringing this story to life on the big screen! His reimagining of Krypton looks amazing, like the perfect blend of sci-fi and fantasy! The first 10 minutes alone could have made a great short film with a tragic ending, and I'd have been completely satisfied. There are many memorable scenes throughout the film, but my favorite will always be Clark's first flight! I regret not seeing this film in IMAX, but I imagine those who have were just completely blown away! And even though the fights with Zod and his Kryptonian army went on a tad too long, they were still awesome and the best attempt anyone will ever make at a live action Dragon Ball Z movie.
Let's talk about the score by Hans Zimmer. I've gone on record a couple of times to say that his best work has been in animation, especially The Prince of Egypt. Well, I still stand by that, but a close second would have to be the work he's done here! The best way to tell if the score is good is if you're willing to sit through the end credits just to hear the rest of the music, and I've done that every time I watch this movie.
The more times I see this movie, the more I've come to appreciate the world building. I'm not just talking about the nods to LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises you see on an oil truck or a satellite; I'm talking about all the seeds that have been planted, such as Kara Zor-El's abandoned pod, potential hints at Brainiac on Krypton, and Dr. Emil Hamilton having a pretty substantial role in the film. This movie clearly leaves the door WIDE open not just for a sequel, but to the entire DC Universe!
Finally, in a smooth transition between my positives and negatives, let's talk about the ending. This has been one of the various topics that is at the epicenter of all those internet debates about the film, and it's whether or not Superman should have killed Zod. Before you even tell me "Superman doesn't kill," this isn't the first time he's done it. It's happened a couple times in the comics, for reasons not that different from this movie. Also, are we just gonna forget the ending to Superman II, where we clearly see Zod falling to his death? But why is this a positive and a negative if I liked the decision? Well, that's because of the very next scene after Zod's death, which I have to admit felt a bit too jarring of a tonal shift.
One more comment I should make before I move on to the negatives, because this is important. Can we PLEASE stop holding the collateral damage against this version of Superman? For Christ's sake, he's only been a superhero for at most 24 hours, with very little proper training! How were you on the first day of your job? Probably not much better, so cut him some slack!
Now then, what didn't I like about Man of Steel? Honestly, the more I think about it, nothing I have is really that major, except for a few gripes, but they're all things that could have been fixed by a better screenplay.
First off, I was not a fan of the way Jonathan Kent went out. When Clark has super speed, it's silly that he couldn't have saved his dad AND the dog without the other people noticing. Why is it that modern re-tellings are trying to get rid of Superman's parents? He needs them to teach him kindness and compassion! Thankfully the movie spares Martha's life, and she does the best she can to be there for her son.
Second, and this is not exclusive to this movie, but can we knock it off with the Jesus symbolism please? I'm not saying religion should be out of the equation altogether; hell, it's a big part of Daredevil's character. It's just that Superman's origin is closer to Moses than it is to Jesus, though both have been known for creating miracles.
Finally, this movie is littered with far too much exposition than one can usually handle. If not for the fantastic performances, it would feel almost as painful as M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender, and NOBODY wants to be compared to that film!
Man of Steel is NOT perfect, there's too much baggage with David S. Goyer's screenplay that's weighing it down. But if you can overlook that, then it is still a fantastic superhero origin story! I can't wait to see the reaction to this review, as long as it doesn't result in another flame war. So tell me, what did YOU think of Man of Steel? Drop your comments below, and stay tuned for a bonus review of Ben Affleck's Academy Award winning film Argo, along with my taking one for the team review for the latest entry in the Divergent series: Allegiant...