“Man of Steel” is of Epic Proportions but Falls Flat

June 14 saw the US release of one of the most anticipated films of the year, and the latest interpretation of arguably the most symbolic superhero of all time. Superman has defined the superhero genre and has become integral to American culture and identity, but expecting a Superman reboot to live up to this image may have been setting the bar too high. Even though Man of Steel holds the #1 spot on the box office charts, reviews have been mixed to say the least. While challenging many of the stereotypes that have come to define Superman (for better and for worse), ultimately Man of Steel takes itself too seriously, and is missing the optimistic spark that has come to define the Superman franchise.

Man-Of-Steel-Henry-Cavill-Kal_El-3

Now before I get melted by someone’s heat vision, I admit that there were some terrific aspects of this movie. I loved the Krypton lore. I’ve always longed to see more of Superman’s origins, and the scenes on his home planet were some of the film’s shining moments. Also, I think I liked Russell Crowe more than I liked Superman, and a part of me wishes the film had been a prequel and had taken place entirely on Krypton. So shoot me.

Can he be in the next "Thor" movie?

Can he be in the next “Thor” movie?

Zack Snyder, director of 300 and Watchmen, is known for his dramatic and drawn out action sequences, and Man of Steel is no exception. The visual direction was superb as always, and I can’t get enough of how exquisite Snyder’s films look. But I could tell that the theater was getting antsy when there was no break in the action. Yes Zack, there is such a thing as too many explosions, and you managed to surpass that threshold with at least an hour left of the film. My eardrums are thanking me that I didn’t see this in IMAX.

When will America’s armed forces finally learn that guns never work against aliens? And I mean NEVER work. Ever.

I have mixed feelings about General Zod (the film’s main baddie, if you couldn’t tell by his name). I appreciated the depth of his character and the legitimacy of his mission (to restore Krypton and save his people). His motives were certainly grander than anything Lex Luthor could have ever conjured up, but I just couldn’t feel any sympathy for him, considering he wanted to destroy humanity in order to achieve his goals. There were a few moments that touched on something deeper, and while it could have been worse, the fact that the entire movie was basically nonstop action involving this guy who just wouldn’t die made it hard for me not to find Zod a tad bit annoying.

Haven't we seen this before?

Haven’t we seen this before?

My feminist radar definitely went off a few times, particularly pertaining to how women in the military were portrayed. First, maybe I’m just a geek, but who doesn’t know what “terraforming” means? And even if you don’t, it’s not hard to deduce if you know your Latin roots. Why did the only woman in the room need to inquire about it in a way that made her look ignorant? Also, to add insult to injury, this was the same woman who, at the end of the film, was dumbstruck by Superman, saying (with rather poor timing) that he was “really hot.” I could sense the entire theater shifting uncomfortably in their seats as viewers around me laughed uneasily.

You shall be henceforth be known as "Tron Lady."

You shall be henceforth be known as “Tron Lady.”

All hope is not lost for women, however. Both of Clark’s mothers were each great in their own right, and I was pleasantly surprised by the character redesign of Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Lois Lane is always an idiot (see: 2006 reboot, failure to recognize the father of your child because he is wearing glasses). In this most recent interpretation, Lois is independent, and even though helpless at times (who wasn’t), for the most part she holds her own. This doesn’t mean, however, that there weren’t nauseating moments. Need I mention the line–SPOILERS–after their kiss, when Lois says something along the lines of, “They say it’s all downhill after the first kiss.” Metropolis has just been destroyed, thousands of people have died, the air probably reeks of burning flesh, and you crack a joke about a kiss? Zack Snyder, you’re not funny. Stop trying to be.

Amy Adams is adorable. Awkwardly timed dialogue? Not so much.

Amy Adams is adorable. Awkwardly timed dialogue? Not so much.

In other news, Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack does not disappoint, and his characteristically brass- and percussion-heavy score was several times the only thing carrying the action. It’s only to be expected that the Inception and Dark Knight Trilogy composer would give a darker tone to the franchise, which he has succeeded in doing without (shockingly) copy-pasting Pirates of the Caribbean themes. This man is very quickly defining film scores of the 21st century, and I don’t think I mind at all.

Visuals: beautiful.

Gorgeous.

And maybe this is because I am an unemployed recent college graduate, but I couldn’t help but wondering: how in God’s name did Clark Kent get a job at the Daily Planet? Did he ever go to college? He grew up on a farm. He was a bartender. He was on like, Deadliest Catch, or something. He’s Superman. When did he have the time to learn how to be a top-notch journalist? What are his credentials? I can accept the flying and the super strength and the x-ray vision. But this? Explain this.

manofsteelroom

Does he absorb abilities by being in close proximity to people he finds attractive?

So is Man of Steel worth the watch? I think it depends. As a Superman and comic book fan, I would say yes, if for nothing but the Krypton scenes (pro tip: forego 3D and IMAX). As a casual moviegoer who wants a feel-good superhero flick? You’re better off watching The Amazing Spider-Man or Thor (sorry DC). Don’t get me wrong; Man of Steel was nowhere near as cringeworthy as DC flops like Green Lantern. But if the company is going to compete with Marvel in the film industry, it’s going to have to do something besides ride on the success of Christopher Nolan. Unfortunately, this release means we won’t have another Superman reboot for at least a decade, and I am beginning to wonder if Superman will ever again be made accessible to the American public.

"It's not an S. On my world it means 'hope.'"

“It’s not an ‘S’. On my world it means ‘hope.'” “Well, on this planet it’s an ‘S.'”

4 responses to ““Man of Steel” is of Epic Proportions but Falls Flat

  1. I think you might be going a little rough on this movie by calling it a flop. The very reason it is dark is because Goyer’s writing is dark. It’s a literal interpretation of the series, and a liberal one. As liberal as when he wrote the Batman series. While I agree with you about the action sequences and the horrible line delivered by Lois post-kiss, I felt like this was the best superman yet. I continue to be excited by symbolism and philosophical depth that superhero movies have. Goyer’s writing is much more serious than Whedon’s in Avengers, so I think comparing the two is useless; neither is it as light-hearted as Thor or Spiderman (in comparison).

  2. I mean it’s definitely the best Superman film. The rest have always just been too campy. (Though I do still love Lois and Clark with Dean Cain.) But, yeah, I mean. I don’t regret watching it. Russell Crowe stole the damn movie for me. And honestly if I’m going to go watch a superhero film I’ll probably go watch the Avengers or a Marvel-related property. But that’s also because I have super Marvel biases. 😛

  3. I don’t disagree that it’s the most fleshed out and robust Superman movie so far, but in comparison with previous films (while I realize they are super campy), for me it just wasn’t as fun to watch. I felt exhausted when it was over. For Batman, I feel that the dark spin works, and the Dark Knight trilogy I thought had much more character development and opportunities to emotionally invest. Maybe it’s just me, but I had a much harder time connecting with this Superman and felt like the filmmakers were sending mixed signals. Was he supposed to be a rougher, world-weary Superman, or the squeaky clean superhero we know from previous adaptations? I appreciate both DC and Marvel (sorry, I worded that sentence incorrectly; I meant to say “DC flops” referring to “other” DC films…my bad), but I’m just saying that trying to recreate Batman’s success isn’t necessarily the best game plan.

    And I agree with Sam; Russell Crowe was incredible. ❤

  4. I think the point of this Superman was that Clark was always told by his father that the world wasn’t ready for him, but he wanted to help people (it’s like…natural for him because he’s obviously superior), so there was always conflict within him. It’s evident that Clark didn’t want to be noticed by taking on weird and dangerous jobs, keeping his identity secret because he knew that people would label him a freak, reject him or just crazy study him because he’s alien. I would say he’s more world-weary than squeaky clean, and definitely a diamond in the rough. But after he discovered who he really was, and the fact that Zod…the world was “ready” for a superhero, so Superman came into the picture.
    They made a big deal about hope and I think that if anything this movie conveyed just that: hope. Every time Superman was fighting, you had the hope that he would win. Hope that humanity was going to be saved. Were there bad parts that can be fixed? Of course, with all movies there is. But overall, I think this movie did a great job in rebooting the series and I’m hopeful for the next movie.

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