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Man of Steel Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Superman, Movies, Reviews Jun 21 2013 · 737 views

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:kaukau: When Goyer pitched Nolan the story for Man of Steel, Nolan stopped everything he was doing because he realized he had just stumbled upon the freshest idea since Marty McFly invented Rock'n'Roll.  I had my doubts because I really didn't like having "Mr. Batman" connected to Superman, because I didn't want the Man of Steel to live in the shadow of the Dark Knight.  However, I acknowledged that Mr. Nolan loves to play with characters, explore what their meaning, and play with the big moral questions that arise.  He treats movies like case studies with much to learn.  Even though his involvement in this movie went little further than a phone call, his name came up before any of the other producers and it's a glowing endorsement, and I suspected that he would not have helped get this movie made if it didn't appeal to his sensibilities.  Then the trailers came out, and they had a number of philosophic lines that looked like they were the tip of the iceberg for profound thought.  Zack Snyder talked about making a movie about this character, and how it was fitting that after Watchmen, in which he deconstructed the superhero genre, that he could take things the other way and construct a defense for the genre with its purest archetype.  Then reviews came out ahead of time saying that it was one of the best movies of the year, that audiences got up and applauded.
Many of you know that I have held this movie in contempt before it came out because of Nolan, Snyder, Zimmer, the costume, the casting, and other things that looked bad to me.  However, in these last couple of months, I made sure to get excited for this movie. I wore a Superman shirt almost every day, and I got over many of the issues I had.  The movie wouldn't satisfy a purist like me, but I figured that it was bound to have a great story nonetheless and be a good movie.  It would probably show what was special about Superman and what set him apart from other superheroes.  It would probably sell him to the rest of the world.  I stopped being critical once I noticed the excitement and enthusiasm spreading throughout America, as anticipation built up for an inevitable surprise.  I went to Universal Studios the week before the movie came out and noticed that there were countless numbers of people wearing Superman shirts, with no other superhero being represented.  After living for a few years feeling like a minority for thinking Superman was cool, it was nice to see my passions gain popularity and for someone to finally make the case for the man I see so much in.  I biked twelve miles to see the midnight premier, wearing a Superman shirt and cape, expecting to be blown away.
Well, it turns out that Man of Steel does none of these things.  Think you're in for a philosophical treat?  Think again.  All the deep thought that goes into this movie ends with the lines in the trailers.  Pa Kent says to his son "You existence has some profound implications."  Which is about it.  Nobody says anything further on the matter.  The film doesn't thematically explore these.  Jor-El tells his son that he will "become an ideal for the people of Earth to strive for."  Just one problem: what is the ideal that Superman represents?  What does it mean to be him?
Screw it all.  Let's move on to the punching.
This movie had so much potential, but to explain where everything all went wrong I'm going to have to start at the beginning.  After the production companies flash by, Man of Steel starts off with little Kal-El's birth.  Jor-El then talks to the council, and Zod bursts in, killing people and overthrowing the Kyrptonian government.  The tensions between Zod and Jor-El come out purely through exposition.  There's no chemistry between them whatsoever, because the storyteller decided to tell us the story in vague terms instead of show us.  Jor-El fights with Zod and his men, except it's nowhere near as epic as it could be because Snyder chose to shoot it all in shakycam closeups.  Jor-El runs out to view Krypton at war, which would be totally epic, but there's nothing new to this beyond what's revealed in the third trailer, except this time he's accompanied by electronic music instead of a timeless, noble orchestral piece.  He flies a cool Kryptonian animal to a place to find this MacGuffin.  I have nothing wrong with MacGuffins, so long as the MacGuffins are cool and have a cool story to go with them, like in your typical Indiana Jones story.  But this is some sort of special skull called the Codex, which we know virtually nothing about except through vague exposition.  Apparently, it's where all the DNA for every Kryptonian who will ever be born is stored.  Why was it only stored in that one place?  Why did it have no security?  I don't know.
Here's where I make my suggestions.  First of all, I always wanted to see a science fiction epic set purely within Kryptonian civilization, focusing on Jor-El and Zod.  It would be a great way to put Superman's story in perspective, but even more than that, it would be a really great piece of science fiction.  The death of a world doomed by its mistakes and the tale of two men torn apart by their differences is really interesting, something a good writer can stack implications upon.  There's a very great narrative here, a classic Greek tragedy.  Snyder wouldn't need to cram in rushed exposition, and we would have a much better idea of what was going on.  Best of all, the war of Krypton could receive a full amount of screen time and it would be the most epic thing since Star Wars.  And John Williams could write the score.  Seriously, it would be one of the coolest movies ever.
The one thing I can give this opening sequence credit for is that it's the most interesting part of the movie.  Krypton is a cool place, and I'd like to see more of it.  I will always have a special place in my heart for the Donner version of Krypton, which was a giant crystal, but I appreciate how elegant Snyder made this place, and I think it fits the character of what Krypton is supposed to be, a beautiful, noble utopia that symbolizes everything humanity aspires toward, or at least on the surface.  It's a shame we couldn't have spent a little more time there to make the film a bit more of an adventure and to increase the scale of the story.  Snyder's a visual director, so I'm surprised he didn't do that.
But moving on.  I said I biked twelve miles to see this movie on its opening night.  The second day it was out, I biked fifty more miles to watch it with a friend.  It was his second time, too.  He told me he knew the movie wouldn't be too good when Lara-El puts her son in the spaceship and sends it off to Earth.  She cried for a moment.  Then she sees her husband die.  She doesn't cry for that, for some reason.  These should have been tearjerker scenes, but they did nothing for us.  This is supposed to be a seriously very emotional story, but I can't connect with Jor-El and Lara, and the narrative of this story simply didn't do it for me.  They weren't crafted out of love, and seemed to be thrown on mostly out of obligation.  I have a major problem with that.  The producers needed to find a director who could not only be visually poetic, capture all the power behind each moment.  Snyder couldn't do that.
That leads me to the next problem I have with this movie.  The marketing puts a lot of emphasis on Clark's two sets of parents.  People might walk in thinking they're in for something far more psychological, that the parents have a bigger effect on Clark than they have in other incarnations.  This isn't true.  The parents are about as involved in his character development as they were back in the Christopher Reeve days.  It's just that now they're involvement is a little more dramatized.  Russell Crowe gets more screentime than Marlon Brando ever did, but he never had anything on any of Brando's profound, heartfelt monologues.  Meanwhile, this new Jonathan Kent is infinitely inferior to John Schneider's definitive rendition.  Kevin Costner can't even compete with the scarcely present Glenn Ford in the 1978 movie, and I can make that contrast because Ford's death was truly sad.  I was given no reason to fall in love with Clark's adoptive parents.  There were no happy scenes with them.
This film really lacked any happy scenes.  It was joyless and didn't take flight.  For a Superman film, that's a real problem.  There should have been scenes that really placed me in Clark Kent's shoes, but that didn't happen.  If anything, Snyder managed to make him even more alien and harder to relate to.  I didn't buy the stuff about him being a loner.  He was an outsider to everyone - including the audience.  Making him someone we could connect with shouldn't have been too difficult.  Smallville managed to do that in just 45 minutes of pilot episode material, and yet this film wastes two and a half hours of my time on an action romp with no emotional journey whatsoever.
Oh, and let's not forget that not only was the entire film shot using handheld cameras, even when set on elegant Krypton and swooping over the landscapes of America, and had far too many closeups, but it also told the story out of sequence.  There are constant flashbacks throughout the film, half of them at random points that make no sense.  Sometimes I had to wonder what the relevance of some of these flashbacks were, and I really thought there was a much better way of telling this story.  Primarily, Goyer shouldn't have told this story through flashbacks in the first place.  Between the cinematography, the editing, the low ASL (Average Shot Length), and the way much of the story was told out of order, it felt like this was one giant trailer.  The style of this film wasn't bad for a trailer, but it was wrong for this film.  The trailers suggested that this film would have a lot of majesty, as a Superman films should, but it doesn't have that.  There are no smooth shots.  There are few scenes that are allowed to truly play out.  Everything is rushed and there are often awkward scene transitions.  Snyder proves that he can hold a camera and hold it at angles suggestive of drama, but that's far from being a genius with cinematography.  As I said earlier, he can't find the most powerful way to capture a moment.  His choices seem arbitrary and hardly definitive.
Lois gets introduced early on.  There's some profanity and she says some things that I would prefer children not hear.  She discovers Superman in her second scene and starts following his trail.  That's an interesting story premise, and I will agree that Goyer found an interesting new way of having these two characters meet for the first time.  Yet, as the movie wore on, the chemistry between both the actors and the characters felt forced.  Cavill and Amy are hopelessly outmatched by all previous pairs who played the comic world's most prototypical couple.  They lack that charm that lights up the screen when they're together.  Then Superman goes out of his way to help her when the fate of the world is on the line, when he had met her only twice, briefly.  Neither times were even slightly romantic, so here I was thinking "Wait, she's special now?  I was unaware that she meant anything to you."  Perhaps if they had exchanged glances the two times they met prior to that one pivotal scene, suggesting some sort of attraction, I would have understood, but there was none of that.  Then they kiss near the end of the film, which was stupid.  For some reason which proved to be irrelevant, the villains also made a big deal of taking her onto their ship, where she proceeded to be of help to Superman.  Again, it was forced.  There was absolutely no reason for her character to be in this story, which was sad, because some exposition between her and Perry White reveals her to be quite an impressive person.
Perry White and the rest of the Daily Planet staff, meanwhile, prove to be blank characters.  I'll give Lawrance Fishburne credit for bringing gravitas to the character.  He was certainly more interesting than Lois.  There's a moment at the climax of this film where he really gets to shine, one which you get a glimpse of during the trailers when he and Jenny Olson are running away from falling buildings.  He had the potential to be a very compelling character, but since he's not as recognizable as Lois Lane, he has less of a role in the movie.  Meanwhile, his coolness got pulled down by Jenny Olson, who's apparently Jimmy Olson's sister.  I love Jimmy.  He's classic, and he's fun.  I can really connect with his character in the comics.  Yet, I have no idea what kind of person Jenny is.  She's an extra with a name and some lines and a scene dedicated to her, but they don't reveal anything about her.  She didn't have any relevance to the story at all.  There's another guy, too.  I have no idea who he was, but he had a name and lines, too.  I guess that's realistic, but I did have to wonder what the point of including him was.  He brought nothing to the screen.  He didn't even help contribute to the feel of any particular scene.  For a story about how Kal-El is meant to connect with humans, there was very little of the human element in this story.
Again, I can't stress this enough.  Not only did Clark lack the human element, but humanity itself lacked the human element.  People going into this movie expected a brought story about all the effects that Superman's existence had on mankind and how humanity reacted.  The only reactions we see are those belonging to the military, which is is a little skeptical of him but surprisingly accepting, considering what I and many others were expecting, since this was marketed as an epic first contact film focused on realism.  Society at large is absent throughout much of this story.  In fact, once Clark officially reveals himself as Superman, I never see any of society's reactions again.  That's when I would have wanted to see it the most.  It's a pity, and it gets worse, because after he officially becomes Superman halfway through the film, the story stops dead.
No, seriously, there's virtually no story after the point when he officially becomes a superhero.  He fights Zod.  He fights and fights and fights.  Actually, he fights a bunch of other Kryptonians first, including Faora, who's actress, Anje Trau, had more presence than anyone else in the film.  Yet, I can't say they gave Faora much recognition in this film.  Again, that really frustrates me, because I really want Faora to become her own independent entity and no longer defined by Zod.  TV Tropes would call her an "orbit character".  Trau is perfect for the character, and yet she's little more than Zod's main henchman and a source of physical conflict for Superman.  She has some cool lines, actually, but she really could have used more.  Especially since Antje Trau is beautiful.  Too bad she can't possibly come back for the sequel, considering the way this movie was written.  Then there's a giant, faceless Kryptonian who must have been Non, which again I guess is cool, but I still have to wonder how these Kryptonians can jump up in the air without any flight powers and pull Superman down from the sky.  Why couldn't he just toss them out into orbit?  Why did all of their fighting have to take place on the ground?
Visually, all of these fight scenes are spectacular.  Superman fighting the giant robot in the trailer wasn't all it was cut up to be because of all the close cuts and the shakeycam, though.  And the sound editing was cringeworthy both times around.  You'll know it when you see it.  Or hear it.  Well, he's flying toward the robot, and then all of a sudden he begins coughing.  It's really loud and it sounds really fake.  Really fake.  And they use the same stock sound effect throughout the scene.  Were they kidding me?  Far more interesting and stimulating was the giant gravity laser being fired at Metropolis, destroying buildings and threatening people.  As far as action went, I actually found that the most interesting, and it would have been nice to see Superman doing that thing he does.  You know, saving people.  But I didn't get to see him juggle the task of saving people and stopping Zod's same plan at the same time.
Then there's the fight between him and Zod, who wasn't as intense as Faora.  I guess it was supposed to be more personal, but the two characters had just barely met each other.  It didn't feel too personal to me.  The conflict, as far as I was concerned, was purely physical.  They throw punches repeatedly, but unfortunately, these people really can't hurt each other, and it gets reduntant.  The destruction is cool, but eventually it gets a little boring, or at least for me.  The whole time, Hans Zimmer beats lifelessly on the drums of war, creating a beat that has a lot of energy but no character.  At the same time, I have to admit that this was what I was hoping for the climax of Thor when it came out a few years ago, except for that movie it would have been set on Asgard.  Seeing Asgard getting destroyed would have been so much better eye candy.
Then Supeman kills Zod.  Just like that.  Snaps his neck.  Yes, this is a major plot spoiler, but I'm sure a million and one people have ranted about this already, and if you haven't already heard about this then you've been living under a rock.  It's the main thing people have been bringing up.
You know, I was afraid of some of these other mistakes, but Superman killing someone?  No.  No.
"But Superman has killed before!" I hear some of you cry.  Yes, but those were in storylines that completely centered around this.  He was traumatized by being forced into getting his hands dirty.  He remained effected for a long time.  Nothing in this movie builds up to that moment.  It doesn't fit into the themes the film was suggesting at the beginning, what with Kal-El choosing his own destiny and affecting the world.  This was not supposed to be a "Superman breaks his #1 rule" story arc.  It was never mentioned what Superman stood for, what he believed in.  Henvry Cavill cringes his face, screams in horror at what he did, but a minute later this tragic act is trivialized with him returning back to normal.  His murder is never brought up again and doesn't affect the rest of the film whatsoever.
Superman finds a way.  He almost always finds a way.  When he doesn't, it's in a story that really builds up to it, like the famous "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow"?  But then, the Man of Steel had plenty of time to be constructed before being deconstructed, before being torn out of his normal predictable pattern.  Yet, in this film, I still don't even have that much of an idea of what kind of person Henry Cavill is supposed to be.  There's no conclusion.  I don't feel his character has even changed.
I'm a major Superman fan.  He's my favorite superhero.  Most people who get to know me know that.  I read a ton of Superman comics before watching this film, especially all the classics.  Suffice to say, I understand the character and I should watch this film and be able to explain him.  I can't.  I don't understand Cavill's Superman.  I can't come out of the theatre and explain him to a non-Superman fan.  I'm just s familiar with this guy as anyone else.
It's very difficult to think of this as an actual origin story.  If anything, the sequel should play the role of the origin story and build up the character.  Now that he's introduced, and all the flashbacks are out of the way, they can actually start to explore the implications of his existence.
Snyder said "We can't mess this up!"  He was so determined to present something new, because Superman had apparently never been made relatable before.  He wanted this character to be understood.  With this as the supposed focus, I expected a character story.  I expected him to justify Superman as an engaging character, to show to the world what set him apart from other superheroes.  He must not have wanted it that much.  That was a heck of a lot of false advertising, if you ask me.  These people didn't just take Superman in the wrong direction, but it's almost as if they didn't even understand him.  Or even what they were doing.  I can understand why they did what they did.  After Superman Returns, people complained that Superman never threw an honest punch.  That movie was all story and very little action, and it turned out disappointingly.  Ergo, a swing in the opposite direction.  It seems like a natural response.  Yet, that's not what Snyder said he was going to do.  He didn't say "We're going to make this an action movie."  He talked about character, and he said how they had to get this story right.
Was it a bad movie?  Actually, no.  I won't say so.  It might be good.  I won't fault anyone who likes it.  The action personally wasn't my thing, although I think a large part of that was the cinematography.  I can see how someone else would find it awesome.  I have met other people who have enjoyed it.  My uncle thought it was good.  The friend I watched it with the second time around personally didn't find it his thing, but he said that objectively it was probably a good film.  Meanwhile, I really want to like this film.  I will probably see it a third time.  This time with my Batfan superfriend.  If she can be entertained by it, I suppose I'll find some good things.  I really do want this to appeal to people, even if it isn't true to Superman's character.  And I promise, I will post a second review listing only the positive things about the film.
Even though this film broke my heart, I will watch it a third time.  Heck, I will pay for my superfriend's tickets.  I'm desperate to like this movie and have a good time.  If that doesn't work out, well, at least I got a date.


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Nolan's had much more original and fresher ideas than this just in the last decade.


Batman won.



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Finally, someone who gets it. JV, totally, 100% agree with you on almost everything. You've written a great review here, but thank you for getting that this movie fell short on a LOT of things. It's just a good action movie, period. It doesn't really get who Superman is, and falls short on ALL of his relationships and WHY he wants to be who he is.


We've had talks before, I'm a Batman fan first, but I had HIGH hopes for Superman because I respect and appreciate what he represents and what he stands for. But this movie just didn't do it for me at all.


Everyone I know has been saying this is a great film, and I just can't see why. It's just a CGI action movie featuring a guy who looks like Superman. >=/


(I will admit, I thought the actors weren't bad and the action was fun. Story, character development and ...even fresh action scenes, all were lame.)

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It's interesting how you don't apply the same logic about the theoretical implications not going anywhere to the controversial death scene, but I can see a bit of fanboy rage there =P.


All things considered with Superman's murder, it's a brilliant step in defining who the character is in the context of that universe... if it wasn't done in such a cliched way. It was literally kill or (let others) be killed in that scenario; I think they did an admirable job of constructing the issue that he faced (in a word, genocide), and make us knew that he knew the status quo, but this was culminated by literally writing him into a corner and essentially forcing the issue, not letting it come organically. Apparently in an earlier cut, Zod dies straight off with the rest of his crew, but this eventually evolved into what happens in the movie. And I definitely don't fault them for having Superman kill Zod; for all that talk about unrelatability, Superman is a seriously difficult character to nail outside of exposition-heavy comic setting, and this one act definitely ensured that future developments will be very different from what we know, and this is absolutely a good thing.


And also they need sequel bait; it's not like that's just going to never get mentioned again. THAT would be the true failure.


Also, Cavill totally sells it as Superman. He's snarky without being disingenuous, which is always a fantastic combination. Amy Adams was great too, even if it's a strange choice for Lois Lane.


So yeah, it's not the greatest movie (so many pacing issues) but the performances and the story really sell it, and it's easily the best incarnation of Superman we've had in a good long while, and will continue to have for another decade, I imagine.


In conclusion: Jenny Olson was the worst character and needs to be replaced immediately, and no after-credits scene is a glaring missed opportunity in light of how they're trying to build towards Justice League.

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I found the movie pretty meh all around.

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Jean Valjean
Jun 22 2013 10:54 AM

:kaukau: Well, I'll try to respond to each of these:


Tyler: I'll agree, Batman Begins was a better movie and a far more solid reboot of a franchise that ended hard less than a decade ago.  It was far truer to the character, too.


Quote: Well, you're welcome.  I find it cool that you don't necessarily see Batman and Superman as exclusive interests and that you have to be either one or the other.  I mean, I made a decision not to see people who prefer Batman as adversaries so much as "superfriends".  It works out so much better that way.  And I agree that the film really needed to establish his relationships with other people.  Jor-El said that he had spent enough time with humanity to consider himself one of them, but with the exception of what little I saw of his parents, I did not see him truly interact with any human, and his relationships just needed to be worked on so much more, considering how much they defined him.


And seeing as you called this a "CGI action movie featuring a guy who happens to look like Superman," I'll come out and say that I was tempted to go this entire review and not mention that this was a Superman movie.  I was tempted to write this review saying "This movie pays subtle tribute to a similar character by the name of Superman," or something like that, and the whole time calling Henry Cavill's character just "Henry Cavill."


Dorek: There's this article by Darren Franch in Entertainment Weekly called "Superman Breaks a Commandment".




There are two very different movies in Man of Steel, the Superman reboot that lit up the box office last weekend.  Both of them are stupid, but only one of them is terrible.  The less terrible movie constitutes Man of Steel's first half, a simultaneous retelling of Superman's origin story and Jesus Christ's origin story, which means there's nothing surprising for anyone who's read a comic book or even been to church.  But at least it's better than the film's second half, an extended sequence wherein the villainous General Zod (Michael Shannon) and the heroic Superman (Henry Cavill) punch each other faster than superpeople have ever punched each other before.


After their fight has leveled half of Metropolis, Superman manages to get Zod in a choke hold.  Zod uses his heat vision and threatens to kill some locals.  Superman begs him not to.  Zod refuses.  So Superman kills Zod.


This is a shocking moment.  In his classic incarnation, Superman never killed anyone.  (In Superman II, Terence Stamp's Zod appeared to die, but that movie is an absurdist half-parody of a Superman movie; comparing the dour realism of Man of Steel to Superman II is a bit like comparing United 93 to Airplane!) [To add to what Darren Franich says, in the Richard Donner cut, Zod was seen being escorted to jail by the police]  It was part of his code, as surely as refusing to fire guns was part of Batman's code and never wearing yellow was part of Green Lantern's.  That changed in 1986, when the brilliant Alan Moore wrote "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"  Constructed as a swan song for the first half century of Superman's history, "Whatever Happened" is a comic book that pushes the superhero to the edge.  In the end, he has to break his first rule and kill someone.  The person he kills is incredibly evil; you could argue that the person deserves to die.  Just like in Man of Steel, Superman is comforted post-kill by Lois: "B-but you had to!  You haven't done anything wrong!"  But Superman does not stand for that.  "Yes, I have.  Nobody has the right to kill," he said.  "Not you, not Superman...especially not Superman."


Two years after "Whatever Happened", comics writer John Byrne crafted a story where Superman meets a version of Zod who threatens to commit unspeakable acts.  He kills Zod and his two compadres with green kryptonite.  The act haunts Superman for years - at one point he exiles himself from Earth in shame.  Back then, the notion of Superman killing someone meant something.  Superman was not just a good man; he was the best man.


In Man of Steel, Superman cries out when he kills Zod, but one scene later he's swapping witty banter with General Swanwick.  The film seems to be suggesting that taking a life barely affects Superman.  In fact, because the movie is an origin story, the subtext is even freakier: Superman only becomes Superman when he saves Metropolis by killing Zod, a baptism-by-blood that has more in common with Casino Royale than any Superman comic I remember.


Unlike in Byrne's version, Superman's decision is not a fascinating moral quandary; it's a blunt-force instant decision that comes down to: "Zod is about to kill a human being.  What can Superman do?  Nothing!  Murder is justified!"  By comparison, imagine it 12 Angry Men were remade as One Angry Man starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and a rocket launcher.  The fact that nobody involved in the making of the film could come up with a clever way for Superman not to kill Zod says a lot about how simplistic Man of Steel is.


But the real tragedy of Man of Steel is that it comes from David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan, who worked together on the Dark Knight trilogy, which posed intriguing questions about Batman's role as a hero in society.  Man of Steel doesn't pose those questions.  We know that Superman was justified, because Superman is Superman.  In that sense, the movie, unforgivably, has its cake and eats it, too.  It strives to make Superman "realistic," while taking for granted that he's a Christ figure who stands for moral virtue.  It literally covers Superman in mud and then pretends his hands are clean.


I see where you're coming from when you say that the theme of the film was "What kind of man are you going to be?" and that can be construed as leading up to him killing.  It was still wrong.  It took the thing most central to the character, that he's supposed to be a portrait of the best humanity can ever be, and throws it aside.  They could have had a more powerful conclusion with that premise, because it still feels really incomplete, like this song ended mid-note.  However, if the sequel picks up on these themes and shows how deeply this affects him, then you're right.  There's a lot of room for character development.  Perhaps he will truly become all that he is meant to symbolize in the second film, just as Batman Begins merely introduced the character while the next two films played with his role in society.


This takes Superman in a very different direction, certainly.  You said that that's a good thing, but change in and of itself it neutral.  In this case, I think it's bad, because it wasn't what they should have done.  It's very untrue to one of the most fundamental aspects of the character.  They can make other changes.  They did that with the costume, the music, the pacing, the style, the science fiction, the relationships he has, and so forth.  But there comes a point where too much is too much, and making Superman a killer is trampling over sacred ground.  That's changing who he is.  That makes him a different character entirely.  And this movie was supposed to be a justification and a validation for the idealistic superhero, according t Snyder, in the midst of a trend where it's popular for superhero films to be cynical.  You tell inspirational stories with Superman, or at least ones that give you a lot to chew on.  That's simply what you do.  And they didn't.  People say that they did good, and perhaps they were right, but I knew better that this had potential to be a great movie.


See, I said that I read a lot of superman comic books in preparation for this movie.  It usually took me only a couple of hours per story arc, which was less time than this movie took (although it should be noted that running time includes the credits).  These comics that I read had not only more story, but these stories had the power to grip and engage.  Mot importantly, they had an impact on me and had the power to stay with me.  Man of Steel's story won't do that.  The first time around, after coming out of the theatre and considering writing a review, I had difficulty even saying what the story was, because I mainly remember there just being a lot of action that all sort of gets blurred together.


Of course, perhaps that's because Superman works the best in comics.  He flourishes in literature, but at the same time he's custom-made for visual storytelling.  The perfect blend is in graphic novels, where he can get the best of both worlds.  People won't complain if there's a lack of action, so long as the illustrations resonate with them, and there's a strong choice of imagery.  It's through this medium that an author and an artist can both capture the awe that he's supposed to inspire while simultaneously dropping the reader into his shoes and under his skin.  It's fairly difficult to capture everything that he's supposed to be using purely either literature or cinema, although I believe anything can be done.  Considering the amazing stories I have read in less than two hours, I don't care if it was in another medium.  I just expected these filmmakers to be a bit more inspired, because it should have been their goal, given the money they spent on this, to go out and strive for an even better story than the source material, or one that was just as good.  They could have done so much better, and didn't, for which this film was a huge disappointment.


I can't say Cavill sells it.  The cinematography certainly didn't do him justice, with no long cuts to give him breathing room to truly act.  I think that long cuts as a wide angle work the best, because it allows actors to use their entire bodies and, more importantly, settle into a scene.  You can see the chemistry between actors, the chemistry between the actor and the set, and the chemistry of the scene as a whole.  While Cavill can do Superman's mannerisms, I still think that the film was week in the acting department because of its poor calls.  They really needed a few scenes where the camera just stayed still for a full minute so this character and hi performance could be grounded and come to life.  Otherwise, he was fairly distant.


I can't agree with you that he's snarky without being disingenuous, since he wasn't quite that way in this film; Superman was never really known for his sense of humor.  He can add a slight bit of levity to a situation that makes him open and approachable, and if that's what you mean, than I agree with you.  If he's characterized by anything, though, it's his passion.  That man has soul, for which I must credit Christopher Reeve for giving him.  If there's one thing that an actor must bring to the role, it must be a predominant sense of wholesomeness.  I got a lot of other things from Cavill that were dead-on, but not that, which I think is the most important element when trying to make your performance of Superman timeless.


Now, there were times when he really did feel like Superman, like whenever he talks with General Swanwick.  Or when he comes home to his mother.  Yet, again, Batman Begins comparisons come up.  He wasn't even a tenth of the total immersion that Christian Bale was as Bruce Wayne.


Amy Adams, though.  Wow.  She was a glaringly bad choice for Lois Lane.  I mean, she can play a tough reporter, but at no point in the entire movie did I think "That's Lois Lane" instead of "That's Amy Adams."  Her face is just too well known.  That, and there were the issues with chemistry that I mentioned.  Yeah, I know, she's been nominated for Academy Awards four times, but let's face it - she was better in those roles than in this one.


As for the post-credit scene, thank goodness they didn't do that.  Sorry, but as cool as they are with Marvel, DC movies should not do the same, because that's just copying someone else's style.  Marvel dared to be a little more unconventional, and that's okay.  From DC I want the other end of the spectrum, with movies that are a little more conventional and classic, especially since their characters are older.  Besides, out of personal preference, if I was a director I wouldn't go with an end-credit scene, because I like to have awesome credit music that ends on a definitive note.  I can thank John Williams for inspiring me in that direction.


Although the end of the credits was still fail.  Hans Zimmer just played soft, indistinct music for the last few minutes until it faded out.  Where's the triumph in that?



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Hans Zimmer's score was probably my least favorite part of the entire thing, but that's neither here nor there.


Anyhow, I definitely liked the actor's chemistry, but that just comes down to what side of the fence you're on in regards to the movie. Amy Adams was actually better than I expected her to be in the role, if only because she made it different than any other incarnation; I have a passionate dislike of Smallville and all of the actors/characters in it.


As for that EW article, absolutely; the choice, the idea, the direction they're going in is all fantastic. The execution just happened to be a bit trite.


Superman's role is tough to define because he definitely comes across as different in every medium incarnation. In the comics he serves as this bastion of morality, but not only is that difficult to translate into other forms of media, it's ultimately not relatable. Comics are meant to serve as stories, as tales, with a built-in message of some kind. Film is very different because you have real people, and those people need to connect with the audience, which is oftentimes their primary job as an actor. If Superman "found a way" to not kill Zod, I personally would have been very disengaged with that choice, since the only reasonable alternative is the Phantom Zone, which then becomes a half-baked homage to Superman II. Killing Zod was decidedly the smart move, I just wish the circumstances had allowed for a better scene of it.


Also, they totally needed an after-credits scene. They're already trying to play catch-up to Marvel, whether or not they admit to that. Justice League has been fast-tracked for 2015, same time as Avengers 2. I understand that their approach can't be identical, but considering that their end-goal is remarkably similar, it's a waste not to introduce any kind of elements that they can pick up in the future. Green Lantern, as hated as it was, had a slight after-credits scene that served as both a potential sequel pickup or just a lingering plot thread for a Justice League movie to perhaps do. Or, given the unlikelihood of a sequel, to go nowhere at all. They'd have to be relying on a Justice League movie to sell it on its own terms, and I don't know if they have enough (metaphorical) firepower to do so.

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I've seen the movie myself, and I have to say, I'm a fence straddler. If Man of Steel was going to be a standalone movie, you bet it was a poor Superman movie.


But it's not. One of the best justifications of Superman's character I've seen is Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Now, unlike Man of Steel, Superman doesn't kill anybody, but you do see an alternate version of Superman kill his version of Luthor. For almost the entire first season of JLU, the story revolves around the Justice League's increasing similarity to the Justice Lords, and Superman most of all. Superman doesn't realize how far he's gone to ensure security--nor does he begin to realize it until Captain Marvel resigns from the Justice League after a paranoid Superman destroyed a Luthor-funded housing project.


While I do now find myself disagreeing with the choice to have Superman kill Zod, I also believe that in this Superman universe, Superman's origin isn't quite done. If there is no sequel with Lex Luthor campaigning against Superman, using Zod's murder as ammo, then I will definitely agree that Man of Steel is a failure. It is a good movie, and only an okay Superman movie, but it will have a long, long way to go from here on out.


And I must say that Amy Adams was not a very good Lois Lane. She could have been Vicki Vale, for all her personality showed. And the shaky camera action at the beginning made the fight between Zod and Jor-El far less exciting.


However, I do like the fact that they took a cue from the animated series and gave Jor-El a bigger role, and I also think that this movie's Zod was far better of a character than Superman II's Zod, though I think Stamp made more of his Zod than Shannon did with his.



I have more opinions on the movie, but no time to write them right now.

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Jean Valjean
Jun 22 2013 04:34 PM

:kaukau: Actually, I was surprised that he didn't find a way to put him in the Phantom Zone, or at least take the fight off the planet.  What would have made sense to me is if he brought Zod to Mars, with its harsher atmosphere and greater distance from the sun, where Zod would have eventually run out of power while Superman, having spent more time absorbing the sun's energies and flourishing in Earth's atmosphere, would have had just enough energy for a return trip.


Bit his actual approach was very one-dimensional.  He snapped Zod's neck.  And that is one thing that Superman simply won't do.  Nolan respected Batman's code in his Dark Knight trilogy.  I didn't see anyone complaining about that.  Snyder/Goyer should have given Superman the same respect.  Otherwise, if he can kill, then he truly has become too powerful.  Sure, I can relate with a person who is willing to kill when push comes to shove, but I can also relate to a person who will make every effort not to become a murderer, and he represents that part in all of us.  Snyder said that he was going to make a film about what makes Superman Superman, that there were "certain pillars" that couldn't be circumnavigated.  I was like "alright, they're going for a completely different style than the Donner films, but at least they're going to stay true to this character in the areas that matter."  Well they didn't, and I feel cheated.  I think the ideal way out of the situation might have actually been to have an "I won't kill you, but that doesn't mean I have to save you" moment.


But you hate every actor and character from Smallville?  Dang, that includes Chloe Sullivan and Lionel Luthor?  Man!  I guess that it's to each his own, but that's impressive.  But since we're on Smallville, I might as well mention that the show convincingly sold me on the prospect of Clark Kent always finding a way, and that whenever a villain died it was by accident.  Which 


Moving on to LewaLew, I will agree that the origin story doesn't quite feel like it's over.  Superman: The Movie was, after all, incomplete in its own way, and was actually only the first half of a script that included both it and Superman II, which were shot simultaneously.  Warner Bros. started scripting a sequel before this movie even came out, so I'm hoping for a natural continuation of this film.  I really like your idea for Lex Luthor, actually.  Even if that didn't happen, the consequences of Superman killing Zod should be a major themetic element in the next movie.  Perhaps that's why he officially decided how sacred he considers life to be.  I definitely want to see him develop into the character he's meant to be and for his outlook to come to fruition.


You're right about Amy Adams.  Now that you bring up Vicki Vale, it's impossible for me not to see it.


As for Zod, I actually liked this version better than the old one as far as the way he's written.  When I write my review covering everything positive about the movie, I will surely mention that.  That being said, of all the actors who played Zod, I certainly liked Terrence Stamp the best.  If he could just not age and play every incarnation of Zod ever, I would be perfectly fine with that.  Although I dare say that all the actors who have played Zod since have also done a fine job themselves.  He's very fortunate to have never truly been miscast.  If I were to make one change to this movie's Zod, though, other than his ultimate fate, it would be to include one scene purely from his perspective, lasting for about five minutes, just to establish his presence in the film a bit more.  Something close to this happened when he took the Fortress of Solitude, but I kind of wanted one of him with just his lieutenants.  Thoughts of scenes with Darth Vader aboard the Death Star come to mind.


Then for Jor-El, I don't think he technically had much more of a role in this plot than he did in the original two Superman films.  He definitely had more screentime, but his contributions to the plot were about the same, except for that one part with Vicki V -- I mean, Lois Lane.  I'm not saying he should have had more of a part in the movie nor less.  His death could have been sadder, though.  Overall, his role in the story comes off to me as about the same as Marlon Brando's version, except with a bit more action, and I kind of like Brando's version a little more.  I mean, he's the Godfather.  That, and I always really liked the character with snowy hair and wearing all white.  Just has a special place in my heart.  But I'm not the generation that this film is appealing to, and this Jor-El is still certainly cool.  I wish there was just one true slow scene with him, though.  Russell Crowe is a great actor.  He proved that in A Beautiful Mind, which was the movie he should have won Best Actor for.  John Nash as Jor-El?  Again, that's perfect.  However, I realized that his character wasn't done justice when I talked afterword with my friend.  It was the second time watching it for both of us, and he admitted that he still had no idea who Jor-El was and what he did.  At that point, I had to gasp as I realized that the film never established clearly that he was a scientist.  He was evidently someone really important, but his role as Krypton's foremost scientific mind had not been done justice.  I would not have minded if Snyder had shown us what a beautiful mind this man had.


Actually, that being said, I would have preferred Ron Howard to direct this film.  He's one of my favorite directors and knows how to bring a definitive feel to his works.  Or Stephen Spielberg, who's insanely good at dealing with "lost children," as he calls them.


But anyway, yeah, I'm straddling the fence, too.  Clearly, my opinion leans toward the negative end, but I'm trying to get it to at least even out, and my opinion is subject to change after the sequel comes out, which might put my views on Man of Steel into a new perspective.



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Actually, I was surprised that he didn't find a way to put him in the Phantom Zone, or at least take the fight off the planet.  What would have made sense to me is if he brought Zod to Mars, with its harsher atmosphere and greater distance from the sun, where Zod would have eventually run out of power while Superman, having spent more time absorbing the sun's energies and flourishing in Earth's atmosphere, would have had just enough energy for a return trip.

Pretty sure Snyder just didn't want to go back to Mars again =P. If we're set on comparing the similarities in related movies, Watchmen has been there, done that.


And the same goes for the no killing "code". In this universe, Superman can and did. Batman didn't, and we've all seen how that plays out; it literally and metaphorically broke him down. Choosing not to kill in turn killed off the people he loved. We've seen how that road ends, and if we insist on making comparisons, in that alone was why I appreciated what they did; not rehashing the same idea. Quite frankly, I was expecting people (Lois, to be specific =P) to have STILL died, as a backlash from the laser beam twisting when the neck was snapped; might have made the lesson a bit more powerful going into the inevitable Man of Steel 2.


God willing, we get a World's Finest movie where I'm sure the two will have plenty to talk about on the issue.

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 Batman didn't, and we've all seen how that plays out; it literally and metaphorically broke him down.

Actually, I would argue otherwise. I've always felt the worst part of Batman Begins was Ra's al Ghul's death. "I won't kill you," Batman says, "but I don't have to save you."


He might as well be killing Ra's al Ghul--it's like a lie by omission. He knows Ra's is going to die, and he is intentionally allowing him to do so. No better than killing him. I've always said it was a terrible decision to make with Batman, and an even worse one for Superman. The one thing that makes me able to accept Superman killing Zod is the fact that Superman killed to save someone who would assuredly be dead otherwise. Batman just let a guy fall to his death when no one else was still directly in danger.


Neither one is justified, though, in my book.

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Correct me if I remember wrong, but didn't the family Zod was shooting his eye lasers at have ample opportunity to, idunno, run, scurry away, duck, something?

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Jean Valjean
Jun 25 2013 12:24 AM

:kaukau: Alex, I actually thought that when I first saw it, but I sort of forgot that plot hole amid all the others that I amassed that lasted several pages.  Thanks for mentioning it.  I also thought that it was strange that Superman twisted Zod's neck in the direction of the family.  He could have also cast his cape in front of Zod's laser beams.  He's used his cape to do things like that and shield people plenty of times before, so I don't know why he didn't use it this time.  I mean, considering the famous "no capes" philosophy from The Incredibles, it would have been interesting to see how a cape was actually useful.


Anyway, back to Dorek and LewaLew.


First of all, nothing about the plot was Snyder's call.  He directed it, but the script came from Goyer.  I know some people say that this was Nolan's story, but he merely approved the script and didn't pen it.  Therefore, I still see Mars as an interesting option that would have made sense.  The other thing that would have made sense would have been for Superman to negotiate with Zod and find another planet for him to rebuild Krypton on.  That would have been an interesting new take on the mythos.  That would have lived up to Nolan's statements that Goyer came up with something truly unique that approached Superman from a way he had never thought of before.  In Nolan's defense, however, he didn't approve of that particular plot point and fought against it.


Also, a similar solution was used in the great All-Star Superman.  He had no idea how to unshrink the bottle city of Kandor, and eventually realized that he could let them live on Mars where the miniature Kryptonians wouldn't have to live in the shadow of native humans.


Now as for Batman, they went with the no killing code because it's an integral part of his character.  So is his philosophy not to use guns, and they stuck with that, too.  Thing is, if it's an integral part of the character, you stick with it.  Otherwise, imagine a Star Trek reboot where Captain Kirk believed in no-win scenarios.  He and Superman share that same faith.  They both always find away.  Kirk would have have talked Zod into settling another planet.  I don't see why Superman wouldn't try, especially since he would have even more emotional investment in reaching out to his people.


Meanwhile, I can't really say that it was really that different that he killed the villain.  Actually, that's more of the same.  Yes, we've seen this territory covered in the Dark Knight trilogy.  But we've also seen heroes kill their villains in most movies lately.  In every single one of his movies, Iron Man killed his enemies.  Captain America shoots to kill.  Thor went and acted as a terrorist against the frost giants for kicks.  In fact, none of the Avengers really have a thing against killing.  I know that Marvel is often cited as being more realistic, but that leaves the door open for me to expect DC to be more idealistic.  This movie should have showed what was different about Superman, but the fact that he killed made him really no different than many of the other heroes I've seen lately.  And really, if DC wants to work with a hero who will kill, they always have Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow.


If you're comparing him to Batman, you're going down the wrong track.  Refusing to kill wouldn't necessarily affect them in the same ways, since they're both very different people.  It's a similar scenario, and yet different.  It isn't rehashing the same idea.  It would be a cinematic compare/contrast essay.  It would most certainly be interesting if Superman and Batman can talk about their similarities and differences in future crossover movies.  And frankly, I would love to see them stand next to Wonder Woman, since one of the best stories I've read that included Batman was actually The Hiketeia, which was about WW and her philosophies.


But really, I will agree with LewaLew.  The villain death in BB still wasn't perfectly in character, but it was definitely a little more tolerable in that movie since he had already saved him as Ducard, and it went to great lengths to show what he valued and that this decision was a tragic moment when he was pressed to far, and at least there was a certain emotional satisfaction for me as an audience member, because the death scene had a lot of buildup and was executed with some grace.  That being said, killing someone by not not saving them is still murder.  Any lawyer will tell you that.  It's called "negligence."


What actually would have made sense to me would be for Superman to make it possible for the military forces to somehow kill Zod, since they act on behalf of the sovereign government.  The plot was originally written that Zod would disappear into the black hole with the rest of his soldiers.  That action was carried out by the government, so I had no problem with Superman allowing it.  He works with the law, but doesn't act on behalf of it.  Besides, it would have saved Superman the trouble of having to go through yet another fight scene, and the film already had enough for the second half.  The time they saved from that could have been used for more story.  Who knows, maybe that time could have been spent toward a personal scene with just Zod and Faora to get the audiences more invested in them and have moments of villainous awesomeness.


Actually, speaking of Faora, reports about the original story make is sound like the black hole was really a portal to the Phantom Zone, so there's a chance that we might actually see Faora again, which I really look forward to.  I mean, they found the perfect actress for her, and I really want to see this villain developed beyond just being Zod's wife.  She really should be a unique entity within the DC Universe.  I would pay to see a personal story of hers.


Or a Lois and Clark type TV show called Faora-Zod.



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