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How ‘Man of Steel’ Makes Every Other Superman Movie Look Like an Indie

How 'Man of Steel' Makes Every Other Superman Movie Look Like an Indie

The opening minutes of “Man of Steel” depict a very expensive world. Krypton, the ill-fated planet that even people who actively avoid pop culture recognize as Superman’s birth place, comes alive in the prologue of Zack Snyder’s snazzy update with some of the finest special effects this side of “Avatar.” A single virtual camera pan across Krypton’s golden vistas reveals an intricately defined fantasy land filled with remarkable details: braying alien livestock, towering structures and airborne spacecraft instantly define a Krypton unlike anything achieved in 80 years of comics, movies, TV and videogames, but the story can’t keep up. Instead of making a blockbuster Superman movie, Snyder has turned the Superman narrative into yet another modern day blockbuster.

Impressive in parts, scattered and blandly familiar in others, “Man of Steel” attempts to rejuvenate its hero with a whole lot of big ideas stuffed into a dense assemblage that alternates between visual wizardry and complicated non-linear plot ingredients, some better than others. However, in contrast to the Richard Donner films that practically invented the guidebook to superhero movies, “Man of Steel” is practically a reinvention of the Superman mythos. The earlier entries in the franchise enlivened the character with genre elements like comedy and romance that — as with Joss Whedon’s delightful “The Avengers” last year — balanced off the demand for extreme spectacle. Even Bryan Singer’s unfairly maligned 2006 take, which bored audiences who obviously wanted a more explosive good time, nobly placed the colorful nature of Superman’s plight ahead of the action.

“Man of Steel” takes a more self-serious approach, constructing a sullen tale involving Superman’s emerging commitment that (perhaps due to producer Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” influenced hand) almost never cracks a smile. Superman’s inviting persona has even been drained from the title. Here, the dreary atmosphere underscores unremitting commitment to a brooding storyline that creates the illusion of meaning behind the abundant CGI. Unlike its predecessors, it would be impossible to imagine “Man of Steel” without the excessive production values, which start to take hold after the unquestionably compelling first hour and eventually subsume other, more promising ingredients hinted at during that time. At first, “Man of Steel” attempts an outstanding fusion of pricey imagery and narrative finesse. By the end, Henry Cavill’s subdued performance in the lead role is the sole element of restraint left onscreen.

While certainly the most dazzling Superman movie to hit the big screen, the 143-minute “Man of Steel” is also one of the longest, and it only justifies that heft because it leaves room to keep the effects coming. David Goyer’s screenplay establishes a high stakes showdown between Superman and the menacing General Zod (Michael Shannon on autopilot, his creepiness downgraded to a half-interested scowl), another surviving Kryptonian whose emergence from prison following the planet’s destruction leads him to try and destroy Earth in the hopes of making room for a new Krypton.

In the early scenes, Zod is revealed to have murdered Superman’s dad, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), in the days leading up to Krypton’s demise. But it’s not clear if Superman ever learns this from the digital remnants of his father who trains him in his arctic headquarters some 33 years later. When Zod shows up, he’s just a bad guy that Superman must stop against impossible odds. 

READ MORE: The Playlist Reviews “Man of Steel”

That’s a reasonable conundrum for this type of overly familiar fare, but the movie arrives there after establishing an especially intricate scenario in which the naturally intrepid reporter Lois Lane (a decently assertive Amy Adams) discovers Superman’s secret and decides to sit on the story while he figures out his origin. Superman’s own upbringing down south at the hands of amiable foster parents (a bland Kevin Costner and underutilized Diane Lane) unfolds in several flashbacks that elaborate on the challenges the young Clark Kent faces in keeping his powers to himself. The movie attempts the clever trick of telling both these stories at once with an overlapping structure that would make the creators of “Lost” swoon, but it’s still an excessively dreary affair that lacks any sense of Superman’s personality. Instead, he’s just another fancy effect from Snyder’s bag of tricks. It’s easy to get swept up in the rollercoaster of buildup, but the climax is just a yawn.

But, oh, that bag of tricks. “I can’t print this,” Louis’ trenchant editor (Laurence Fishburne) says after receiving her first draft of her unpublished Superman scoop. “You could have hallucinated half of it.” When “Man of Steel” comes to a close, viewers can relate. And once they come back down to Earth, perhaps warmer memories of the Supermen no longer considered viable will come rushing back. In “Man of Steel,” Superman never suffers from exposure to fragments of Kryptonite. His single weakness — and the movie’s, after promising earlier bits drop off to make room for the extravagant conclusion — is depth.

Criticwire grade: C+

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C+ is actually pretty generous considering how horrible this atrocity of a superhero movie was.


fingers crossed!!!!!

raphael gouthier

Great review. It somehow is and most certainly believable compared to previous reviews I read. And not to sound mean or anything I dont need a movie review to tell me whether or not I should watch this film. once i feast my eyes on this film i will make my own assessment.


I doubt half the reviewers actually saw the movie. People whoever never saw the movie join the bag-wagon. Obviously no one is comic fan on this site. Superman lost his red tights since 52 reboot for good reason. No reason for him to wear underpants on outside. Every comic had changed this stupid look on all their super heroes (sorry folks but underpants doesn't make them more heroic just stupid looking just saying).
I will see for myself on the movie. As for reviewer, I doubt he even read Superman comics to even comment on Superman. A lot of Reviewers are just fanboys of Marvel or just hate Superhero movies so they put false reviews. Movie is not officially out until today. I doubt reviewers were at all those special showing of Man of Steel.


Haven't seen the movie yet but good job sticking it to that idiot below. It always amazes me how Nietzschean concepts bring these morons out of the woodwork – you dispensed with him nicely.


This film distorted and icon with no specific purpose. Great review.


Agree with you 100%. Excellent review


It's the costume that kills me. He just doesn't look like superman. I like the way the guy looks, he has a cool look to him and it makes me want to give the movie a shot (I'm not really gay, but comfortable enough with my sexuality to say that) but then I see him in costume and I'm like, nope, never mind. This whole nitty gritty comic book superhero thing worked with batman because the darkness was there already, submerged by years of bad TV and Comic Book adaptations sure, but there, and waiting to be exploited. Superman though, is a shiny super hero ideal super human, that is the whole point of his character. I haven't seen the movie so I can't comment on how faithful it was to him on that level, but looking at him it makes me think hollywood has just done it again.

That aside, don't worry if people say your movie sucks fans, all Hollywood movies suck (gasp! it's true, just accept it). Hollywood movies generally suck hard, the batman films, with the exception of the Dark Knight, all sucked, the spider man films sucked, Iron Man and the Avengers didn't try to aspire to anything so it's kind of unfair to say they sucked, plus, Joss Whedon. But yeah, they weren't exactly great movies. That's fine. Great Movies are generally boring (with few exceptions) so just enjoy your sucky movie and go on with your life.


Great Review Eric.


I am an NYU graduate of American history. Superman encodes our collective target of goodness and ethics. Your review shows that the current man of steel has abandon this coding to produce a mediocre soap opera. Thanks for finding the courage to state this. C+ is generous though.


Way to go Eric, Finally a review of the man of steel worth reading.


Finally a reviewer have the guts to state the obvious fact: This is mediocre movie exploiting an icon on Americana to create a new version of a "human" super hero. for US, children of other epochs, who grew up with Superman as the embodiment of selflessness and honesty this film doe not resonate. For children of today, this film has no value content; so… look at the comments below to find out who the producers this film were targeting


Finally somebody pays homage to tradition. This is a very lucid review


Finally somebody pays homage to tradition. This is a very lucid review


From all the reviews I have read about this film, this I by far the most informative, honest and original. Thanks a lot Mr. Kohn.

Matthew K.

Interesting review, but it is so long-winded and convoluted that it defeats it's purpose. Just because you've got the space to write anything you want, doesn't mean you shouldn't self-edit and do some smart re-writing and tightening. A good dismissal of this movie can be written well and written smart and written solid. This thing meanders and explains too much and becomes utterly boring, almost exhausting.


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Eric Kohn for articulating why I felt sad after I walked out of an early screening of Man of Steel. Although, I thought it was a decent enough film. It just didn't feel like a Superman movie. I love the original 1978 Superman with Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder. As a huge Superman fan in general, I was disappointed. You articulated it best as to what's wrong with the film and why. It's a blockbuster movie. It's not Superman movie. Sigh.

Michael Stever

My first instinct would be to steer clear of any film, (or their 'PR' department) that would 'dismiss' all the previous films of its namesake that came before it. It's a COLOSSAL slap in the face on virtually every conceivable level. This film's press-machine really needs to re-think it's strategy where that's concerned. Secondly, I find the general hostility here in the comments section extremely unfortunate, and DOUBLE sad where our 'collective consciousness' is concerned compared to when Richard Donner's epic, truly groundbreaking 1979 'Superman: The Movie' inspired people to believe that a man could really fly.


Worst review ever


You people are the most pathetic losers walking the planet. Getting all butthurt because someone didn't like your "precious" Superman movie. Film critics don't have to conform with you fanboy fantasies. The movie is not that good—deal with it.


Fanboys/girls bitching because one guy didn't like their movie.


I feel sorry for you. Haters are gonna hate.


thanks for the spoiler, you incompetent retard

if all pretentious film critics like you figured out how to write without fluffing your word count with spoilers, then maybe film critics would be respected instead of laughed at

please kill yourself, trashcan


i've read all of the bad reviews like i do with every movie i'm stoked about and in this case they all say the same thing. It's not like richard donners film……. now look i LOVED those movies when i was a kid but as i got into comic books and graphic novels i realized something, those movies were kinda bad. people treat those films like there the superman bible, like you can't have your own idea about superman mythology. in a way it's starting to make me wish those movies were never even made

Joe Hall

After seeing the movie myself tonight, I gotta say, this reviewer is simply wrong in so many ways. This is why brown people do not belong giving opinions on American clasics, they do not understand what it is to be a hero for this country nor do the brown people understand American cultire and what this country was founded on. Snyder does! MOS was the most mind blown movie I've seen in many years!!!! What a horrible review done by a brown nigger!!!


this guy…whatever his name is…i am very sure he rushed to make this review…clearly there are many mistakes in his article…just for what?? Just to say man of steel is bad…funny…really funny…how can he become a top reviewer in rotten tomatoes?? He even gave lords of salem B+…gold comedy…


The problem I had with the film was the lazy writing. I'll vaguely touch upon these areas in order not to spoil it too much.


The entire 3rd act is action. Zod is vanquished in a way that is completely at odds with the character that is Superman. It is completely asinine.

Finally, Johnathan Kent. What happens to him makes absolutely no sense in a universe in which Superman can easily run near the speed of light.

Thomas P

Oh, god, all of these comic-book (thus nihilistic) fanboys commenting on this review, getting angry at the fact that it wasn't positive, really need to get a life.

It's a negative review. Big deal. You guys haven't even seen the film yet. (Oh, wait, you already know you're gonna love it; you're just that smart.)


This has to be the worst movie review that I have ever wasted my time to read. This "review" just didn't make any sense. The author needs to be informed that he shouldn't review movies if he fills his report with the type of logic that would earn a failing grade on a middle school book report.


Um, you're faulting the film for not feeling enough like a Superman movie, and you can't even spell Lois instead of Louis (yeah, I know Lois is kind-of an old fashioned name, but at-least it's a… y'know… girls' name) and the name of her editor (Perry White) so on top of the fact that you called Deadbeat Dad Returns "unfairly maligned" I'm afraid I just can't take this review seriously.

Superman: the Movie was great, and I'll even call the third one a guilty pleasure. But there's nothing wrong with a serious Superman film.


I haven't even seen the movie yet, but you Eric Kohn are an idiot. You are now 1 of 13 reviewers to give this movie a rotten rating. Really? You can't get on board with the modernizing or relating, or most important aspect of Christlike symbolism Superman stands for? It's sad that anyone even reads your reviews. It won't stop the box office success of this, as you call it, "blockbuster." :)


I haven't even seen the movie yet, but you Eric Kohn are an idiot. You are now 1 of 13 reviewers to give this movie a rotten rating. Really? You can't get on board with the modernizing or relating, or most important aspect of Christlike symbolism Superman stands for? It's sad that anyone even reads your reviews. It won't stop the box office success of this, as you call it, "blockbuster." :)


You're not only entitled to your opinion, you are paid for it. That said, I don't see how there was any way this movie could have satisfied your odd and arbitrary standards. Your critique appears to be purposefully contrary to the many other glowing reviews.

Also, revising the typos and correcting misspelled names without notation is a little disappointing. It also exposes your lack of attention to detail, but we noticed. For that alone, I won't be back.


Yep, here come the fanboys. The floodgates are open. THIS kind of reaction was why the comment sections were disabled on rottentomatoes.

"Is that dissent? QUICKLY, WE MUST USE THE POWER OF OUR ENTHUSIASM OVER A MOVIE WE'VE NOT SEEN YET TO SQUASH IT!" And then they bludgeon the critic to death with their raging nerd boners.

Do yourself a favor and do the same. Disable all comment sections for reviews.


who the hell is LOUIS. HAHAHA. You were clearly not even paying attention to the movie when you can't even get the name of the freaking protagonist right and yet you give it a C. GTFO you douchebag hypster


dont worry folks…this eric guy gave LORDS OF SALEM B+ review in rotten tomatoes…hahahahah…what do u expect from him…

Tommy Rob

Think it's time to expose this guy to Rotten Tomatoes, please revoke this guys "Top Reviewer" title, NOT because he didn't like MOS, but EVERYTHING else lol


I write for several websites and I must tell you that the above is in no way a review, but a hack job. The horrendous display of grammar shows that you rushed this article to grab "hits" as the people have stated here. You should be ashamed to call yourself a "Top Reviewer"! The simple fact that you took a C+ and made it spoiled on RT, just proves that what you lack in talent, you will make up with deception. Here is a little help since your Editor obviously doesn't keep you on your leash: Kryptonians are the inhabitants of Krypton. Kryptonite is from the radioactive meteorites that was once the planet Krypton after it exploded. In case you missed it, Kryptonite was no where in this movie! This was not an "Indie" film and it should not have been reviewed that way. You are an embarrassment to the profession!

Wake The Editor

"While certainly the most dazzling Superman movie to hit the big screen, the 143-minute "Man of Steel" is also the longest…"

143 minutes is more than 154 minutes (Superman Returns)?

Should I expect this from an article that calls Lois, 'Louis'?

Just admit it, you don't know what you're talking about and probably didn't want to like the movie before you sat in the seat.

Mine is bigger

Hahaha Marvel fanboys are getting worried. Marvel movies are to happy go lucky and very campy. DC movies suck look at Superman Returns, Green Lantern, ect. Comic book movies suck. They all the same pieces of shit.


Just another depressing DC movie.. DC will always be 2nd to Marvel..


I stopped caring about your opinion after you admitted to liking "Superman Returns." I just got back from an early screening of "Man of Steel" and it is nothing short of spectacular. When I say spectacular I mean it is on par with The Dark Knight Trilogy aka the greatest superhero films ever made. Like people that gave "The Dark Knight" a bad review you are simply trying to garner attention for your article. It's extremely pathetic.

Mr. Louis Lane

"…Louis' trenchant editor (Laurence Fishburne)…"

I can't believe it's still there. You got most of the other mistakes, now fix this one.

That or there better be a guy named 'Louis' in this film that Superman is in love with.


LOL! The REST of the articles on this site have an average of 0-2 comments! LOL!!! No wonder they had one of their pawns write a bad review, whatever they gotta do to bring traffic, sad….

Josh B

Omg there is alot of spoilers in this review ….WTF FUCK YOU !


Look INDIEWIRE, I don't have a problem with a critic not being a fan of the MOS movie, but AT THE VERY LEAST, please make sure the copy and review make sense, at least before publishing it live on the WWW. It clearly discredits your site as a whole when a representative of your site fails this poorly and then attempts to fix the edits after the comments come pouring in flagging his mistakes.


Fuck this guy :-/ writing a negetive review to get hits. weirdo


Way to be "that guy." Couldn't be more wrong, I saw a sneak preview and it tore the roof off. The movie delivers like no real superhero movie has (Nolan films aside, due to non-superhumans.) This review is a joke, one to bring down numbers and get readers off cheap credit less stabs at a summer movie. Way to be "indie," I take it Spider-Man 3 was good to you too.


Wow what a pathetic review fuk this website just writing this for more hits .

Van Cockcroft

Sounds AWFUL.


I'm sorry but I have to ask: Are the editors asleep or is the writer the son/nephew of someone important?

Reading through this was just awful. Like someone rushed it out, just to disparage the film.
This review was full of spoilers, errors, misspellings and misinformation.

– Lois (Kal-El falls for someone named Louis? Superman really IS reinvented) is spelled wrong.
– Kryptonians, not Kryptonites.
– Prologue comes before Epilogue
– Did you really have to say what Zod did to Jor-El in the review? Not cool.
– Superman Returns was longer than this film. Runtime: 154 min

I know you fixed all of that stuff after going through the comments but this reviews was very juvenile. Indiewire, you should be ashamed of this mess you put up.


douchebag hipster – stick to films made for $10.


I don't care about the review, just hope the person who wrote this article knows deep down inside that he is an idiot

Shane S

"A Very Non-Indie Superman" LOL!!! WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?!?!?! It's SUPPOSED TO BE WB'S BIGGEST SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER!! So you gave it a bad rating because it was being good at what it was supposed to be!? Makes a whole loft of sense.


Of course this idiot critic is trying to make a name for himself being so maverick – thumbs down your crappy crits.


hold up, hold up………….you gave "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" an A-!?!?

Wait..why is THIS guy considered a legitimate reviewer?!?


Who hired this guy to write an article, he needs to go back to school. Such a loser. Bad article, filled with lies.


Very Good.. This move should get a F but the fear made you give it C+.. Man of Steel won't touch Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 will be even better..

Dane Cook

of course all his top rated movies on RT are indie flicks that no ones ever heard of, because that's what REAL movie enthusiasts watch. Whatever keeps you more hipster Eric. But that's right, Superman is not classy enough to fit in with the indie crowd of movies…lol


From the side: "While certainly the most dazzling Superman movie to hit the big screen, the 143-minute "Man of Steel" is also the longest, and it only justifies that heft because it leaves room to keep the effects coming."

lol, Superman Returns is 154 minutes and Superman the Movie was also 143 minutes. Do some damn research next time before making false claims.


Ill never take a word you write seriouly ever again.

Lex Luthor

This guy is an asshole. This movie is epic just another critic trying to make a name for himself. JACKASS LOSER

Le pupe

My gawd! Epilogue =/= PROLOGUE… It's LOIS not LOUIS..and so on & so forth… Opinions are like a$$h0les indeed…

Fuck you

I know why u gave this a bad review. U work for a web site called "indie"wire. hipster scum

Le pupe

My gawd! Epilogue =/= PROLOGUE… It's LOIS not LOUIS..and so on & so forth… Opinions are like a$$h0les indeed…


A C+ is a fresh review, but this scumbag submitted it as rotten to get more page hits.


Idiot you just spoiled the movie for me watch what you wright


If it's a C+ here why is it a 58 on Metacrtitic?


Kneel Before Zod!

So the problem with this film is that it's not a blockbuster but a modern-day blockbuster… lol what?


I'm unsure how I will feel about this movie, and I am certainly worried about it taking itself too seriously without even having watched it yet. However, you thought the Avengers was delightful, and I hated it so very much, mostly due to characterization of my favorite comic book characters so our tastes are probably different, anyway.


"…another surviving Kryptonite…"

Are they called that in this film or Kryptonians?

I've never heard Kal-El's race being referred to as Kryptonites, but then again I haven't seen this movie yet so I don't know.

Gabriel Blanchard Jetzer



lol at all the people correcting you in the comments.

How does rotten tomatoes allow garbage like this to be submitted?


I'm excited as fuck for MoS and this review or any other will change that, wiith that said… keep it civil, mates.


Your review misses the mark and is absolutely horrible… why they allow people like you to review films is beyond me.


What John said. The truth is better than a few extra hits.


"naturally intrepid reporter Louis Lane"

"Louis' trenchant editor."

Louis. Louis Louis Louis.


Seems legit. That's a rating for your spelling, right? Or is it a rating for your understanding of Superman lore? At any rate, where's the rating for Man of Steel?


lol – posting a negative review to get hits for your site. pathetic – like your review.

Fire this guy

a C+ is still considered fresh, dumbass.

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