The Ninjabot

MAN OF STEEL Review

Posted on June 12, 2013 at 10:17 am by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

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Come son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!

Man of Steel is a film full of conflicts.  There’s Clark/Kal-El/Superman conflicted over which father to follow, there’s Superman vs Zod, Zod vs Jor-El, Superman vs his feelings, and most importantly Zack Snyder trying his hardest to make us dislike what should be an amazing movie.

Man of Steel is a complete re-telling of Superman’s origins.  Forget all you know from the previous films, because nothing in them relates to this tale, including John Williams iconic score.  At it’s core it’s a tale we all know well.  The planet Krypton is dying and in an effort to save their son and their people Jor-el (Russell Crowe) and Lara-El (Ayelet Zurer) send their only son to Earth.  Here’s where Man of Steel really mixes it up.  Instead of 30 seconds on Krypton like previous Superman films give you, we are shown about 20 minutes.  I am a huge Superman fan so I was ecstatic to see Zod’s rebellion and the last days of Krypton.  Since we got to spend time with Superman’s parents, it made their sacrifice seem all that more powerful and real.

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The action in Man of Steel start from the get go.  Zod and his followers stage a coup, and the battle for Krypton is a fun backdrop to Jor-El’s race to save his son.  We know the rest, Krypton goes boom, and Superman is sent rocketing through space, where he eventually crashes on the Kent’s farm.  Then he’s an adult crab fisher… wait what?  In an effort to make the story feel fresh, it is told from a non-linear perspective.  Which works well most of time, and keeps us from suffering through an hour of teen Clark in Smallville (we got 10 seasons of that already).  As we see Clark making difficult decisions, we are then treated to a flashback of his formative years.

One of my favorite parts of the Superman mythos is Jonathan Kent.  A simple man who inherited one of the universe’s greatest beings.  Every parent thinks their kid will change the world, but Jonathan has the responsibility of molding a child that is guaranteed to change the it.  Kevin Costner plays Jonathan this time around, and knocks it out of the park.  His protectiveness and love for Clark often play at odds, but you get the sense that at the heart of every decision Jonathan makes, it is for the betterment of his son.

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Hanry Cavill is great as Superman, and fortunately we never see him as bumbling Clark Kent.  The ladies will surely enjoy the first half of the movie where he takes his shirt off several times.  When he is unshaven he looks more like Wolverine then Superman, but it works since he is trying to fit in.  He takes odd jobs as he makes his way north toward an unknown Arctic zone.  Finally arriving on a military base that has discovered something trapped in the ice for 20,000 years.

It’s here that we are introduced to the always intrepid Lois Lane, played this time around by Amy Adams.  Let me start out by saying that Amy Adams kills it as Lois Lane, and all the following gripes I have about her character should be chalked up to writing and directing choices.  Adams toes the line perfectly between nosy reporter and an ally to Superman.  My problem with Lois is that she is everywhere.  When Clark arrives at the Arctic circle she is there doing a piece for the Daily Planet.  She is taken to her quarters, and told not to wander around.  After immediately dismissing the request and exiting her room she starts to nose around and take photos.  She sees Clark through her telephoto lens, very far away and decides to go investigate.  She must be the new Flash because she arrives shortly after Clark, who had a huge lead and can move pretty fast in his own right.  Later she is inexplicably involved in a military operation, present for Superman’s big fight with Zod, and numerous other places that she seems to get to pretty quickly.  Like I said, Lois is EVERYWHERE.

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On to Zod.  Michael Shannon does a passable job of portraying General Zod, who like all Kryptonians (minus Superman) has been genetically created to serve a purpose.  His purpose of course is to lead the military and preserve the Kryptonian way.   He has to hunt down Superman because Jor-El stored the Codex, a bilogical record of all future Kryptonians, with his infant son.  It is also explained that Kryptonians cannot function in Earth’s atmosphere, so the planet would need to be terraformed for them to create a new Krypton.  Got all that.  Zod is probably the least fleshed out character in the film, and his dialogue is some of the worst, but Shannon delivers every syllable with authority. He may be saying stupid things, but you better listen.

Including Zod over Lex Luthor was a nice touch.  It allows us to really see what Superman can do since Zod and his followers are Superman’s equal physically.  It is also worth noting that Kryptonite does not appear in the film at all.  That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, just that it hasn’t shown up yet.  The film makers also made a point to show us that Luthor is doing well in this world as you can see Lex-Corp several times in the film.  Kudos for the Lex-Corp and Wayne Industries fan service.

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It all comes to a head, and we are given a spectacular, if not overly long, super fight in the streets of Smallville and Metropolis.  This is where Zack Snyder shows his true colors.  Don’t worry, he doesn’t overuse his slow motion-speed up signature style.  He just uses some very odd choices for cuts, shots, and performances.  I don’t want to spoil them for you here, but after the battle with Zod (which ends in a fashion that will upset a number of Superman fans) there are a couple scenes that will make you cringe.

The film also didn’t really feel like a Superman film. Sure you had a guy in blue tights and a red cape flying all around, but it felt more like a big science fiction film a lot of the time.  That’s not in itself a bad thing, but it is clear that Zack Snyder has never picked up a Superman comic.   This film also has to set the record for most building destroyed, and that is counting films like Independence Day where they level cities.

Like previous Superman adaptations, Jor-El consciousness appears to help guide his son.  This is where Superman gets his suit, learns how to use his powers, and where he helps Lois escape from Zod’s ship.  You read that right, and let me know in the comments what you think of that scene.

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All in all Man of Steel is an enjoyable summer blockbuster.  Most of the performances are great, the action is great, and the origin re-telling is good.  The film is plagued with pacing problems at times though, and feels long at 2 hours and 23 minutes.  It could have been served well with about 15 minutes shaved off.  Snyder’s choices also strike an odd accord at times, several times in the film you feel like you missed something or that something was cut.  Like I stated above, the action is great, but goes on for too long at times.  Superman and Zod fighting in Metropolis is amazing for about 2 minutes, and then you start to see the same thing over and over.

Snackbar’s Grade: B

tl:dr version – Man of Steel is a fun summer film, but is inferior to some of the Superman films that has come before it.  The increased screen time for Krypton being the major change this time around.

What did you think about the film?  Let us know in the comment section below.

Follow all of Snackbar’s mutterings on Twitter @Snackie_Cakes

    • Chuong Nguyen

      I totally agree with your review.
      I did enjoy the movie and like David, give it a B+.
      Good
      I enjoyed the story about whether mankind would accept an alien walking among them.
      I loved the stuck between 2 world theme.
      I like the subtle changes that were made to the Superman lore.
      Bad
      I hated some of the cinematography. It felt like JJ Abrams directed it with Micheal J Fox as the camera guy.
      Did they give Lois super speed? WTF

    • I give it an A-

      A little long, and Chuong is right about it looking like a JJ Abrams lensflare-fest for the footage on Krypton.

      Other than that it was everything I hoped it would be. Fantastic!

    • Carlos

      I like to watch movies to escape from reality, but from what I heard and read, this movie is basically a sci-fi relatively realistic version of the Superman story. I’ve been a Superman fan since as long as I remember, so I will indeed see this movie, but if it ends up being a soap opera more than an out-of-this-world action, then I’m gonna feel like I need to watch the cartoons right after to feel satisfied.

      This article for the most part is tempting me into seeing the movie (except the part that says they spend about 20 minutes on Klark’s teenage struggles). I’m sure that it’s uniqueness will secure it’s place in the Superman legacy and hope that its positive traits outweigh its negative ones.

    • Mark Spada

      Many people seem to make presumptions about how movies are really made, much the same way many people seem to make presumptions about how a government really operates. What I’m saying is that I don’t want to come across as one of those people, so when I comment here I’ll use the phrase “Team Nolan”. Team Nolan is comprised of, obviously, Christopher Nolan, his brother, his wife, screenwriter David Goyer, and now Zack Snyder, among others.
      Everyone seems to understand that film making is a collaborative enterprise, yet when a film disappoints artistically, generally speaking the director receives all the blame. The way that most movies are checklisted these days ( “What made a shitload of money last year? The Avengers? Transformers? Hey Chris Nolan….what’s happening….yeah….here’s a spoon: we’re gonna need you ladle a bunch of that crap into Zack’s Superman movie, ‘kay? And if you could just go ahead and cast an African American as Perry White that would be great….” ) its amazing that studio accountants don’t get producer credit.
      I wasn’t overly distracted by the flaws in Man of Steel( and no, lens flare is not a flaw….even though its something that the Nazis made the Jews wear, apparently ), and I wasn’t particularly annoyed by Snyder’s occasional indulgences. If I have any gripe, its that Team Nolan just doesn’t seem to understand Superman, much the same way that they obviously failed to understand Batman. On the one hand, I understand and accept that an adaptation never can be, nor should it be, literal. The page and the screen are two completely distinct paradigms. On the other hand, very few film makers escape displaying at least some measure of contempt for the source material they referencing. And just like Team Nolan just didn’t get or simply didn’t care that Bruce Wayne IS Batman( as opposed to depicting Bruce Wayne as becoming Batman because he puts on a suit, like a glorified janitor ), they simply didn’t get or simply didn’t care that Kal-El/Clark is truly an alien being. Here’s what I mean: Clark is an entity who, although being informed by his interactions with others just like the rest of us, is missing the one important factor that motivates human beings: fear. Clark doesn’t understand fear. He can comprehend loss, yes. But not fear. I just didn’t really see that on the screen while watching Man of Steel. There is mild lip service paid to it, in terms of the tropes that we’re all used to in a Superman story. But overall, as far as the character of Superman goes, I just didn’t feel that this was the real deal. Don’t get me wrong: Henry Clavill was great in the role. And I’m certainly not someone who expects the world when these films are released; it was a good start to a new iteration of the character and his world.
      Good review here, by the way. Not the inflammatory hate-on that I’ve experienced on other sites.

      • Mark Spada

        Ooops. Sorry. I’ll add here what i failed to mention initially: if Clark lacks fear as a primary motivation, then all he has left is his goodness. That’s what I wanted to see more of.

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