This was probably the movie I was most excited for this summer. It was also the movie I was most worried about. I really wanted it to be good. The people behind it were usually good film makers, but a lot of their work didn’t necessarily feel like it would translate into a good Superman movie. I’ve now seen it twice. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it also didn’t fall as far as I feared. Man of Steel isn’t a very good Superman movie. It’s also not much of a superhero movie. But it was a really good Sci-Fi movie. It isn’t the movie I necessarily wanted, but I found it to be wholly worthwhile.
Man of Steel chooses to almost ignore the superhero side of Superman, focusing instead on his science fiction origins. It is not a bad track to take with what is essentially Superman Begins. It is about the failure of Krypton, and the efforts of its last sons to try to help the doomed planed live on. It is about the always alienated Clark trying to find out where he comes from. It is not about Superman being Superman. This is a big sticking point, that and some moments that many Superman fans would consider out of character. While I definitely had some problems, I really liked MoS’s portrayal of Krypton. The opening scene reminded me of the Animated Series’ scenes on Krypton. Zod is usually a boring villain (how many times have we seen space Hitler?) but he has just enough of a good cause here to be interesting. Superman always feeling like an alien messes with the central premise of Clark adopting Earth as his home, but it is, for better or worse, a more realistic take on what his early life would have been like.
It is not a movie without fun or without hope like many reviews have said, but it is an all too cynical take on the greatest superhero. This movie’s Superman is told by Jor-El, a recurring problem, that he is to embody hope, but for the bulk of the movie he seems to have none himself. I think he learns to be the Superman we all know and love by the end, but the journey is a little sloppy. The writers seemed to have some notes that they absolutely wanted to hit, but maybe cut some corners to hit them. SPOILERS. I am speaking specifically of Jonathon Kent’s death and Clark killing Zod. While the central point of these scenes are both solid, Clark showing his father he trusts him by letting him die and Clark being forced to kill Zod, I don’t think they were very well executed. The tornado scene had many odd things, like having everyone hide under an overpass, which is a terrible idea. And Clark could have likely saved his dad with no more explanation needed than they were both lucky to survive being caught in a tornado. They also did not establish that he had no other option than to kill Zod. Other than Zod saying it there was no reason to believe that it was the inevitable outcome. A situation could have been set where it was inevitable, but Snyder and Goyer did not do so.
Still, there is much to like. Amy Adams is pretty great as Lois, and while her romance with Clark is rushed, it works. All of Clark’s parent’s do a really good job. While I wasn’t happy with a lot of his advice, you could really feel Costner’s Kent’s love for his son. Henry Cavill does good work with little material. And Zod is suitable villainous and tortured.
Man of Steel is a flawed take on Superman, a flawed movie in general, but in the end it is still a really good movie. Hopefully, it is used as the foundation for some great ones.