Man of Steel Review

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Zack Snyder is a very talented director. I feel like that should go without saying, but DC Extremists are quick to crucify people when they criticize his films. I love the look his films have. You know a Zack Snyder film the second it comes onto the screen. That being said, there are elements of his films I don’t like. Slow motion is my main gripe with him. I’ve never liked it in films too much, only certain scenes. Snyder’s colors throughout his films are the same to me as well. Overall, Watchmen, Man of Steel, and Batman v. Superman look the exact same in my eyes. I understand those last two films are in the same universe, but The Winter Soldier and Civil War feel, and look different to me. Both feel like Captain America movies, but each film has its own vibe and look. Despite all that, Snyder is a talented director. I won’t go as far to call him the greatest superhero director of all time (mainly because there are so many directors coming up that might blow his works out of the water. Ryan Coogler on Black Panther, Patty Jenkins on Wonder Woman, and whoever helms The Green Lantern Corps movie instantly come to mind) but the man isn’t horrible. Just wanted to say that before I dive deep into this review. I really enjoyed Man of Steel. I enjoy it for the same reasons I enjoy Iron Man. When I saw both of these films, I wasn’t expecting much at all. Before Iron Man I was like, “Why is the boring robot from the Spider-Man cartoon getting a movie?” Before Man of Steel, I was like, “Great. We get to see Krypton blow up and watch Superman fight some lame villain. All while kissing Lois Lane.” Not only did I have no expectations, but I didn’t know each film was starting a film universe. I wasn’t interested in the idea of the MCU when I sat down to watch Iron Man, and the DCEU wasn’t even public knowledge when Man of Steel came out. There is so much pressure on both studios now with the growing popularity of both universes. Sometimes, I think the importance of a singular film is taken away when people start talking about its universe implications. It’s the main reason I didn’t like Batman vs. Superman. They didn’t give it room to breathe as a solo film, but suffocated it so much it felt like a long trailer for Justice League. All of this noise wasn’t in my head when I sat down to watch Man of Steel. I feel like if us as fans can forget the universe aspect of these films for the two hours they’re on, we can judge them correctly. That’s tricky because certain movies are meant to be universe heavy films (X Men Days of Future Past and Civil War.) Man of Steel though, serves as a fresh introduction to Superman. Do I necessarily like Snyder’s portrayal of Superman in this film? Actually, I love it. Batman v. Superman seemed to have forgotten this movie existed though. In this film, we get a hopeful, effective Superman. I don’t care how many examples people can pull from BvS, Superman in that movie was ineffective and dull. The events of Man of Steel should’ve built him up to have this unbreakable will in BvS. Instead, we got a Superman that was continuously swayed by the media, consumed with his own bias, and almost lost to hatred. The fact it even got that far annoyed me. When he finally died at the end, I felt cheated. That feeling of respect Batman and Wonder Woman finally had at the end could’ve been achieved in a different way. Doing the legendary Death of Superman was lazy, because that story could be a 3 hour movie by itself. I talk about all of these things because I really felt these elements in Man of Steel. I felt hope by the end of the film. After all of the death and destruction Snyder put us through, we got to see our hero prevail. It hurt because the villain was so well done, but the message was loud and clear. Superman is here to help. He’s a man of the people. He had a chance to choose his own race over Earth, and he saved his adoptive home world. That message was completely possible to do without an angry Batman, an annoying Lex Luthor, and an unnecessary Wonder Woman. Superman deserves better.

 

THE DESTRUCTION of KRYPTON

This is one of my favorite parts of the movie. This opening feels very different from Snyder’s usual. Things start off where they should, as we see Superman being born. Russell Crowe was great as his father. I love the look of Krypton. In theaters, on television, blu-ray, it doesn’t really matter, Krypton looks stunning. We get introduced to Zod soon after. Jor-El, Supes’ father, is talking to the council about their decision to harvest the planet’s core for resources. It was a dumb move by them, and Jor-El is basically telling them that when Zod comes in. Zod storms in like a raging bull with his crew. He tells the council that all of their hours of debate have gotten them in this mess. You can call Snyder all you want, but I don’t mind his references to our real life politics here. He does it in pretty much all of his films. I mentioned in my X-Men piece, that all writers and creators take from their real world, whether they want to or not. Snyder does that here with his commentary on our political system. Maybe that wasn’t his intention, but I drew a correlation, and that’s all that matters I guess. Jor-El then escapes Zod’s forces and goes outside to see a battle in full effect. People when I tell you this was beautiful, I mean beautiful! The effects here are stunning, and the music is brilliant. This movie, along with The Dark Knight have the best music to me. Guardians of the Galaxy’s soundtrack is up there as well. But this one, feels directly linked to Superman as a character. How fitting to hear it when Jor-El is being a total badass. I’m not going to lie, I’m not interested in prequel shows or movies where our hero isn’t even in them (I’m looking at you Gotham) but after this scene I wanted a Krypton prequel directed by Snyder. That’s how much I enjoyed this. Superman’s mother is powerful in these scenes too. I feel for her, because she’s never going to see her son again. She knows it, and it is tearing her apart. So Jor-El puts the genetic codes Zod wants into Superman and sends him off. Jor-El is eventually killed by Zod. His crew is captured and sentenced to some weird type of punishment. Why they just don’t kill Zod for the murders of fellow Kryptonians is beyond me. Now, you talk about tear jerking moments, I don’t what gets in to me every time I see this film. Superman’s mother knows it’s over. Meanwhile, the planet is erupting. I love the music here. She says, “Make a better world than ours Kal.” The planet then explodes soon after. A fantastic opening is complete.

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MY NAME IS LOIS LANE

We fast forward into Superman’s adult life. He’s working on some kind of boat. An oil rig is doomed to explode so he decides to go and help. This is a good scene to show who Superman is. We all know who he is from comics, but Snyder shows us his Superman is just as helpful. He’ll save anyone. That’s what makes him special. Now, I start to dislike this movie when the flashbacks come. The only reason is because the first couple of flashbacks we do see aren’t that good in my opinion. Yeah, they establish the goofy mother thing so it’s relevant in BvS, but why not start with this? I liked the opening scene with the oil rig, but the movie starts to jump a bit after the fact. As soon as that flashback is over, we’re back in the present. Clark is basically a bum. Then, we’re back in the past. Not even a whole two minutes later. We see Clark and his 7% body fat, and now we’re back to his kid years. In this flashback, a bus he’s on goes underwater. So what does he do? He’s freaking Superman so he saves his classmates by pushing the bus out of the river. This flashback is cool because it shows us that Clark always had those morals inside of him. He’s a good kid. Even if he wasn’t Superman, probably would’ve become a police officer or something. The scene after is cool. We get insight into Clark and his father’s relationship. Kevin Costner does a good job portraying the small-town man from Kansas. He comes off as a humble man who loves his family. He shows Clark the pod he came from. This flashback was pretty cool, even though I stand by the idea the movie should’ve started here. The speech Costner gives to Clark is pretty epic in its meaning.It almost comes off forced. But he’s a good actor. He does a good job of making it feel natural, something BvS and Suicide Squad struggled with a bit to me. So, we get thrusted back into the present. Clark has an encounter with some drunk fool that tries to fight him. I love that Clark crushed up the man’s truck. It was funny and unexpected honestly.

The movie starts to bore me a bit here. Lois Lane didn’t need to be in this film. Did she hurt the movie? I don’t know, but I didn’t need her here. This movie should’ve been about Superman alone. It was for the most part, but Lane’s part in this film is dragged out for no reason. Well, the reason is so her and Clark meet on the ship, but that’s lazy. Their first meeting doesn’t feel organic. Why is Superman randomly here? How does he know what this place is? If the movie answered those questions, I guess I’m just dumb. Anyways, Lois gets injured on the ship and Clark saves her using his heat vision. Of course, he doesn’t stick around for an interview so she decides to do some digging. I have no problem with this because she is a reporter. This is what reporters do. If they see something out of the ordinary, they will risk their lives to figure out what it was. My problem with this comes later on. Lois tries to get Perry White to print the story, but she’s denied. There’s more dialogue on government here as well when Lois talks about the Pentagon. Like I said earlier, this movie should have been ONLY about Superman. The scene after Lois’ adventure proves my point. He’s in the ship and Jor-El’s memories are loaded into the ship. Russell Crowe returns to speak to his son. Their dialogue is great. He gives Clark the suit and describes its significance. It’s wonderful. He walks out into the world with the suit on. I love the explanation of Superman’s powers too. The music starts and we witness Superman fly for the first time. Henry Cavill shares a genuine smile with us while he’s flying. Once again, the music here is untouchable. We now have Superman in costume and he knows his origins. Transition into him saving people now right? Maybe Zod coming to Earth? Clark telling his mother he’s discovered his true origins? Nope, we go back to the adventures of Lois Lane. She tracks down Clark and finds out he’s Superman! What? Seriously DC? I have a major problem with this because in Batman v. Superman, Batman didn’t or couldn’t find out who Superman was. And don’t give me the “He was blinded by rage, the thought of Superman being human didn’t cross his mind,” crap. Batman is considered the world’s greatest detective. He can solve any problem from fixing his Batmobile to one of Riddler’s annoying riddles. That’s who Batman is. Batman should’ve been able to find out who he was, question him, realize he’s tripping and they join forces. The “V” in that movie is based upon a whole bunch of if’s and petty attitudes. Lois shouldn’t have found out his true identity an hour into the film. But alas, she did. She meets with Clark and the grave of Johnathan Kent is shown. Immediately, I knew we were going to get a flashback of his death. The flashback is a bit cheesy because John didn’t need to die. Superman could’ve just sprinted really fast to get the dog or save his dad. Still, the scene was sad because Clark knows he could’ve saved his dad but he failed. It ties into Batman’s frustration with not being able to save his mom and I do enjoy that. The execution of the arc in BvS was horrible though. Back on track though. Lois talks with Clark about his life and eventually tells Perry she’s going to drop the story.

 

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GENERAL ZOD

The movie transitions into its conflict after this. A cliché alien announcement takes place as Zod tells everyone on Earth that he is coming. No doubt Bruce Wayne saw this. So he knows that Zod is up to no good. In BvS, he clearly saw Superman fighting Zod. I just don’t understand why Batman could still conclude Superman was the enemy. So after this, Lois is taken by the FBI because of her relation to Superman. We then get another freaking flashback with John and Clark where they continue to drive home the idea that he’s going to change the world. It helps establish his character. Clark then goes and visits a priest where he reveals that he doesn’t trust Zod. He also reveals that he doesn’t completely trust the people of Earth yet either. That’s cool, it feeds into his negativity and spiral downwards in BvS, but I still don’t like it. Superman surrenders himself to the military. I talked about this in my Jessica Jones review and Daredevil Season 2 Review. If superheroes were real, or someone like Batman existed, the military would clash with them more than any other group. Mainly because the military sees themselves as heroes and they wouldn’t want someone stepping on their toes. Here again, we witness the military judging the intentions of a superhero. This one has some validity to it though since Superman is technically the first superhero. That’s not true though because the DCEU has stated that everyone in this universe has existed for some time. Especially Batman and Wonder Woman. But whatever. So they interrogate Superman. He talks with Lois a bit. Their chemistry isn’t there to me. Their involvement is simply plot based and doesn’t feel too real. We start to see the formation of their relationship as they hold hands until Zod comes. Still though, Supes can’t crack a smile for his lady. Zod and crew show up. They take Clark and Lois onto the ship. Zod explains to Clark that he needs the genetic codes. Zod tells Clark that Earth must be destroyed for Krypton to live again. Clark can’t be a part of that. Zod continues to be a good villain here. He tells Clark he killed Jor-El. That it haunts him constantly, but he’d do it again if he had to. That’s a sympathetic villain. All he wants to do, all he’s programmed to do, is save his people. No one else. It’s an interesting conflict no doubt. Russell Crowe makes a return as he helps Lois escape the ship. Zod makes a huge mistake after this. They go to Clark’s home searching for the codes. Except it isn’t there. But Superman is! He flies in and starts beating the mess out of Zod. The movie is pretty great from here. I am not one of those people who cares about the destruction in this movie. Is it a bit careless? Not really. This stuff is inherent with superheroes. Avengers, Superman, Batman, they all cause insane destruction that kills people. The fight scenes here are great. They look a bit choppy sometimes because of the CGI, but overall I like it. During the fight, Superman saves Chris Meloni’s character. He’s one of the military people who was involved with Lois. He realizes that Superman isn’t the enemy. The first sign of hope Superman has given this world.

Zod continues with his plans. He releases something called a world engine. It works together with their ship. Zod is turning Earth into Krypton. The stakes are high. The machine that’s in Metropolis is insane. People are fleeing for their lives and dying as the machine is doing its damage. Superman goes to destroy the one over the Indian Ocean (which is where the Kryptonite was. DC you sly dog.) The next scene in the movie has Superman written all over it. Perry and company try to escape but are basically trapped by the machine in Metropolis. One of their workers is caught underneath some debris. Her fate it sealed. Perry and the other worker stay with her because she’s losing it. At the same time, Superman is struggling to destroy this machine. It’s pure Kryptonian, so he can’t just tear it apart. He has to work for it. The imager Snyder gives us of the workers is breathtaking. That’s the feeling someone has during all of this. No matter how strong you think you are, how much you work out, your bank account size, or even the attractiveness of your wife, everyone feels helpless in these situations. These actors did a great job portraying that feeling. They want to help, they want to get out alive, but they simply can’t. As always, the music here is immaculate. Superman has a great moment where he destroys the machine. Metropolis is safe. Chris Meloni’s character has a great moment where he destroys the Kryptonian ship. Would he have done that without Superman’s influence? Hell no. This is what Superman does for people. Krypton is no more now. Any hope Zod had of restoring the race was dismantled by the people of Earth. Of course he isn’t too happy about that. A showdown with Superman is inevitable. The fight overall was solid. The music gave it that extra emotion, but the CGI during this fight was lackluster to me. Some scenes looked like a straight up video game. At the end of the fight, Zod is about to kill some humans when Superman snaps his neck. I don’t care about this at all, because he had to do it. He clearly didn’t want too, but he had to. The scream after clearly indicates Superman’s pain at taking a life, even if it wasn’t an innocent one. The movie ends with Superman destroying a military drone. More Snyder commentary on government. He tells the general he’s here to help but on his own terms. The film ends with him being introduced to Lois Lane. Can you imagine how cool it would’ve been if that was the first time we saw her? That would’ve truly been epic, not the forced relationship we got. Then they could’ve explored that relationship in Man of Steel 2. Then we could’ve got a Wonder Woman film, solo Batman film, Batman vs. Superman, Justice League, and then—-oh wait, we didn’t get any of that.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The focus on Superman’s origin and his values was well done. The music elevates the film to a different level. All the performances in the movie were solid. I don’t like Henry Cavill as Superman, but I’m used to it now. I don’t hate him at all because he has some great moments. The film’s pacing was a bit awkward at times. They should’ve started the movie with him as a kid. It would’ve made the father’s death a bit more meaningful. Lois Lane as a character is awesome. I love her attitude and her reporting skills. But her relationship with Superman didn’t feel legit. It’s hard to focus on the origin and values of Superman while trying to focus on his love story as well. And besides, it didn’t get that much attention anyway. He saved her a couple of times, and they kissed.

The main reason this movie is downgraded to me is because of Batman v. Superman. The whole premise of that movie is dumb because Superman saved the entire planet. How does Batman not know that? And Superman’s views on Batman were formed because he was swayed by media. That’s incredibly dumb because Superman usually gives everyone a chance. And he’s a reporter. He did a couple of investigations and determined Batman was up to no good. That’s not the Superman we saw in Man of Steel. After everything he went through in that movie. Being hated, the media probably portraying him in a certain way, you’d think he would try to understand Batman a bit more. The themes of Man of Steel sort of disappeared in BvS because of the introduction of Batman. That’s a disservice to Superman because they simply killed him off to show that the Man of Steel themes were still present. Man of Steel was a great movie though. The story was solid, the action was good, and the music is next-level. I give it a solid 8.5/10

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