Josh and Violet give their gender biased reviews of Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill, and directed by Zack Snyder! They both start off with a relatively spoiler-free section in each of their reviews, then give their rating, followed by spoiler-filled thoughts about the movie, so be careful if you want to avoid spoilers!
Let’s preface Man of Steel with what everyone should know about this movie. This is not your Christopher Reeve campy Superman. This may be a plus or minus for people. The movie critics that are reviewing Man of Steel and even the audiences seeing it are clearly divided on this movie from my personal experience. I have a feeling this may partially be due to people’s preconceived idea of what this movie is going to be about, and either being disappointed it isn’t “Superman” or overjoyed because it is a new take on the icon hero of American culture. My movie review of Man of Steel will be of the latter leanings, which I will get into below. Keep in mind while I will not try to spoil the big plot moments of the movie, if you want to walk into this movie with a blank slate, I would come and read this after you see the movie, and see how your feelings compare to my review.
The movie opens on Krypton, with Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife (Ayelet Zurer) having their child Kal-El (also known as Clark Kent or Superman for those who do not know). For those familiar with the Richard Donner film from 1978, the parallels certainly exist between the two movies, especially within the Kryptonian portion of the film. While the technology of 2013 has improved movies’ look since 1978, the feeling is very similar to the 1978 film. What is great about Man of Steel is that we get a lot more out of the back-story of Krypton, as well as Zod (for those who do not remember, the opening of Richard Donner’s Superman begins with sentencing of Zod for his coup that he attempted to lead). Russell Crowe plays Jor-El very well, I thought, as he deals with the events that lead to eventual arrival of Kal-El on Earth.
Immediately following the events of Krypton, we meet Kal-El as an adult. This film is a much more “gritty” take on Superman’s life, but Zack Snyder has made it just as inspiring as the “original” Superman story. Kal-El is working odd jobs, and we see him in several instances save humanity as an “Average Joe” that happens to have superpowers, meaning, without the blue tights and cape. He wanders job to job, trying to figure out where he belongs. What I thought was amazing about this film, was the integration of Clark’s childhood into his adult life. Rather than simply chronologically spell out his history, the film opted to provide important, life-changing snippets of this past, when they made sense for Clark in the present. I felt these moments were much more emotional for the film when we see how these events make Clark who he is today.
Clark/Kal-El eventually comes across Lois Lane (Amy Adams), on one of his many odd jobs, which is at a military camp that is investigating an anomaly in the ice. These events lead to begin what leads to the eventual transformation to the hero we know, and the confrontation between him and Zod’s forces, the remnants of the Kryptonian race.
Overall, I would give this movie a 9 out of 10. It has been my favorite movie this summer without a doubt, and is the best Superman movie by far. This is the first movie felt emotionally tied to for a while, and my favorite scenes actually turn out to be the young Clark scenes more than any of the action scenes. This movie is not without its faults though. The “obligatory” forced romance between Lois and Clark did not really work for me.
At this point in the review, I feel I need to delve deeper into the film for discussion, as not being able to reference specific events for the sake of spoiling the movie makes it hard to discuss the merits and flaws of this movie. Continue reading at your own risk!
The biggest complaints regarding this movie that I have heard, is that this movie does not feel like Superman. I would counter this argument with that they are correct—this is not a Superman. To elaborate on this, I felt this story is a “prequel” to the Superman we know. In this “iteration” of Superman, he has not really chosen to be Superman. He has been forced to be Superman due to the circumstances at hand. This is true for the early parts of Clark’s life as well in Man of Steel. Each of the catastrophes he is a part of (Clark sure is bad luck, isn’t he?), I feel Clark felt it was his duty to save these people because he could. While on his journey to find himself, he inadvertently causes the events that lead to the invasion of Earth by Zod, thereby being forced to defend Earth.
Now, many people would argue that this is not Superman’s story, and to that, I agree. However, I do not believe that anyone wakes up one day, and out of the blue decides to be a hero fighting for “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. There has to be some sort of catalyst for this to happen. Zod was this catalyst on a grand scale.
Another complaint that many people have about this movie is Man of Steel’s portrayal of Superman as having no regard for human life or property with the massive destruction of buildings that likely led to many deaths, and that Superman should have figured out how to get Zod’s soldiers out of the city. To this, I would say that Superman has been Superman for about five minutes before he had to figure out how to deal with a good half dozen beings that are equal in strength to him. He has had no “Superhero training”, and being thrust into such a chaotic situation, he may not make the optimum decisions. He had to do the best with what he could come up with on the fly, as a “green” Superhero.
Now as far as Superman’s lack of regard for people and structures, I watched the movie two times, and the second time I specifically watched what Superman did to purposefully cause destruction, or at the very least had inadvertently caused destruction through his own retaliations to Zod and company. There were exactly two moments that this had happened. The first is when Superman senses his mother is in danger, and he drives Zod through a few buildings (including the IHOP we see several times in the movie). I can certainly see people’s annoyance with this scene. I would say again, he is not quite a “hero” yet, and that he had let his emotions get the best of him here. The “true” Superman would have played this smarter, and flown his mother out of there. The one other instance of Superman’s destruction is during the fight with Zod, when he shoves Zod’s body against the side of a building. Other than these two scenes, all other damage was caused by Zod and his soldiers, whether hitting Superman into buildings or them simply attacking humanity.
As for killing of Zod, that is another touchy point, as I feel this is a rather weak reason to have a problem with the movie. In Superman 2, Superman killed all three Kryptonians by tossing them down whatever pit was in the Fortress of Solitude, and I am not aware of any fallout from this movie. Also, in Man of Steel, Superman does not make this decision lightly, and he did not have much of a choice in the matter. Within the context of the movie, Superman had no means to detain Zod, and death would be the only method to stop him. I suppose Zack Snyder could have rewritten this ending and left some “out” for Superman to lock him away in the Phantom Zone, but in my opinion, the killing of Zod worked. Superman had that emotional response at the end, showing the audience, that he did not want to do what he had done.
To wrap up this fanfare of Man of Steel, I feel there is one major flaw in the movie that really bothered me at the end. This is Clark/Superman’s lack of remorse regarding the destruction that his fights, his fault or not, caused. In the sequel this needs to be addressed, otherwise, I feel that the previous points I have made defending this movie would be invalidated. At the end of Man of Steel is when I feel Superman is actually becoming the hero we know, that fights for “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. In order to make this full transformation, I feel that Superman needs to acknowledge the flaws he had in his saving of humanity, and genuinely feel the weight of the death and destruction.
I think the best way for this to be handled in the next movie, would be to begin the movie sometime before his employment at the Daily Planet, with him having conversations with people close to him, namely Lois and his mother, and his coming to terms with the aftermath of the first movie. His entrance into the Daily Planet would then finalize Clark’s transformation into the Superman we ”know”.
The one last thing I would like to wrap up is with my sentiment for this movie. I feel Man of Steel is a much more realistic take on the journey of Superman as a superhero. This is a movie about Clark Kent discovering himself as Superman, more than Superman saving the day. The huge action scenes of destruction and mayhem all feel secondary to me, and the real story is his journey to Superman, which I hope is taken care of properly in the next movie.
Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill (Immortals) as Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, and Amy Adams (Enchanted) as Lois Lane, is a complete reboot of the Superman franchise. The film was written by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), and directed by Zack Snyder (Watchmen).
Before I start my review, I must preface it with the fact that, although I grew up being a Superman fan, and I know I had seen all of the Christopher Reeve movies as a kid, I didn’t realize just how little of those movies I remembered until I watched all four of them recently, in preparation for seeing Man of Steel. I also remember seeing Superman Returns and liking it, but not loving it. Then there’s all those really old Superman cartoons I watched as a kid. You know, those ones that were on those video tapes that had about 50 other cartoons on it? I also must tell you that I never watched Smallville. Although I wanted to, I just never got around to it. So I have come to the conclusion that what most influences my opinion of what Superman “should” be, and what sticks in my mind the most out of any other Superman-based show or movie is Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, starring Dean Cain as Clark Kent/Superman and Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane. I know, I know, most of you would consider this sacrilege. But that was one of my favorite shows growing up, and apparently left quite a mark on my impressionable 4th through 7th grade mind. When you also consider the fact that Lois and Clark was primarily written by a woman (Deborah Joy LeVine), and that I am a woman, that gives you a context of how I view the Superman universe. So, on with the review.
We start off in Krypton with the birth of Kal-El (who will later become Clark Kent), and quickly move into what Superman fans will recognize from the first two Christopher Reeve movies: Jor-El (Kal-El’s father, played by Russell Crowe) trying to convince the council members of Krypton’s impending doom, the council not having it, and General Zod trying to stage a revolution against the council members. However, in Man of Steel we get much more of a context than we did in the Christopher Reeve movies, as we get to see much more of Krypton and gain more of an understanding of what that world was like — and it looks completely different from the ice crystal world we saw in the original movies. We get a brand new mythology for the history of Krypton. Of course, Jor-El and his wife’s decision to send their son in a space shuttle to Planet Earth is the same, as is the council’s judgment to banish Zod and his accomplices, although now that computer graphics have improved they are not placed into some sort of cheesy looking mirror.
Cut to 33 years later, and we see a grown up Kal-El/Clark Kent working several different odd jobs, trying to figure out who he is and what he wants to do with his life. Along the way we get flashbacks to his childhood and adolescence, as he struggles with discovering his powers and trying to control them, and getting a sense of how much he feels like an outsider. His mother, Martha Kent, played by Diane Lane (Untraceable), and especially his father, Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams), try to guide Clark in his journey of self discovery, reminding Clark of the power that he holds and cautioning him about how the world might react if they ever found out about him.
Inevitably, just like the original Superman movies, Zod finds his way to Earth, which leads to the ultimate showdown between him and Kal-El.
The first time I saw the movie, I was a little upset by some of the changes that were made. In the interest of keeping this part of the review spoiler-free, I won’t say exactly what those changes were right now. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed and was quite into the movie the whole way through, but by the time it got to the end, I felt a bit disappointed. I did not like the way that Lois and Clark’s relationship was portrayed, and I felt like the incident that occurred involving Jonathan Kent could have been handled so much differently and better. I’m not going to sit here and nit-pick every single little change, because sometimes change is good, but I felt like a fundamental aspect of the Superman story was taken away, and it can never be gotten back now. Additionally, I felt like Clark acted with complete disregard for human life at times, while other times trying to save a single person here or there, which was very conflicting. However, after watching the movie a second time, I watched closely for certain things, and I can forgive some of the destruction that occurred, as much of it was Zod’s fault, and Clark could not have prevented a lot of it. But there is still one particular scene of destruction that I can fault him for, and that I feel was unnecessary by the moviemakers, that could have easily been avoided.
Aside from the storyline, I must comment on the acting, which was superb. Every single actor was amazing. Henry Cavill fits the role of Superman perfectly. Oh, and as a female I can’t forget to mention his super buff muscular body! But I digress… The casting of the child and middle school aged Clarks was spot on, as they looked like they could be brothers!
However, one thing that really bothered me was the Kryptonian use of some sort of mercury looking substance to portray images, rather than being able to see true-to-life type images. Some of the use is a bit comical, as it looks quite fake. You’d think that if they’re so technologically advanced, they’d be able to have something that looked more realistic than that, especially when you see the very realistic, lifelike image of a certain person later on in the movie. It’s very hard to reconcile one with the other.
After seeing the movie the second time, and realizing how much I enjoyed it from beginning to end (despite a few minor annoyances here and there, and my one major annoyance I’ll get to at the end of my review), I am going to rate the movie higher than I first instinctually wanted to rate it, because I don’t want to let one aspect that I feel is a personal viewpoint that I hold about Superman to dictate how I felt about the movie as a whole. Oh, before I forget, I also must applaud the music, which was not the classic music by John Williams, but original music by Hans Zimmer. It was quite amazing and very inspiring.
Without further ado, here is my rating: 8.5/10
***SPOILER ALERT*** Only keep reading if you have already seen the movie or don’t mind reading about the main thing that I didn’t like about it. You have been warned.
Okay, so you know how I mentioned that I’ve come to the conclusion that the TV show Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman has had the biggest influence on what I think Superman “should” be? Well, here’s where that comes in. So I’m watching the movie and seeing that Lois Lane is working at the Daily Planet. Okay, that’s fine, and fits right in with the story. But then I realize Clark is out gallivanting on his odd jobs, and I’m wondering, hmm, so when does Clark begin working at the Daily Planet? Then you go through the movie, and you can see that Lois and Clark have a bit of chemistry that’s building up. Finally, we get past a big fight scene where much of the city is destroyed, and then Lois and Clark decide to share a kiss??!? Um, awkward!! Very weird, inappropriate timing. I really think that kiss should have been saved for a future movie. But even that is not what makes me angry.
At the very end of the movie, that is when Clark starts working for the Daily Planet, and he is “introduced” to Lois Lane. It’s like, wait, whoa, what, NOW he’s going to work for the Daily Planet?! But Lois ALREADY KNOWS THAT HE’S SUPERMAN!!! I guess Lois and Clark has somehow ingrained this idea into my head that Lois needs to fall in love with Clark because she likes Clark for Clark, and BEFORE she knows that he’s Superman, before she knows he has any special powers. But she and Superman have already kissed, and she already knows that Clark is Superman when he shows up for work that first day. I feel like a big part of the Superman story is the romance that develops between Lois and Clark/Lois and Superman, and Lois putting the pieces together to figure out that Clark is Superman. But I feel robbed of that now. Just like Lois said, since they’ve already kissed (a VERY BADLY TIMED, OUT OF PLACE KISS), it’s all downhill from there. Now they can never build up the suggestion of a romance between Lois and Clark specifically, versus Lois and Superman, and she can never fall in love with Clark the reporter, rather than Clark the superhero. Also, half the fun of Lois not knowing he’s Superman is seeing Clark make up random excuses of where he’s going or where he’s been.
Anyway, that is my rant. I’ll just have to accept that this is the way that it’s going to be in the sequels. Hmm, unless Clark can pull that forgetting trick on Lois like he did in the original movies…