It’s been a little over a week since the release of Man of Steel, Zach Snyder’s reboot of the Superman franchise, and after seeing it twice I think I’ve digested the film well enough to have firm opinions to share. This version of our friendly indestructible hero is reputed to be darker than previous incarnations, however I’d say its a bit more serious. Gone is the campiness and silly nerd humor established by the actor that set the bar for all Supermen to come, Christopher Reeve. Gone are the fantastic one-liners of our favorite villain General Zod, originally portrayed by Terence Stamp. What we have is new, fresh and exciting while paying the appropriate amount of homage to its predecessors Superman The Movie and Superman II.
Man of Steel brings a new depth to the old story. Beginning on Krypton with the first natural birth in centuries, Jor-El is faced with the tragic reality that his home planet’s core is imploding. The council disagrees with his scientific assessment but is soon brought to their knees by the insurgency of General Zod, who shares Jor-El’s view of the upcoming doom but has a widely different view as to what should be done. Zod’s insidious plot is comprised of selecting specific blood lines for salvation. Jor-El, on the other hand, believes the entire world and its people are doomed and that their only hope to preserve the race is to embed the DNA of all blood lines into his natural born son, Kal-El, who is sent to Earth to start a new. Both strategies result in the death of people. Oddly, General Zod’s strategy would have saved more Kyptonian lives. Jor-El’s strategy ensured the mistakes of the past wouldn’t be repeated. I’m sure there will be long debates as to which plan was better or worse, but I think the point was that it isn’t ok to discriminate.
Ultimately Zod kills Jor-El but is captured, tried for treason and pledges to find and kill the son of Jor-El. He and his followers are enslaved for what is supposed to be an eternity in the Phantom Zone, which is done a MILLION times better than the old compact mirror IMHO.
When we rejoin Kal-El, now known as Clark Kent, he is a drifter taking odd jobs. We’re treated to flashbacks of his youth where he was socially awkward and an outcast. Encouraged to hide his abilities by his adoptive father Jonathon Kent (played by Kevin Costner), Clark displays incredible strength and senses but is treated as a freak of nature when he unintentionally exposes his talents. He shows a real caring and concern for others as well as frustration with those around him.
In learning of an unidentified object encased in 20,000 year old ice, Clark takes a job on the excavation crew where he meets Lois Lane for the first time. The object turns out to be an old scout ship from Krypton.
Now without recaping the entire movie I’d like to point out some things that I really enjoyed as well as a couple of plot holes I think should have been reconsidered.
1) Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner gave superior performances in Man of Steel compared to Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford from the 70s-80s Superman franchise. I never liked that Superman’s parents both on Krypton and his adoptive Earth parents were so much older than him. The relationships made more sense to me, they appeared more real and sincere and the characters all had much greater depth.
2) Michael Shannon trumped Terence Stamp’s Zod. Zod had a real purpose for wanting to kill Superman and there was more than just egotistical mania to support his plot to take over Earth.
3) The parallels were very nicely done and in most cases subtle. The bus falling off the bridge, the fight between Zod and the Army in the small town, the Epic battle in Metropolis.
4) We didn’t have to deal with any goofy, cheap elements compared to the campiness of Superman II.
5) Superman wasn’t forbidden to form an intimate relationship with a human, in fact he was encouraged to do so. It was the whole point of having the codex embedded into his DNA. Brilliant! I hated that aspect of Superman II and thought the whole part about giving up his powers to date Lois was absolutely ridiculous.
6) The special effects and new visualization of Superman’s skills were effing amazing.
7) Superman was majorly built. Definitely eye candy. Loved it!
1) Too much destruction and violence. The movie relied way too heavily on CGI and could’ve used more story. They did so great with the story elements they included such as the alien invasion scene and the escape from Krypton that I know they could’ve given us more.
2) Henry Cavill and Amy Adams didn’t reach the level of performance IMHO of Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. There wasn’t a whole lot to adult Superman and Lois. This is mostly directed at Lois. Margot was so much fun and so spunky while Christopher was such a perfect goody two shoes and so handsome. It may take time to get used to these actors. Hopefully in the sequel they will get more depth.
3) If the atmosphere was such a major plot point, why could they all breathe in space? That seemed to be a big hole for me.
4) There were no epic lines.
5) I liked Ursa better than Fiora. To clarify, Fiora kicked massive ass and really outperformed Ursa, but I have an affinity to the character as my friends thought I was her doppleganger in high school. 🙂
Overall, I really enjoyed it and thought there was a lot of new details that made the story very interesting. However, I’m not a comic book reader so I really can only compare it against the previous movie franchise (let’s pretend that other reboot didn’t happen, shall we?).
My son on the other hand disliked it so much that he thought Superman II was better. I told him he should re-watch Superman II because I don’t think he properly remembers just how cheesy it was. Which we did over the weekend and he still swears it’s better.
What did you think? Tell us in the comments.