As per my signature review feature, let me give Man of Steel a more accurate name: Lifetime Presents: Collateral Damage, the Story of Dragging Your Face Through a Building or Two. I can also give the camera guy a new nickname: Seizure Boy.
Suffice to say, I was not wholly impressed by Man of Steel. Matter of fact, I’m pegging the movie below RottenTomatoes’ score of 56%- I’m saying 3/10, at best. I honestly think I might have like Superman Returns better, and that movie sucked the suck! There are a number of things that were wrong with this movie- from plot, to cinematography, to the action, really just everything. It’s difficult to pick where to begin, but I suppose that the plot is as good as any.
The plot really made no goddamned sense. There’s nothing particularly special about the plot they showed us- it’s the same plot that every other Superman movie in the last three decades has had, only with a different origin enemy. Start with Krypton, shoot Kal off into the distance, blah blah blah. Lands in Smallville, raised as Klark Kent, slowly but surely grows into a superhuman, sun radiation, etc. etc. The big twist comes with the major enemy of the Movie, Zod, killing maybe 1/3 of Metropolis, but let’s face it, this was also really, really boring. Why? Comes down to the largest problem with Superman- thanks to 1950’s writers, Superman literally faces no challenges in the superhero business. Why? All Superman really needs to do to defeat Zod is punch him in the face repeatedly until Zod’s body caves in. Thanks to being an Achilles clone, Superman has no weaknesses in combat! Drag his face through 20 buildings? Not even scuffmarks! Superman is far, far too badass to even be fazed by any attack.
This brings me to the second issue with Man of Steel- they haven’t changed Superman at all. The potential for failure is what makes a superhero interesting- the act of facing difficult odds and overcoming them is what draws us, the viewers, in. Look at any of the most successful superhero movies in the past- I’m talking Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Kick-Ass. Any and all of these movies have characters who are capable of failure, characters who actually have something to lose. In particular, look at Watchmen, specifically at Dr. Manhattan. There’s an analogous character to 1950’s Superman- a being so powerful that he eclipses humanity in its entirety. Where 1950’s Superman is perfect in every form- perfect body, superpowers, and a humanitarian, Dr. Manhattan is a deeply flawed character who struggles with his growing detachment from humanity and although he possesses near infinite power, still cannot save those whom he loves. Now, when I started watching Man of Steel, I saw some excellent potential to draw Superman away from being his very own deus ex machina to being a flawed being, someone with imperfect moral or physical attributes. However, the decision to change Superman must have been either rejected or legally difficult, and lo and behold, Clark Kent remains the same person, the same invulnerable superhero he was in the 1950’s. He was a revelation 60 years ago, but he isn’t interesting in the modern age.
Third on my list is the action. While the action is one of the more enjoyable aspects of Man of Steel, I did have a big hangup with it. There are maybe four decent action scenes in this movie, and they are basically the same scene over and over again. Superman finds an enemy. Superman punches his enemy in the face. Superman’s enemy kicks Superman through a building. Superman drags enemy’s face across a few buildings. Enemy picks Superman up and slams him into the ground. A fighter jet will then shoot somebody/everybody a lot, but fuck your fighter jets, they hold no power here! Then, in every scene but the last one, the enemy sparta kicks Superman through a building and runs away. (In the last scene, Superman sparta kicks the enemy through a building instead. Character development!) Even when I wasn’t watching Superman do the same things over and over again, the Man of Steel editors suffer from a condition I like to call, “Action Seizure Syndrome,” or, for short, you can call the editors a bunch of ASSholes. Someone looked at pretty much every action scene and said, “you know what will make this scene more exciting? If we pretend the camera was an earthquake!” This induced mass vomiting across the entire theater and thoroughly ruined any enjoyment I might have had from Superman dragging Zod’s face across the entire goddamned planet.
In a nutshell, the things I didn’t like about Man of Steel were the story, the main character’s personality, the main character’s powers, and the action scenes. This doesn’t exactly leave a lot of the movie left, but I did manage to find a couple of things about the movie I did manage to like. First off, I want to give some kudos to Russell Crowe for being the single most engaging character in the entire movie. Basically, Superman isn’t going to be winning any awards, well, ever, but Russell Crowe should get a best supporting actor because GOD DAMN that man is fantastic in this movie. Basically, all the scenes where Russell Crowe was the main character on Krypton, that was the best part of the movie! It was action-filled, it was engaging, and it really got me interested in his character, his wife’s character, and Krypton in general. Zod was a scary enemy and the revolution was a wicked cool action scene. In fact, now that I think about it- check out this trailer. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll realize that more than half of the visuals and dialog from that epic-looking trailer are secretly from that first 20 minute period on Krypton. Unless your first 20 minutes are like Up’s first 20 minutes, you should never aim for that chunk of the movie to be better than the rest of the movie combined.
Additionally, I would also like to tip my hat to Christopher Meloni for being a total hard-ass in this movie- “You were right- a good death is its own reward!” Good times.
Anyways, got to jet.