Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by David S. Goyer
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russel Crowe, Kevin Costner
Released: 14 June 2013
Running time: 2h 23min
No spoilers to be found here!
It’s 2013. After the amazing Dark Knight-trilogy you are now eagerly waiting for next film from DC Comics, Man of Steel. So far the trailers have been great and just look at the people making it! The same writer as The Dark Knight-trilogy and Christopher Nolan as the producer. Zack Snyder might not be the best director, but he has made some truly great movies in the past (my favorite being Watchmen). You are now entering the theater to watch the movie. The movie ends and you walk out. What do you think about it? Well, it’s not awful but Man of Steel is still a disappointing and forgettable movie.
The movie starts out during the final hours of Krypton, just when Lara Lor-Van gives birth to Kal-El (aka Superman). General Zod (played by Michael Shannon) leads a military coup, throwing the planet into chaos. Amidst all the confusion, Jor-El, husband to Lara and father of Kal-El, aims to thwart the plans of Zod and send his new-born son to another world. He succeeds in this and sends Kal-El to Earth as well as managing to get General Zod and his conspirators arrested, sent into deep-space. Krypton is then destroyed and we get to follow Clark Kent (Superman’s Earth-name) growing up on Earth and finding his place in life. Terror looms around the corner though, as General Zod might not be gone for good and is looking for revenge.
I have never read a Superman comic and barely seen any of the previous movies, which makes me a total newcomer to this story. As Man of Steel tells the origin of Superman I think it’s as good a movie as any to start with if you aren’t familiar with the character, like me. The opening sequence on Krypton is a great way to introduce the movie, as it’s a visually interesting environment as well as action-packed. In a short time they set up the birth of Superman, Jor-El and General Zod as characters as well as the destruction of Krypton. After the opening the movie slows down and introduces us to Superman’s life on Earth, as Clark Kent (played by Henry Cavill). I think this is done in a clever way, as you get to see him as an adult, looking for clues about who he is, juxtaposed with various flashbacks to his youth with his foster-parents (played excellently by Kevin Costner and Diana Lane). This works very well, as we are introduced to Clark Kent and see him pushing the plot forward naturally as well as his upbringing and the traumas he went through. It makes him seem human and just an interesting character overall. Cavill’s performance as Clark Kent could maybe be seen as an stereotypical heroic good guy, but I do think the alien aspects of him and how he deals with them ultimately makes him interesting. I do think Henry Cavill did a good job with what he was given and he certainly looks the part. During this time we are also introduced to Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams). I think this is a pretty good character, nothing really special, but still well executed. Amy plays Lois a tad like the clichéd strong and independent woman, but she does it really well and it is believable. I also like the chemistry between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, as it feels very genuine. I think this is because they spend a lot of time together discussing issues about Superman and so on. Since Man of Steel is an origin story and therefore mostly character-based, I think it handles it’s main characters really well and the way we see Clark Kent grow up is especially well handled.
General Zod is the main antagonist of the movie and is looking for Clark Kent as a way of revenge for Krypton. I think the way this character is handled has both good and bad sides. The bad thing is that I don’t think he was written that well. He has this big plan that I wont spoil, but it simply didn’t make any sense to me and it made the character seem plain evil, very one-dimensional. But what still makes this a memorable character is the performance by Michael Shannon. He plays Zod as smart tactician prone to huge bursts of anger. He gets angry a lot with loud screams and Shannon can play that sort of angry person perfectly. I totally believed that Zod was mad out of his mind on a number of occasion. An okay character remedied by a great performance.
I also quickly want to mention Superman’s two dads in the movie, Jor-El and Jonathan Kent. As they come from different worlds they are therefore very different from each other. Both of them supports different philosophies that Superman relates to. I think it creates an interesting dynamic that makes the character of Clark Kent more interesting as he struggles to decide on which father he wants to follow, which resonates very well with his dilemma of living on earth but not being born there. Oh, and both his fathers played Robin Hood.
If you have ever seen a movie from Zack Snyder you know what to expect. A lot of really good looking action scenes throughout the entire film. As mentioned, right from the get-go we get to see the stunning Krypton-sequence that looks beautiful. Since it’s set on an alien world, Snyder gets to be more creative and manages to produce some truly spectacular imagery. Once the movie focuses on earth he is forced to play it a bit cooler with the creative part, but the movie still looks gorgeous throughout.
Well, that were all the good parts of the movie, lets get into the bad things. I think the first half of Man of Steel is pretty good for reasons stated above. But around 90 minutes into the film a certain character appears and starts to wreak havoc on Earth. The movie goes from being a character-based origin-story to an lackluster CGI fest in a few minutes. The only thing the movie cares about in the later parts is action, and not very good action. As with Zack Snyder movies you can sometimes get visuals over substance, but in here it gets almost absurd. The action mainly consists of CGI people flying into buildings and destroying most of Metropolis. It might look cool at first but quickly becomes stale and repetitive. The action continues for so long that I became immensely bored with just about everything in the movie and wanted it to end. All the good things the first part of the movie did for the story and characters gets thrown out the window. I didn’t care about the characters in the end, all I saw where CGI people beating on each other in exactly the same way in what seem like more than an hour. It has been a long time since I saw a movie which went from being pretty good to just boring. I guess that is a feat in and of itself, but certainly not a good one.
This movie really should have worked. It tells an interesting origin-story, has a high enough budget to not compromise for quality and has competent people both in front of and behind the camera. And I do think Man of Steel partly succeeds with what it sets out to do. The first half of the movie makes me care for the characters and I want to know where the story goes. But then the second part happens and Snyder’s visual over substance-reputation manifests and turns the entire movie into a thoughtless exercise in how to not use CGI. I became very bored in the final parts of the movie, so much so that I just wanted it to end. I didn’t care about the characters the movie set up or the somewhat excellent acting, I just wanted everything to stop. I think Man of Steel almost got it right, but then the second half happened and they completely dropped the ball so hard it made the floor crack. I have no desire to go back to this movie and I think you will only really enjoy it if you either are a die-hard DC-fan or okay with an overload of mindless, repetitive action. If you are into that, great! You will probably have a lot of fun, but I can’t personally stomach it. Man of Steel is not awful since half of the movie is pretty good, but it is an extremely boring and disappointing film.
Cover image source: robot6.comicbookresources.com