So I was gonna write a review of Man of Steel. However, there was just so much wrong with it, from the plot (what plot?!), to the mythology, to the cuts and general pacing, that I’d have to really structure my thoughts around the film first. Then I realised that I dislike the film so much that I am actually unwilling to devote more time than necessary to talking about how horrible it was. And then I saw the Half in the Bag review, and they pretty much said it all. Thanks again guys – your show is a thousand times more entertaining than the actual movie was.
Well, okay. Just a few pointers, unstructured and unreflected, in no particular order, on what I hated about Man of Steel:
(Probably spoilers ahead)
Superman didn’t do much in the way of saving people, especially not AS superman.
Sure, sexy bearded Henry Cavill traveled the world to rescue random people, but after he actually becomes Superman, he’s just involved with the military, and Laurence Fishburne can do all the saving by himself, while Metropolis crumbles. You know that famous, cliched shot of people walking slowly toward the camera, looking up at the sky with a hopeful smile? They use that a lot in superhero movies, but I connect it most with Superman. Those relieved, happy, joyful faces: “It’s Superman! He’s come to save us!” It may be really cheesy and whatnot, but it’s part of what Superman is all about! Everyone in Man of Steel who looks at the sky does so with horror due to the pending alien invasion! There is no hope, no happiness, no relief. Which brings me to my next point…
Man of Steel centers around an over-the-top, illogical extraction-blackmail-plot. “You give us Kal-El, and we leave Earth alone,” says Zod. And Earth is all like: “Sure, whatever… it’s not like we know WHO THE GUY IS OR THAT HE MEANS ANYTHING TO US.”
Seriously. How can you do a plot like this where the stakes for Earth are practically zero?! What have they got to lose? It’s not like Superman was already a beloved hero they might wanna keep… No, he’s just this random alien who’s the source of all their problems in the first place. If course they’d wanna get rid of him!
The film looks like it was specifically made for the Armed Forces. There is so much military presence and cliched military dialogue in it that at some points I forgot this was a Superman story. The entire plotline of them taking Superman “prisoner”, and him slowly earning their trust by beating up one woman in Smallville is ridiculous and pointless. Add to that the obvious Independence Day parallels. It seemed to me like the makers of this film wanted to show that “ordinary” military guys are just as heroic as the actual superhero. But seeing them trying to take on invincible aliens was boring, repetitive and tedious and took away screen-time from the actual hero.
Why was she there? She had absolutely no convincing reason to be anywhere in this movie other than for plot convenience. Remember when she was a cool reporter, an actual journalist? Now she’s just a random chick who’s crammed into every scene because… it’s Lois, she has to be there, right? Even if she fulfills no function! The “romance” between her and Clark is short and makes no sense… they have like 3 lines of dialogue together and then randomly kiss, because somehow that was necessary in the film.
Don’t get me wrong: Superman is essentially a romantic idea. He’s an ideal man other people can look up to. I’ve always loved the romance between him and Lois and the funny triangle with her, Clark and “Superman”; it was an integral part of the story! But to pack Lois and a weird, never explained love story in a film that’s basically a two-hour action film trailer just makes no sense.
The Cuts and the Pacing
This has nothing to do with the story and everything with the filmmaking. There were no transitions between scenes, nothing to let the viewer know when and where they are. The flashbacks to Clark’s childhood were just as randomly interspersed into the storyline as was everything else. Additionally, there was no real buildup of tension, and the film felt like a clip show.
Guy One and Guy Two
How many characters was I able to name after watching this film, apart from the usual cast of Superman characters? Um… there was this one guy from the Military who was kind of in charge.. and that Colonel whatshisface.. and I guess that science guy? He was the science guy, right? People referred to him as Doctor and he had glasses. Oh, and there was Jenny, the really important office worker.
Seriously, movie, what the hell? It’s like they said “meh, screw this, it’s not like anyone will care”. But I want to care! I want to know why it makes a difference when this or that person does something, and it kind of helps when I know their names and who they are. Man of Steel simply accepts that it’s full of stock characters and does not even attempt to disguise the fact. To quote Idiocracy: “And there was a time in this country, a long time ago, when […] people wrote […] movies that had stories, so you cared whose ass it was and why it was farting, and I believe that time can come again!”
What was the point again?
None of the plot makes any sense. I cannot summarise it better than that. None of it makes sense. The only thing I kinda get is what Zod wants: rebuild Krypton. But if that’s the evil, Earth-destroying option, what exactly was Jor-El’s plan? Why feed the Codex into his baby son in the first place? What was he supposed to do with it? Find another, uninhabited planet? It didn’t enhance Clark’s powers, and when Jor-El says “He will be a God to them”, we can only assume his plan was to send Clark to Earth for good? Then why bother with the Codex? Why not just destroy it?! Oh, right, because the villain needed a motivation.
A few things I liked
Okay, not everything was horrible in this movie, but nothing of it saved it much. I liked the casting of Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe; also I guess Michael Shannon was kinda cool. And I loved Henry Cavill. I think he was great as this gritty, more serious superhero. He’s got the charm and the voice for this role. Well done, all things considered (like the lack of good dialogue and reasonable plot coherence.) I also thought the entire design of Krypton was kinda cool – no more crystals, but more organic-looking. Still rather cliched though. Some of the childhood scenes were good, too. Here, they had a chance to explore Clark’s dilemma… which then had no effect on adult Clark at all. Hm.. I’m thinking really hard here and can’t think of anything else I liked. *sigh*
There is SO much more I could say here, and I already bitched about the film with friends for hours; but since Half in the Bag sums it up so well, go watch that instead. Good riddance, Man of Steel. I’ll now re-watch Superman Returns and delight in some Kevin Space awesomeness. Seriously, that film seems much better now in retrospect. Hell, even the insufferable Smallville did a better job at exploring some of Superman’s central conflicts. And that is saying a lot.