Man of Steel

Man of Steel

If casting were all it took to make a successful movie, Man of Steel would be a slam-dunk.
Starting with the talented, finely-chiseled Henry Cavill, the key roles in the
newest Superman film are cleverly filled. But writers David S. Goyer and
Christopher Nolan, who did such a good job reinventing an origin story in Batman Begins, haven’t fared as well
this time around. Or perhaps it’s director Zack Snyder who decided to turn the
film into a giant video-game-like demolition derby. This may please ardent fans
of the Transformers movies, but it
left me—a lifelong Superman fan—disappointed.

It’s especially discouraging because the movie starts out so
well. The filmmakers decided to throw us a curve, and distinguish themselves
from other Superman sagas, by telling the story in non-linear fashion. It’s a
bit jarring at first but it plays fairly well, interspersing scenes of
Krypton’s final days (featuring a stoic Russell Crowe as Superman’s father, Jor-El)
with snapshots of young Kal-El’s rocky transition into a “normal” earthling. Kevin
Costner is a perfect choice to embody the all-American qualities of Pa Kent. He
offers meaningful advice to his son, who’s conflicted about harnessing or
suppressing his super-powers. Amy Adams is a pleasingly plucky Lois Lane, who
stumbles onto the secret of this superhuman shadow-figure and tries to track
down his identity.

Then there’s Michael Shannon as General Zod, who locks horns
with Jor-El on Krypton and makes himself Kal-El’s sworn enemy on Earth. Shannon
is a refreshing villain because he’s not organically evil; we understand what
drives Zod toward his single-minded goal of conquering humanity. What’s more,
he’s not British. (No offense intended, but an American bad-guy is a genuine
novelty nowadays.)

So what goes wrong? Man
of Steel
drags on much longer than it needs to (a familiar trait in Goyer
and Nolan’s work) and loses sight of its characters’ journey as the focal point
of the story. The latter half of the film is overwhelmed by destruction—of
cities, towns, property, and people. A climactic story point involving a
superhuman challenge to set the world right is so abstract and convoluted that
it’s hard to know what we’re rooting for.

Clark Kent’s relationship with Lois Lane is barely developed
here; I suspect they’re holding back for the inevitable sequel. Laurence
Fishburne has little to do as Perry White, as we don’t spend much time at the Daily Planet. Diane Lane suffers well
enough as Ma Kent, but she too has an essentially thankless role.

Henry Cavill is an extremely relatable Kal-El/Superman/Clark
Kent, and provides many of the film’s best moments. This being an origin story,
however, we don’t get to see him at work as a reporter; that, too, will have to
wait for the next movie. He’s too busy tearing up entire city blocks in direct
combat with General Zod and his allies. (A small-town iHop restaurant is even
trashed in the process.)

I’d call Man of Steel half a good movie, which is
better than an outright dud. In this age of preordained “franchises” and
marketing-driven blockbusters, that may not matter, as the movie goes on to
earn big bucks around the world. But it’s a crime that such a great character
isn’t better showcased in this overlong, overblown epic.  

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Comments

Sam M.

You have nailed it, once again Leonard. I too am getting so tired of all the movies with the amateurish, herky-jerky camera work and the directors who have given up on the possibility that they could ever direct a good movie, so instead, allow the 12-year old inside them to create a film that only 12-year olds could enjoy ("The more we blow up and destroy, the better the movie will be.").

Tyler

This coming from the guy who didn't like The Dark Knight.

Glen

Man of Steel IS what the majority of Superman fans have been waiting for since Superman II. It's action packed, a non stop thrill ride that kept getting better and better! The tone was perfect to a "T"… With that said, there are a few people who are saying there was too much action, to much VFX's, and not enough of "this" or "that"… All I can say is this…. When Superman Returns came out, EVERY ONE complained that there wasn't enough action. As a matter of fact, I even said SR just sucked and bored the heck out of me. I fell asleep after the first hour! Not everyone can be pleased, but Man of Steel pleased more fan's than the past 3 Superman films. Numbers don't lie, and being that Man of Steel is #2 for highest grossing film of 2013, it's safe to say that Superman fans are now happy again. Most of them anyway… I give it a 4.9 out of 5. Had the "Superman" Theme be in it, then it would have 5.

Dale

"a giant video-game-like demolition derby" I couldn't agree more Leonard. 25 minutes of banging and crashing was all I could take and walked out. Whatever happened to story and character?

Donella

Exhaustive, excessive, mindless, repetitive action, violence, destruction. How many ways can you throw someone through a building? Twenty? How many ways can you punch your way through the hull of an airplane or spacecraft? Thousands? How many buildings have to collapse before the audience goes catatonic? Flat, washed-out, vanilla, drab Lois Lane. Lack of chemistry between Lois and Clark. Bad, choppy editing. Storyline with curious plot points. Russell Crowe as Jor-El excellent. Henry Cavill as Kal-El decent. In order of excellence for thoughtful character development, warmth, humor, epic storyline, screenplay, memorable and quotable dialogue, majestic music score, insightful direction, and appropriate casting: Superman (1978), Superman II, Superman Returns, Man of Steel.

Daniel Delago

Honestly, with comic book movies nowadays, the plot regretfully doesn't matter anymore. The mass audience wants to see CGI fireworks like an E-ticket at Disneyland. Spielberg is right. He predicts an implosion within the film industry. Movies are getting too expensive and generic to sustain this business model forever.

Trevor

Nolan did a solid job of telling a story that's so old and over used that there is no way to satisfy everyone's expectations. This movie was a blast, action packed, and the best action movie of the year. Go see it. Go see it with your kids.

Zach

I just wish this film wasn't so similar to Nolan's Batman trilogy. Under his influence, superhero movies apparently have to take the realistic approach, which is a bad idea for any Superman movie. Not only that, but Zack Snyder's direction makes it feel like we're watching a documentary than an feature film, not to mention the action becomes way too excessive in the last half. I suspect the filmmakers are compensating for the lack of action in previous installments (or as several of Superman Returns severely misguided critics would say). However, the action scenes in Krypton and Smallville are superb, the cast is mostly good (though Henry Cavill stumbles at times), and there are great moments of character development.

Sam

Why do these comic strip fan boys get so upset when somebody gives a negative review to the latest action hero action flick? You'd think Superman or Batman was their father! Lighten up zombies!

Jesse

Man of Steel is finally a Superman movie made the way it should have always been made. As I was discussing the film upon exiting the theater, I found myself asking "what would be the one focus beyond anything else I would put in a film about Superman?" The answer is power. Superman is such a powerful being that we cannot begin to comprehend his true strength. Zack Snyder has managed to bombard our senses with so many amazing shots of Superman's power to fight for his life and the right of humanity to have it's own chance to shape the planet's destiny, that I was simply blown away. It is hard to imagine the power that it must take to do some of the things that were simple for Superman. This picture gets it right. The sheer amount of carnage produced in the amazing fight between Kal-El and General Zod was like riding a rocket into a wall. It was blunt force trauma at its best. Henry Cavill as Superman manages to meld his human and Kryptonian traits with a balance that puts the viewer at ease, and commands we root for both sides of him to exist. The movies one flaw as I see it is that we are never given the opportunity to see what General Zod was really about. In the movie we are led to believe he sees himself as a patriot, with the only goal to extend the gene pool of his people. That being said that may be exactly what he is, but as the viewer I wanted it to be fleshed out a bit. Overall I give the film 4.5 stars, and would recommend running to the theater to see it.

Jason Scott

This must be movie # 187,248,026 that Leonard Maltin says "goes on longer than it needs to", "is overlong", etc. It's at the point now where it just makes me laugh.

Prometheus

I am lost… did we see the same film?
Zod wants nothing more than to rebuild Krypton upon Earth. That's why Superman is thrashing him about… where is the confusion on who to root for? Where is the convoluted abstraction? Furthermore, Your review, and I must say I am a fan of your work, seems to pine for more Donner/Reeves films. You mention that this lacks some of the elements of those films but you forget that this is a Superman who for 33 years has been lost. He doesn't know his place in the world then he discovers it and isn't sure how to fully go about it. I'd say it's similar to a first time driver unsure of the cars full power. Yes he staggers here and there but that's because he's still learning. And the 'lack of depth'? – again, did we watch the same movie? Jor-El and Jonathan Kent play tug of war upon Kal-El/Clarks moral being. One father suggest that he is the beckon of hope and have the potential to lead the human race to it's greatness and glory while the other plays more towards the be ashamed of what gifts you have. John here doesn't have much hope for mankind and doesn't think that humans are or will ever be ready for a Super-Man so he tries to impress upon his foster child to suppress who he really is out of fear and misunderstanding. To be a child stuck in a spiders web like that would make one a bit leery of himself. In fact it's even pointed out in the film when Feora tells Superman in mid-fight, he's unsure of himself.

Just as we have seen Batman Begins we are witnessing in this film Superman Ascending. we are watching him struggle to obtain Apotheosis. I therefore elect that if this film isn't an example of the monomyth, which the said cycle wouldn't see completion until the second installment, then I truly do not know what film you saw.

The Man of Steel is a film that glimmers upon the silver screen like the silver line that cracks the darkest night at dawn. In other words here in this film Superman has just started to take flight.

Dan H

The central characters are really Supes and his two dads. One represents Supes fears and his need to grow up before he can take on his mantle (Costner). One represents Supes goals who drives him to be that hero (Crowe). The interplay between them, I thought, was wonderfully done. The best part of the movie was watching Supes go from being tentative and dour at the beginning, to being the Superman/Clark kent we always knew (Cue that big Supes smile at the end when he dons the glasses and "meets" Lois). The best part (and art) is at the end, when we see the flashback where Costner watched hi don a cape as a boy. We see that Costner didn't really want him not to be a hero, he just knew he (and we) needed more time. That interplay was enough character for me for an origin story.
Then there is the fact that I got to finally…FINALLY…see a superhero movie that shows just how strong, fast and stunningly powerful Superman can be. If you think the action took too long, let me ask you this: If you were albeit indestructible, how long do you think it would really take to destroy a being nearly as invincible as you are. And do you think getting kicked into a "Coke" neon sign would really hurt, or might you have to get smacked with a train and tossed through three (yes I said three) skyscrapers.
I cannot wait to see the next one, because of how well the characters can grow from this origin story.
I'll take Man of Steel as the BEST Superman movie of all time. The great part will be watching him grow to BECOME the Superman that Maltin remembers from the Reeves movies. That will be the best part.

Dave A

How do you get any significant amount of character depth in a two hour action movie? i haven't seen the movie yet so i cannot speak if its good or bad. If you want character depth, which i like myself, i certainly wont go looking for it in most comic hero movies. The only medium that will supply that is TV. Try Smallville, which will touch upon most of this movies plots without all the darkness that guides CN movies (love most of his stuff)

David Finucane

No one that writes a "half negative" review can do so without referencing pre-existing knowledge of the 75 years of Superman that came before this. A seasoned critic of all people should have been able to go into the movie on its own merits. Thankfully this was made for fans. Otherwise it would have been called "We'll Never Live Up To Christopher Reeve But We Made Ma Kent The Focal Point For All The Emasculated Critics". Then critics would complain there wasn't enough superman and too much sappy stuff. Scratch that, that already happened with Superman Returns. There is no pleasing critics with action movies, especially when said movie is a remake of something held in high regard more for nostalgia and John Williams thanks for quality.

Santos

They trashed an IHOP? How dare they?

Stop the hate

Uhm. I think your Superman has died along with Reeve and the old Superman of yesteryears. You can't be a Superman fan and not know what the current changes of Superman are.

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