Man of Steel - Review



I was never a big Superman fan. To this very day, i think that this Kryptionan superhero is immensely overpowered and just has a plain boring character. Yet still, i accept and appreciate his iconic status as one of the very first comic superheroes out there.
Just as much, i acknowledge the cultural importance of the Christopher Reeves' Superman movies (except Superman 3 and 4).
However, with the reboot Man of Steel we encounter mixed expectations. On the one hand we have a director, whose latest movie Sucker Punch disappointed greatly, while on the other hand we got the writer of the Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception.
Does this blend make the right formula to help Superman win me over?  
 



The plot:
A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
(source: IMDb)

Today, almost everbody should already know Clark Kent's alias Superman's origin story by heart.
But right from the start, it should get clear that Man of Steel tries to cram very much into one single movie judging by the trailers: Krypton origin, youth, nomad life, finding out about his origins and finally fighting off the bad guys. That's quite a whole lot to cover.
Does Man of Steel get it done? Well, yes and no. The key-word is "rushed".

After an explicitly depicted and fairly long opening scene of the fate of Krypton including introductions to Clark's real parents and his future nemesis Zod, audiences were instantly prepared for a very "real" and very character focussed origin story of Clark Kent and him coping with the powers and responsibilities that his origin gift him with. BUT NOPE...instead we are thrown right into the middle of the action when Clark Kent is already a man living a nomad life.
Why? Because the trick in Man of Steel is that only "supposedly important parts" of Clark's youth get highlighted via flashbacks...and they are all over the place in the entire movie.

All of a sudden: Hobo Clark waiting for the bus.

While i have to give credit that such a strategy avoids making the audience grow even more tired of hearing yet another origin story, the parts of Clark's youth that are shown BARELY showcase any great character insight or evolution that Clark went through in his youth.
As i said, "rushed" is the key word that defines the entire first half of the movie.
With that said, you will quickly notice that the flashbacks ultimately have the main goal to showcase Clark's powers and him helping people rather than additionally show how Clark has been coping with such a big pressure over his teenage years. Teenage Clark is always just shown using his powers and barely saying something relevant about his character himself. He is presented as just a kid with superpowers rather than a complex individual being. Rushed flashbacks showing Clark's powers and his inability to efficiently keep those superpowers secret to everybody end up establishing Clark's superhero powers to the audience but not what personality he has.
Sure, it is a whole lot to cover just looking at Clark's youth and teenage years, and the movie can't run forever, but maybe a short but impactful chronological origin story or at least flashbacks with actual substance and without clichees like a Spider-Man rip-off origin would've done the trick.
I know that people want to see Superman in full costume beating the crap out of stuff as quick as possible, but the way in which this is rushed here destroys any chance for the audience to get to know the personality of Clark.

"Let's make this quick, son."

Compared to Clark's backstory, the present day happenings turn out to be far more interesting, while also being somewhat rushed. Watching Clark searching for his alien parents' spaceship and Lois Lane chasing him would be much more exciting if it wasn't over in about 7 minutes!
The movie has the annoying habit of rushing through plot points that should be carefully spread out to get the audience invested in the actual situations without throwing them right into a new one in the next minute!
A prime example for this is the establishment for the plot point, that, after a rescue by the mysterious "Superman", Lois Lane tries to find out who this man is and manages to track Clark down in about 4 minutes of the movie. NOT EVEN THE MILITARY FIGURED OUT HIS IDENTITY!
Right off the bat, you will notice that the movie just doesn't want you to take time to get to know Clark and other characters, but to get to the action as quickly as possible (especially seeing that the only real Superman action starts with the showdown).

However, following the "rushing plot points habit", Man of Steel also suffers from immense underdramatization.
All...and i really mean ALL supposedly climactic or very dramatic scenes in the movie, like the death of Jor-El, the reveal that Clark is an alien, or Clark telling his mom that he found his parents' spaceship, come off waaaaay too unclimactic. Those specific scenes are clearly meant to be dramatic highlights but are never pulled of credibly enough to sell it.
Although it has to be said that this is more a problem with the acting rather than the writing...it really stuck out negatively to me.

"Krypton explodes? That ain't so bad."

Up until now, it might sound that there is only bad stuff going on in Man of Steel. And that's certainly not true. The thing is, that considering that Man of Steel was supposed to be a more realistic take on Superman, just like Christopher Nolan already did with The Dark Knight Trilogy, the movie completely feels like a Marvel superhero movie.
With a rushed, blockbuster, popcorn flick style approach and storytelling, Man of Steel's characters and story itself are surprisingly comicy written for a Nolan movie.
To be fair, it's generally hard to make Superman grounded in reality even with Nolan on board, but such a surprising Marvel-feel is something that i didn't expect from him.

Aside from the resulting strong blockbuster feel and clichees this brings with it, the movie actually does have its share of clever ideas to bring to the table like the explanation of Superman's S symbol, Clark in the church (needing the aid of god although being a godlike figure himself) or the military being involved in Superman's fights and seeing him as a threat AND a savior.
Sadly, there are just too little of those great ideas that offer such great potential for fascinating insights into Clark's persona and the new take on Superman that i wanted.

Action and effects are mainly reserved for Superman's very epic final showdown with Zod and his crew. Considering how rushed many plot points are and how unconvincing Clark's origins are told, THIS is where the movie gets interesting. Although it's somewhat sad that the only thing Man of Steel completely gets right are the fight scenes, the showdown is everything that people waited for: Superman brutally beating the crap out of the bad guys with multiple buildings and surroundings destroyed and the military thrown into the mix.
Its everything the movie has so eagerly built up to and sacrificed its time for good character development for.
The about 40 minute final battle really is what saves this movie from being a waste of time.
At least the Superman action is what the movie gets right. It really feels and looks like gods fighting on the face of the earth with cities being their playground.

Luckily, the action gets it right.

The acting is generally unremarkable to solid.
Henry Cavill is a good fit for Clark Kent aka Superman. He not only has the looks but also the calm and passionate charisma to embody this character. If only the script would've given his character more personality instead of just being "a superhero".

Amy Adams as Lois Lane does good but ultimately always just comes off as the damsel in distress and nothing more really. Other than having sympathies with Clark, keeping the connection between him and the military and screaming a lot, she has not much to accomplish in the overall story. Regarding the romance, there basically isn't any. There's no chemistry between her and Clark and the love between the two is shamelessly shoehorned in at the last minute.

And then we have a big collection of A-class actors who aren't remotely given enough screentime. While all three, Russel Crowe, Kevin Costner and Laurence Fishburne, do all good to great in their performances, their roles are very small and just sidecharacter material that quickliy gets shoved aside. Therefore it doesn't surprise me that some of them tend to act a bit uninspiredly in some scenes.

But the absolute "worst" actor in the movie is Michael Shannon. Shannon himself is a pretty capable actor but for some reason he decided to overact ANY scene with his character General Zod. He is by far the most comicy character in the entire movie, being the constant reminder that this movie has a strong Marvel blockbuster feel to it. It's often the case that actors playing comic villains for the first time tend to overact constantly, because it would apparently make their character more "evil" (which mostly is just bullshit).
Whether this is just a poor casting choice or only mislead acting, you be the judge.
Still, Shannon's performance overall remains torelable.

At least it's not Lex Luthor.

All in all, Man of Steel failed to make me a Superman fan.
Still, this is not generally a bad movie. For anybody, who just wants to see some Superman action, this movie will probably entertain you. But for those of you, who would've liked to see the character in a new light, this will be a sad disappointment.
Man of Steel's story is okay but obviously focusses on getting to the action and showdown as fast as possible, while making character development and insight remarkably shallow and rushed for a movie involving Christopher Nolan's writing talent. With that said, the movie resembles much more a Marvel blockbuster like Thor than a serious comic movie like The Dark Knight.
In the end, Man of Steel is a pretty generic superhero blockbuster, that sadly neither the likes of Zack Snyder nor Christopher Nolan were able to elevate to new hights. 




Final Verdict: 4 out of 10 



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