Home > Silver Screen > Man of Steel not stainless

Man of Steel not stainless

Spoiler Alert: This review has a lot of spoilers. Like, a lot of them.

"I appreciate you looking in my eyes when you have x-ray vision."

“I appreciate you looking into my eyes even though you have x-ray vision.”

For those who were unimpressed with Man of Steel, seemingly everyone had a different moment where they realized the movie was going to suck. For some, it was when they first saw General Zod. For others, it was the  lack of red underwear. For me, it was when I heard who was directing the movie.

While promoting Man of Steel, producer Christopher Nolan’s name has been arguably more prominent than that of director Zack Snyder. That was no accident. In order to sell tickets, they wanted the movie associated with the genius behind Inception, Memento, and the Dark Knight trilogy, not the guy who made a dumb comic into a dumb movie (300) and a weird comic into a bad movie (The Watchmen). Oh, and let’s not forget that he also directed a children’s cartoon about owls. Putting Zack Snyder at the helm ensures that the movie will look like crap, which is a problem here, but not nearly the largest one.

The film starts with Superman being conceived because, really, what great movie doesn’t begin with birthing? Unfortunately, things go to hell after that and his dad (Russell Crowe) has to steal a skull from that thing that feeds babies to the Matrix and put it on a ship with Superbaby before Krypton is destroyed. He has to hurry because General Zod decides not to let the fact that the world is going to end deter him from launching a coup. When the coup fails, the counsel wisely sentences Zod and his crew to the only place that is safe from Krypton’s annihilation, thus ensuring that the people they arrested for trying to take over the planet would then be the only representatives remaining of the planet. Aside from Superbaby, of course.

Superbaby is raised by earthly parents as their own, most likely because a kid with the strength of a locomotive is pretty damn good at plowing their cornfields. They change his name from Kal-El to Clark, probably so he wouldn’t end up on the No-Fly List. Clark has a hard time growing up in Smallville, where he is bullied for being different and is constantly worried about being found out. Eventually, his dad has “the talk” with him (“when two people love each other, sometimes an alien baby falls out of the sky and into their yard”). His dad tragically dies by getting sucked into a tornado because a) he didn’t have a pole to tie his belt to and b) Clark was under strict orders not to do anything that gives away his superhuman strength. Upset, Clark leaves town and lives as a drifter. It seems he can’t hold down a job because he has to disappear every time he’s seen using his strength to save someone.

Lois Lane discovers Clark when doing a story about a military cover-up of an alien spacecraft, but he again decides to disappear, explaining that the world isn’t ready for someone like him. Lois keeps after him, though, because she’s fascinated by a guy who can cauterize her wound with his eyeballs and also because he looks like Henry Cavill (women tell me he’s kind of attractive).

"I'll kill Superman if I have to search infinity and beyond!"

“I’ll kill Superman if I have to search infinity and beyond!”

Clark is content to live in the shadows until a spaceship shows up and threatens Earth. In retrospect, I bet the Kryptonian Council wishes that they hadn’t not only saved Zod’s life but also provided him with a means of interstellar travel. Anyway, General Zod, looking every bit like an Evil Buzz Lightyear, pulls a dick move by taking over every television channel during primetime just to deliver a message that could wait until later (I hate it when Obama does that, too). He demands that Earth hand over Superman or he’ll destroy the planet. Please, couldn’t that wait until after my sitcom is over?

So Superman boards the spaceship, along with Lois, who the aliens also wanted to kidnap because they needed an excuse to give Amy Adams more screen time (no complaints here). Things look pretty bleak, but luckily Lois uses Clark’s Superman keychain to awaken his dad’s consciousness. Russell Crowe then walks around the ship, operating the ship, warning Lois, and providing exposition in a totally believable way.

“Well, you’re in a hopeless situation here, Lois. Luckily, the ghost of your friend’s dad is here to explain everything to you and tell you how to defeat the enemy.”

“Wow, thanks, mister. It sure is convenient that you’re here to solve our problems.”

“It’s like I warned Zod: If you strike me down, I’ll become more powerful than you could possibly imagine… But I digress…”

Anyway, Superman and Lois escape the spaceship and have a battle with the Kryptonians that was roughly 40 minutes of one person throwing another person into an exploding building.  It’s basically a long live-action version of the Marvel vs. Capcom arcade game. The movie has a couple epic battles, one in Smallville and one in Metropolis. The cities may seem totally different, but one thing they have in common is that everything in the city is highly flammable. If you throw a car at someone, it explodes. If you knock a person through the walls of an office building, you leave a trail of pyrotechnics behind. Everything explodes in this these towns. The insurance premiums must be ridiculous.

Superman eventually bests Zod and the other Kryptonians, but the victory is only temporary. Zod then shows up with two spaceships and starts going Independence Day on Metropolis, zapping it with giant death rays. With Will Smith out of town guiding his son through the rainforest, Superman has to step up again. That means about another hour of Superman and Zod fyling into each other, throwing each other into buildings, and leaving explosions and cracked concrete in their wake. It’s kind of cool in the way that it’s fun to watch the Jenga pieces topple to the ground, but it gets old fast.

In short, if you’re the type of person who just wants to watch Henry Cavill’s muscles in a tight suit while he flies and cracks concrete, this movie’s for you. If you like a little more substance and a script that makes sense, stick to comic book movies that Nolan directs on his own.

  1. June 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I must admit that man was pretty to look at. I knew about 30 minutes into the movie the kids were asking me what was going on. Where was lex? Too much boom and cgi and not enough story. What the heck is it that Lois knows who Clark is?

    • June 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      I thought Lois knowing who he is was one of the few good decisions they made. She’s supposed to be a smart woman. We’re supposed to believe she works with him every day and never recognizes him because he’s wearing glasses?

      • June 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm

        No I agree that I always thought that she seemed a bit stupid, but they needed to develop that more if they were going to do it. She was awful loyal to him very quickly.

  2. June 21, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I badly wanted this movie to rock. It did rock, literally– as you said, everything was explosive and loud, loud, loud. But it didn’t rock figuratively, and I was left wistfully pining for Christopher Reeve. It’s pretty much a systemic problem with superhero movies specifically and action movies in general since the turn of the century: “let’s show how much better we can make these movies now that we have unlimited CGI… and have the postmodern-maturity to put them in dark, scaly-looking suits instead of Technicolor tights.” What these filmmakers seem to forget is that the most important thing in a movie is the STORY and that requires great writing, great acting, great directing… there’s a reason those Oscars are given out last at the ceremony, whereas Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography are early in the show or even “in an earlier ceremony.”

    I get that comic-book movies are just meant to be two hours of popcorn-binging fun, not serious; in fact they can be dreadful if they try to be too serious (see: Ang Lee’s Hulk). But part of the fun of them is the iconic nature of these characters, and why do we need to completely reinvent what people grew up loving? One can adapt Shakespeare to a contemporary setting without changing the fundamental natures of the characters or situation. I’m not saying that Superman is Shakespeare, but… Argh, I can go on and on about that. I’m still mad about J.J. Abrams’s bastardization of Star Trek (those Starfleet uniforms look scaly too– seriously, what is up with this trend?).

    Really I’m just trying to say that I totally agree you, Jeremy. Also, you didn’t work in every spoiler– there was that LexCorp truck 😉 We can hope, I suppose. With the Reeve films, II was better than I (also, this current movie was lacking for a good “Kneel before Zod!” line); Empire Strikes Back was better, etc. Just keep writing reviews and writing period! 🙂 (I should take my own advice).

    • June 21, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      I actually like J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” movies, probably because I don’t care about the source material so it doesn’t matter that these deviate so far from them. I never ceases to amaze me how a movie like this can have such a bad script, after all of those years and all of those versions by all of those different writers. I’ll bet even Kevin Smith’s Superman script was better!

      You should write a post about the scaly suit trend.

      • June 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm

        Kevin Smith would have written it better for sure. Jay and Silent Bob toking up on the streets of Metropolis… because if there was one thing this movie was lacking (OK, there were many things), it was a sense of humor. The “I think he’s kind of hot” line was much-needed comic relief.

        You’re right– do they look scaly to you, too? I think the aliens from “V” are taking over superheroes.

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