This week was supposed to be the week that I really got into Superman. On Tuesday, a new Adventures of Superman came out, followed by Superman Unchained on Wednesday, and them I would go see Man of Steel. Well… the first two parts ended up working out really well, and solidified my growing love of Superman. And, Man of Steel… well… it didn’t help the cause. It was two and a half hours of fractured story telling and weak characters that was about an hour too long. Sure, it’s Superman, so it should be big, but it seemed like there was an entire hour of the movie that I didn’t like at all.
That hour would have been nearly all of the main plot. The movie starts out on a high note, and then simply falls from there. All of the Krypton stuff is stellar in every department. We get to see all kinds of cool scenes, from the corrupted Science Council to Zod’s attempted coup. It all worked so well, and there was a degree of world and character building that never occurred again in the movie. Despite knowing it’s fate, I felt more invested in Krypton and it’s inhabitants than Earth and every other character in the movie. Everything about the Krypton scenes was excellent. Has Zimmer’s score was atmospheric, and seemed to go perfectly with what was going on on the doomed world. The political side was great as well, and then we got some awesome action sequences during Zod’s coup. Of the entire movie had been about Krypton, I would have loved it.
Speaking chronologically, the movie goes downhill after the stellar opening on Kal-El’s home world. Nothing in the entire movie quite manages to live up to the opening, but some of the flashbacks give it a run for it’s money. Seeing Clark’s powers begin to manifest is probably the best part of the flashbacks, namely in the scene where we see young Clark attempt to deal with the sensory overload he experiences. Then comes the school bus scene, which is essentially just a device to show that Clark is a good person, because he saves all those people, even if they end up knowing what he’s capable of. Despite this, it’s still a pretty great scene. It hinted at potential for more character development – though sadly that did not happen.
Possibly the best part of that particular flashback, however, was the emphasis they placed l. clark being the answer to the question of whether or not there is alien life. It’s a pretty big question for us as a species, and this scene did a great job conveying that. The final flashback is the tornado scene, which was good, but seems kind of odd at the same time. I doubt that Clark would have just stood there, and I doubt that Martha would have asked Jonathan to go back for the dog. That said, Jonathan had to die, and that scene was still a good scene, if only because it did a great job with the family’s relationship. In many ways, Jonathan had a moment that was very similar to what Owen Lars told Luke in Star Wars.
As much as I’d love to continue praising the movie, I’m afraid that there’s not much left about to praise. Aside from Krypton and the flashbacks, the movie is pretty much all special effects and no plot. The oil rig scene is pretty great, and that does show Clark’s character fairly well. Aside from that, there’s no more character development. This isn’t about Clark’s journey, not really. He just sort of becomes Superman. Unlike what Nolan did in his Batman movies, we don’t get to see the voyage that our hero takes to becoming the hero that they are, and that sucks. There are great stories that could be told that way, but we just don’t see that.
And then there’s all the religious overtones, sometimes far more obvious than they need to be. That really just got on my nerves, especially some of the symbolism and the whole evolution vs religion struggle. It was just so bad, on so many levels. I hate to compare it to the Marvel movies, but they were able to succeed without those overtones, so I feel like they really took away from the movie here. Plus, the whole Church scene completely undermined Jonathan Kent, and all that he did for Clark. It was him that instilled those moral values upon Clark, not some random pastor at a random Church.
One of the big complaints that I’ve heard is the lack of Lois Lane in the movie. Actually, I found it to be exactly the opposite. There was far too much Lois, and in laces she didn’t need to be. I don’t get why Zod wanted her onboard his ship, and just as it seemed like a rivalry was being brewed between her and Faora, it was over. And then there was the kiss, which felt unearned and unnecessary. I don’t think that the relationship between the two had been developed enough to reach that point, much in the same way that Kirk and Spock’s relationship felt unearned in Star Trek: Into Darkness.
And, by the time the end rolled around, I was tired of the action. In many ways, it was bigger than the Avengers’ action, but the Avengers was so much smarter than Man of Steel. It was witty and smart, and used action in the right places at the right times, rather than having a state of repetitive fights and perpetual action. Sure, the action looks awesome, and it’s visually dynamic, but it seemed to just bash you over the head with action, which I really did not enjoy in any way. Faora was awesome, but the fight with Zod was far too long. The first time, it was fine, and actually worked alright, but the second time was just too much.
When there was plot (yes, there were so,e rare occasions), it felt extraordinarily disjointed and fractured. It seemed like there were flaws in the writing, as it wasn’t a very coherent movie. The movie did a lot of jumping around, and that didn’t work at all in the movie’s favor, and, at least in my opinion, it led to a fractured feel to the movie. As if that weren’t bad enough, the characters failed to truly add anything. The actors were all good, but Zod was a weak villain, and Superman himself was never developed much, and the same is true of Lois Lane. But perhaps the saddest case of lack of development in this movie is Faora. She’s a badass, but she was never developed. She didn’t even have many lines. Aside from being a henchwoman, she was basically useless to the progression of the movie, and that really depresses me. She’s far to two dimensional for my liking, but the movie is filled with two dimensional characters.
Unlike many, I have no problem with changing characters’ genders and skin intonations. What I do have a problem with is seeing Superman kill someone. No. It just doesn’t work. It seems like a lazy shortcut taken by Snyder to wrap up an already bloated, over long movie. It’s not like The Mandarin plot twist in Iron Man 3. No, this was a complete insult and bastardization of who Superman is as a character. And the way the scene was set up, it’s not like he didn’t have a choice but to kill him. There were far better ways to deal with that. Plus, Zod should be invulnerable if he’s already adapted to Earth’s gravity and yellow sun radiation.
Finally, I’d just like to comment on the tone of the movie. It was far too dark to be a Superman movie. Superman is a character that is meant to inspire hope, yet that was sadly missing from this particular movie. That’s why Snyder and Nolan may not have been the best choices for this movie. Their past work in comic book movies – Batman, Watchmen, and 300 – has all been dark. But that works, because the characters are dark. That is not at all true of Superman. Man of Steel should have been a bright, hopeful movie, more like one of the Marvel movies, than the dark one that it was.
Maybe Man of Steel just wasn’t for me, and I get the feeling that many comic book fans won’t like it. I had no attachment whatsoever to Superman, mostly because he wasn’t developed at all as a n adult. And, despite a stellar opening and great flashbacks, the movie’s plot was far too fractured and disjointed, bouncing seemingly at random between plot points. If this is DC’s big movie, I have to say, I’m not hopeful for the future.