Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Missed the Point
Whenever Christopher Nolan has a role in making a movie, it is usually done pretty well, but it is also usually very dark. Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is a fine example of how dark his films get, and there is no question about how well these films were received by critics everywhere. When word came out that Nolan would have a part in making a Superman flick, there were mixed emotions coming from people everywhere. While Nolan did a fantastic job with Batman, Batman is just naturally a dark character, so that world fit incredibly well with his style. Superman, on the other hand, is a light character…almost completely the opposite from Batman, apart from the fact that they are both good. One is merely human, the other super-human, one is dark, one is light. So the question remains…what can Nolan really do with the character of Superman?
Henry Cavill stars in this version as Clark Kent himself. We all know the origin story of Superman, and yes…this origin story is slightly different…but Krypton still explodes, and Clark is still sent to Earth. General Zod escapes the Phantom Zone and heads to Earth (slightly like in Superman 2) in search for Clark. You see, on his ship, Jor-El left Clark a device that would help Zod create Krypton once more…wherever he chooses. Which of course, ends up being Earth.
Now, as you may already be aware, this is a very long movie. It’s just under two and a half hours, and the real question is if that was even necessary. The answer to that question is an emphatic “no”. The first hour of the movie goes by so slowly…showing us random flashbacks, that aren’t even in the right order, in order to really develop the characters. I am guessing they did this in this particular format to avoid the same origin story that the other films and TV shows have fallen victim to. At the same time…the origin story is told, but by spreading it out so much, it really starts to feel tedious watching the film waiting for something to actually happen. They should have done the origin story just to cut back on the length.
The character development is also clearly only targeted to Superman. Lois plays a vital role, but instead of focusing more on showing the “star reporter” side of her, it shows her find out who Superman is in a montage that feels like thirty seconds. The development for Clark is also off, because they missed something vital….Clark. You know, bumbling mild-manner reporter Clark? A big part of what makes Clark Superman is battling between two lives and two identities. Also, if you are a fan of Superman at all, you know the basic story of Clark’s life in Smallville, and the death of Jonathon Kent. His adoptive father’s death is iconic simply because it was one of Clark’s first trials on learning that he cannot save everyone, that some things are just beyond his control…I won’t divulge how Jonathon dies in Man of Steel, but Clark could have physically actually saved him in that instance.
Next, we have to go over the fact that the image of Superman is also iconic. His modesty, and charisma has always been the light amongst the dark. He isn’t Batman! He barely even smiles in this film, he is so dark. In a room between Batman and Superman, with war happening all around them, Superman should be the one with his chin held high, and making a joke. As he says in the movie – the “S” on his chest stands for Hope on his planet…sure enough he goes beyond himself to save others, but he doesn’t do it right. He doesn’t seem as dark as a vigilante, but he gets darn close.
What they did right:
Obviously, not all was bad. The story was actually perfect for a Superman movie, but the presentation wasn’t good. What I mean by that, is it just took so long to get to the point. Once they did, it was actually very entertaining and thrilling. The action sequences are very well choreographed, and it just looks stunning through most of the film. There are shots you have never seen in any version of Superman, ever…and it looks great. The music was actually really well-done, but I’m telling you…kids won’t be wrapping red blankets around their neck humming the tune of this soundtrack…that’s just something that John Williams has had for almost all of his films that separate those from the rest…Hans Zimmer just could never reach that potential. Also, the darkness really did help boost the evil side of General Zod. Superman 2 was just so campy, and it didn’t feel as though Zod fit as well as he did here…that being said, I still believe Terrance Stamp is a better Zod, generally speaking.
Don’t get me wrong, it does end up being a blast and a half to watch…once you get to that point. It definitely is more entertaining of a watch than Superman Returns. Superman Returns tried hard to pay homage to the original Superman series, and they got the character of Superman pretty spot on, but Brandon Routh’s performance just didn’t sink in as deep as Christopher Reeves’s Superman did. Basically, Returns was a good try, but at least Man of Steel is just a fun watch if nothing else.
Overall, there are just some elements of Superman that you can’t change, which this film did. Those missing elements make Superman a true hero worth looking up to…a symbol outside of the theater…so to speak. While it was missing this, it did have a level of real entertaining fun to it, but at the same time, it was just far too long. So as you can tell, this has its positives along with its negatives. It has a way to go before it reaches perfection…like more smiles from Superman, actually having a mild-mannered reporter side to Clark, have kryptonite, and we are going to start complaining if Lex Luthor doesn’t show his face next time around.
That being said, go see Man of Steel, they only paid half of their budget on advertisements so you would do just that. Man of Steel came to theaters on Friday, Jun. 15!