I watched an interesting video review for MAN OF STEEL yesterday while on YouTube — presented by the always entertaining comicbookgirl19 — and I couldn’t help but agree with most of what she said about the film. She also admitted that she was afraid to review the new Superman film due to the insane amount of fan outrage that’s going around right now. Admittedly, I feel the same way; sharing my thoughts on MAN OF STEEL to a wide-open viewership is rather intimidating. Nevertheless, I have seen the film and as a fan of both film and comic books, I can’t hold back and must share my Final Thoughts…
Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY — especially the second film, THE DARK KNIGHT — redefined what a DC superhero film could be to not only filmgoers and Batman fans, but to Warner Brothers, too. Naturally, when it was time to bring Superman back to the big screen, Warner went knocking on Nolan’s door for some help.
Superman’s had a tough time when it comes to full-length motion pictures, though strangely enough, he’s the comic book character with the longest history in film (sorry fans, but I’m not counting the Adam West/Burt Ward camp-fest gem, BATMAN: THE MOVIE, this time around). Christopher Reeve’s classic Superman anthology has received mixed reviews over the years; SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and to a lesser extent, SUPERMAN II, are beloved films amongst fans, yet SUPERMAN III and to a higher extent, SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, are disgraced amongst fans. For this reason alone, 2007’s soft-reboot from Bryan Singer, SUPERMAN RETURNS, scrapped the final two Reeve films and continued directly off of the second film. While RETURNS proved to be a risky experiment and gave us a decent Superman/Clark Kent portrayal from Brandon Routh and a great Lex Luthor from Kevin Spacey, it was ultimately panned by both critics and fans. Plans for a SUPERMAN RETURNS sequel were immediately scrapped and the iconic character’s feature-film future was put on hiatus.
Fast forward a few years and the success of Nolan’s Batman films had Warner pondering; maybe this is the man to bring Superman back to the big screen? After all, in the last decade, DC hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to their feature films. CATWOMAN and JONAH HEXwere laughable jokes, WATCHMEN, CONSTANTINE, V FOR VENDETTA and GREEN LANTERN all under-performed and SUPERMAN RETURNS… well, you know. With Nolan on board as producer and his frequent Batman collaborator David S. Goyer set to pen the script, Warner’s next task was to find their director; enter Zack Snyder. Snyder’s been one of Warner’s go-to guys ever since he made them some mega-cash with his adaptation of 300, so it made sense that they’d ring him up. With his flashy, stylistic style of directing, Snyder seemed like a natural choice for the job. Once Snyder’s Superman/Clark Kent was found in the form of relatively unknown actor Henry Cavill, it was time to bring Big Blue back to the silver screen.
Cavill was an excellent choice for Superman. Though he wasn’t given much to play with in the form of dialogue or real character development, he still gave it his best with what he did have. I believed that Cavill was Superman; he had the small-town persona down to a tee and his physical presence was phenomenal (his pecs alone had more muscle mass than the last few Superman actors combined). Honestly, after seeing him as the lead in IMMORTALS, I didn’t question the casting choice at all. My only wish would’ve been to see Cavill tackle the alter-ego of Clark Kent to a larger scale. I’m hoping to see more of that in the inevitable sequel.
When it came down to casting Lois Lane, Snyder and company decided to go with Academy Award-nominated actress Amy Adams. This casting choice I questioned; yes, Adams is an amazing actress, but when I think of her, I think of her more-cutesy roles in films such as ENCHANTED (even though I know that she’s also taken on the grittier stuff, too). Could she take on the multi-sided personality of Lois Lane? In the end, I thought her performance was good, though I still ultimately questioned the casting. I’m also unsure whether her chemistry with Cavill will ever reach Reeve/Margot Kidder heights. I suppose time will tell.
Taking a look at Superman’s four parents within the film, I have to say that the winner in this bout was Russell Crowe as Jor-El. It was great seeing him back in GLADIATOR-mode once again. I know that a lot of critics/fans have had a problem with the Krypton sequence that opens MAN OF STEEL, but that was actually one of my favorite parts. Seeing an ass-kicking Crowe riding around on creatures that looked like relatives of the flying beasts from AVATAR all while skipping through a world of high-tech weapons and armor; that was exhilarating! After the film was over, one of the first things that my fiancée said to me was, “I wish they’d make a film just about Krypton… before Superman was even born.” I couldn’t agree more.
Jor-El’s better half in the film, Lara Lor-Van, was played effortlessly by Israeli beauty Ayelet Zurer. Her chemistry with Crowe was spot-on and it would had been nice to had seen more of her throughout the film. Superman’s Earth-parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, were portrayed in a very different fashion by both Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, respectively. Costner’s Jonathan and Lane’s Martha were updated versions of the characters and by updating them, I felt that many of their admirable qualities had diminished. Instead of growing up with the mind-frame to protect humanity, Clark Kent essentially only knew to fear those around him. While I commend both Costner and Lane for being pretty damn perfect in their roles, I have to say that I missed the gullible, good-hearted versions of their characters. At least I can now laugh at the fact that both of Superman’s Dads were played by a Robin Hood.
Laurence Fishburne portrayed Perry White in his usual cool manner, though the character seemed quite pointless during this stage of the MAN OF STEEL saga. Hopefully more can be done with him in future films. One of the standout stars of the film was Antje Traue as villainess Faora-Ul. I tell you, after watching MAN OF STEEL, not only do I want to see Traue’s previous films, but I can’t wait for her future ones, too.
When it was announced that Michael Shannon would be joining the cast and that he’d be portraying the villain of the film, General Zod, I was quite intrigued. He’s always played a convincing lunatic — partially thanks to his trademark big, menacing eyes and his ability to sound really, really angry — and he did give one of my favorite performances of the last decade in TAKE SHELTER, so I was curious to how he’d do in a huge superhero film. After seeing the film, I honestly think that he was miscast. He did a fine job, but for the life of me, I just couldn’t take him seriously as someone who could go toe-to-toe with Superman in a fistfight. Overall, the MAN OF STEEL cast was very good, but not as solid as I was hoping for.
If MAN OF STEEL suffered from anything during its runtime (other than a major lack of character development), though, it was the cinematography. The shoddy camerawork throughout this Superman adventure could easily be considered as seizure-inducing. Quick zooms in-and-out, over and over again, followed by a ridiculous amount of shakiness, was definitely not easy on the eyes. I understood that at points, Snyder wanted the viewer to actually feel the speed of Superman, but the gimmick was completely overdone before the film even rolled past its halfway mark. I was actually surprised to see everything moving around at the speed of light considering how Snyder’s best known for his slow-motion action sequences. Honestly, I would’ve gladly welcomed a moment or two of slow-motion in this film. Sometimes it was just too quick; characters often looked like nothing more but action figures smashing against each other in the sky.
As usual, I want to try to keep the spoilers down to absolute zilch, but I have to tell you, the events that happen in this film — especially during the overly long and played-out final confrontation between Superman and Zod — really made me want to question this Superman’s motives. I’m going to let it pass for now because this is a different take on Superman and it’s a story of his first flight-and-fight, but if the character’s actions in this film aren’t mentioned somewhere during the sequel or met with some sort of repercussion, I’ll definitely be questioning how heroic this Superman truly is.
The one thing that I was certain wouldn’t let me down during MAN OF STEEL was the glorious score from Hans Zimmer. Wow, can that man write music! With its epically sweeping tone, Zimmer’s soundtrack was probably one of the best scores for a superhero film that I’ve ever heard. I would say that his work on this film rivals his classic scores in films such as GLADIATOR and INCEPTION or even his lesser-known work in films like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 and BROKEN ARROW. It was just breathtaking.
MAN OF STEEL wasn’t a bad film by any means, but it certainly wasn’t super. Dark and brooding, in my opinion, doesn’t belong in a Superman film; that’s Batman’s gig. I can’t help but think that Tim Burton’s thankfully-never-happened rendition of the character would had been more cheerful. Superhero films need to pick up their socks now after THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY and last year’s THE AVENGERS set the bar so high. I think that the perfect Superman film lies somewhere in-between SUPERMAN RETURNS and MAN OF STEEL and I’m really hoping that MAN OF STEEL 2 can give us that film. As usual, I ask you to watch the film for yourself and to make your own opinion; you may find a lot more here to enjoy than I did. I really thought that MAN OF STEEL was a good film and it’s definitely one that I’ll watch again, but I guess my hype for it just got the best of me in the end and that ultimately lead to me being let down. I feel like I’ll enjoy it more during my second viewing and that’s good to know. For now, I’m just happy to see Superman back on the big screen.
Final Thoughts are an opinion, not a review. I don’t believe that anyone should base their own opinion on that of another person. Reviewers and critics are just regular people like everyone else and their opinion shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all. What you just read were my Final Thoughts of MAN OF STEEL. I hope you share yours.