"Man of Steel" is the reboot to the Superman film franchise and it serves as an origin story for the titular character, an alien, Kal-El with incredible superpowers who is sent to Earth by his parents right before the destruction of his home planet, Krypton. This leads to Kal-El struggling on how he's going to live his life among humans as well as eventually going up against General Zod, another Kryptonian dedicated to wiping out the human race and restoring Krypton. This movie is directed by Zack Snyder, produced by Christopher Nolan, and it stars Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Laurence Fishburne.
OK, we all know this movie's reputation as one of the most divisive movies to be released in recent memory. It currently holds a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes and movie critics have pretty mixed feelings on the film with general movie-goers either loving or hating it, as well as Superman fans thinking it's either the perfect representation of the iconic hero, or a blatant insult to the source material and ultimately ruining the character all together. So what do I think? Well... I actually like this movie a lot. Yeah, I'm one of those people who has to dodge rocks whenever I mention liking this movie, as well as bringing up some of the double standards that some people appear to show whenever bringing up criticisms with this movie.
To start off, I actually really liked how this movie's non-linear storytelling helped to show us who Kal-El is while going under the guise of Clark Kent, both as a child and adult. The movie occasionally jumps back and forth between important events in Kal's life and it's these moments that, in my opinion, give us the character development we need for this character. It was interesting to see a character like this given his own moral code of not showcasing his powers, but also struggling with the fact that he more or less had this code forced upon him by his human father, played by Kevin Costner. We actually have a depiction of Superman that's much more grounded and human in his internal struggles despite his grandiose, out of this world abilities. This arc is furthered when his real father, Jor-El, (Russell Crowe) gives him reason to show off his powers and use them for the greater good. These two morals given by two father figures was very interesting to watch and I think it made Superman a genuinely relatable character in this movie.
I also liked all of the performances in this movie, Henry Cavill not only looking the part of Superman, but also forming that sense of likablity and naivety associated with someone in his situation. Crowe and Costner are both great as Superman's father figures, Amy Adams is typically good in her role as Lois Lane, and I even really liked Michael Shannon's performance as General Zod, which leads me to another strength in this movie, the villain.
I've heard many people say that Zod isn't a very memorable or interesting villain, and some will even go as far as to say that his commander, Faora, was a better villain than him. Faora is a cool antagonist in the sense that she kicks a lot of ass, but I personally feel that Zod has more going on in terms of an actual character. When it all comes down to things, Zod is one of those things who doesn't even see himself as a bad guy. With how Krypton's breeding system works, Zod was literally bred and designed to protect Krypton's best interests and with his plan to transform Earth into Krypton, he's simply doing what he was destined to do. His means of achieving it are obviously genocidal and antagonistic, but it's just him doing what he feels he needs to do. He genuinely cares about his home planet and his people, but he ended up being driven insane with rage and murder because of it. That's why I feel Zod worked very well as a villain.
Another big criticism this movie gets is that there's too much action and not enough of the character moments that further develop the story. I'll agree that there are times when the action can be too overwhelming, but I personally feel that there are enough good character moments to make this movie more than just mindless explosions. Clark Kent has plenty of well done moments with his human parents, and Kal-El's interactions with Jor-El added some heft to the events at hand. But regarding the action, here are my thoughts on it.
This is truly the first time we get to see Superman fight in grand fashion on the big screen and the Smallville fight scene is a great example of that. You have Superman going up against Faora and a giant sub-commander Kryptonian and it's a very fast-paced, exciting scene full sequences with Superman's abilities at play whether it be super speed, flight, or heat vision. It's all a spectacle to watch and it was one of the more well done action sequences in the film in my opinion, as is Superman's final showdown with Zod in the middle of a destroyed Metropolis. (yeah, two aliens fighting results in destruction and mayhem. Not exactly something critics should be shocked about)
However, once the movie begins its third act is when some of the film starts to get a little bloated in its action. The prime example of this is when Superman flies to the Indian Ocean to destroy one part of the world engine and he gets in a drawn out battle with these weird Doctor Octopus tentacles. While all of that is happening, we also have a wasted sequence with Perry White and two other journalists stuck in the middle of the terraforming process, trapped under rubble and facing imminent doom as they're about to be killed by the world engine. The problem is that we have absolutely no reason to care about these characters considering they've been nothing more than glorified extras for most of the film. The entire sequence of the terraforming and the world engine being destroyed felt like some stuff could've been left on the drawing table. And not only that, but the third act does become a bit rushed in that we have one scene with Superman killing Zod and mourning it, (believe me, I'll talk about that soon enough) to a happy scene with Superman cracking jokes while a female soldier comments on how hot he is. The pacing was off in that sense and it could've easily been cleaned up with more editing.
And now, the moment in the movie that's created nothing but controversy with some people defending it and others using it as a valid reason as to why they think this movie sucks, and that moment would be General Zod's death. Long story short, Zod is about to kill a family with his heat vision and Superman basically snaps his neck to put a stop to not just the death of a family, but Zod's intent on killing all humans in general. I personally think Zod's death scene was a strong point in the film as well as a strong point for Superman's character. He himself had to make the decision of killing off the one remaining member of his race as well as the reminder of his home, while simultaneously learning the value of human life, possibly even having an effect on him in "Dawn of Justice". This is one of those moments in the movie where I honestly don't understand the criticism behind it. The most common argument is "Superman doesn't kill", but that's just not true. I've seen plenty of comic clips in which Superman willingly takes a life, and let's not forget when Superman kills Zod in 1980's "Superman II". Superman drains Zod of his powers, leaving him defenseless, and then intentionally throws Zod down a pit to his death only to smile about it and crack a cheap one-liner afterwards. That's apparently OK for Superman purists, but Superman regretfully snapping a neck and mourning it afterwards while showing how much it effected him? Well now Zack Snyder has just gone too far; give me a break.
And with other stuff shown in this movie such as small glimpses of the LexCorp symbol and even a small look of the Wayne Enterprises logo, it's all the more interesting to see given that they're actually hinting at bigger things in this planned DC Cinematic Universe. This movie is the genesis of said universe and I honestly feel this movie did a good job of telling its own self-contained story without relying too much on setting up future films.
Overall, I think "Man of Steel" is a solid origin story for Superman and a very enjoyable start to the new DC universe. I like the take on Superman, most of the action is very fulfilling to watch, the performances are all very good, and it's truly a technical marvel in terms of stuff like Hans Zimmer's amazing score and Snyder's ability to direct exciting action scenes. I don't think this movie is the terrible pile of shit that some people make it out to be; I really enjoying watching this movie and I think it's a solid way to kickoff the answer to Marvel's shared universe, as well as a great way to prepare for the upcoming "Batman v Superman" film.
Rating: Full Price!