Movie Review: Man of Steel

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS CHALK FULL OF SPOILERS

First off, I’d like to pose a question.

Why do we like superheroes?

It’s an important question to ask because it’s what will shape your experience of this film and it’s the question that got me wanting to get up and walk away 95% through the movie all because of that one. particular. scene.

Before we get into that, I think it’s best that we get all the technical aspects of the film out of the way first. When it was announced that Henry Cavill would be playing Superman and that Amy Adams would be playing Lois Lane, I snorted. They weren’t Superman and Lois Lane to me. I couldn’t picture them as those characters and I honestly thought this movie was going to be a bust because, let’s face it, Superman hasn’t succeeded on the big screen for a long time. I can say now that I was proven wrong. The acting was phenomenal. Cavill was our Superman and Adams was our Lois Lane. Michael Shannon as General Zod was menacing and Antje Traue who played Faora-Ul was an absolute delight and stole the whole damn show. I can even say she was more formidable and even scarier than Zod. Diane Lane was lovable as Ma Kent and – despite not having as much screen time – Kevin Cosner, Russell Crowe and Laurence Fishburne were all amazing in their respective roles. If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew Jenny Olson would be in the film beforehand, I wouldn’t have understood or knew who she was and saw no real significance of her character in the story. I think it would be too nice to even call her a character because she was as one dimensional as a cave drawing. You might as well call her Girl Intern #1.

Man of steel faora lois supermanFrom Man of Steel: Lois Lane, Superman and Faora-Ul

The cinematography was breathtaking. Krypton was stunning and the special effects were flawless. The camera work could be a hit or miss for some people when it came to the fight scenes but I absolutely loved it. It felt like they brought the cartoon shows to life and it was superhero worthy. The soundtrack sounded great. There were issues with pacing. The first part of the story where Krypton is destroyed and the Batman Begins parallels where Clark is traveling with his scruffy look were great for character development. That seemed to be it’s focus but, before it got it’s foothold, it went straight into the action packed part of the film without a smoother transition to connect the two changes in direction. Where the second part gained superhero like action and drama, it lost the character development. The writing wasn’t great. It could’ve been a whole lot tighter and there were moments of dialogue that was sometimes cheesy or just terrible.

Krypton factor … Henry Cavill in Man of SteelFrom Man of Steel: Henry Cavill as Clark Kent

Then it happened.

It’s almost near the end of the film. Zod and Superman are duking it out with what’s left of Metropolis as it crumbles around them. They’re in what looks like to be a train station and Superman has gotten Zod into a headlock. There are people running around in terror and Zod targets a family. He blasts his heat vision and slowly takes his gaze towards them. Superman begs him to stop. Zod says he never will.

Superman snaps his neck.

And then he falls to his knees in anguish.

That snapping sound was not only the sound of neck breaking but my respect for Superman breaking as well into a million pieces. I’m not a huge Superman and at one point I even hated the guy because he seemed too perfect. How could I relate to him? How could he always stand on that moral high ground when people like me made mistakes left, right and center. I resented him and thought he was too powerful. Despite all of these views of him (most now in the past), I could always say I respected him. It wasn’t until the last few years that I realized how difficult it was to be him. How hard it was to constantly do the right thing and that it was a daily struggle for our man of steel. Yes, he could run faster than a speeding bullet. He was indeed more powerful than a locomotive. He could soar into the stars but he was a man who bared the weight of expectation from everyone. He couldn’t falter because the consequences were much bigger for him if he did.

action comics #1Cover of Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1

That’s the point.

What separates superheroes from your regular action hero isn’t just the costume. There’s a whole new level of expectations. They’re expected to find alternatives to killing because killing is the easiest thing in the world and when you have the power to create a gust of wind all because you sneezed well…tough. You don’t get to take the easy route.

I asked before why we like superheroes. I love superheroes because they give me something to strive for.

I get pissed off when people say that there’s a need for the depiction of superheroes to be more realistic or that Superman never really had a choice in killing Zod. Bullshit.

To quote Mark Waid:

I don’t want Superman to be more like me. I want us to be more like Superman.

Superman, the first superhero, was created in 1938. It was during one of the most bleak times in history  (the Depression) with WWII on the horizon and here was this fantastical character that gave hope to people who, at the time, felt weak and powerless. People say that the Man of Steel version of Superman makes sense and is indicative of the times. I disagree fervently. This version of Superman does a disservice to the character because it is during the darkest times that we seek someone who’s willing to make us believe once more in leaping in a single bound towards becoming better people.

supermanSuperman illustration by Alex Ross

Once a superhero stops doing that, then what’s left?

I’ll tell you what’s left. We take the road most travelled because Superman sure as hell had no problem doing that in this film.

2 out of 5 stars

A. A. Omer

Check out Mark Waid’s review (also full of spoilers) and Paul Riches’ review (spoiler free).

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