Man of Steel Review

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youknowwhattodo

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Edited By youknowwhattodo

I've been asked to hand out my critique of Man of Steel since I made a post saying that the critics of the movie are often being portrayed as nostalgic fanboys who are finnicky about even the smallest changes to the character. I said that this was not the case and that the movie did have some legitimate flaws that were separate from Superman not being a sunny boy-scout. Someone asked me to elaborate, so here we are.

Just a heads up, this will not be a MoS bashing blog, it will be an honest review of pros and cons (because no one wants to see a whiny nitpick post). Also since this movie has been reviewed to death, I ask that if you are tired of talk about the movie, just exit, don't post complaining about me complaining because it really is a waste of time, just pretend this post never existed. Without further ado, here we go, pros and cons of MoS as well as my overall thoughts on the movie and what could be done better.

PRO'S

  • The way in which the writers explored his childhood - With the exception of one scene, my favorite parts of the movie were when Clark was a kid and how his abilities when first discovered wasn't portrayed as a momentous occasion, but rather as a crisis for the Kent family as they didn't know whether it was a blessing or a curse (just that he is special). The movie made it clear that Clark is an alien adjusting to living with people who are different than him.
  • Acting - Pretty much everyone who was in this movie either excelled in their roles (Amy Adams as Lois Lane) or was OK but not enough screen time or character development (Laurence Fishburne - Perry White), there was really only one weak link with regards to performances.
  • Action...for like the first 10 minutes of it happening - For a least a little while, the action scenes gave the movie the jolt that it desperately needed (wait until my cons), the CGI was great and it was awesome to experience what it would be like if superbeings really fought each other....or at least it was awesome for the first 10 minutes of it happening.....
  • Not a rehash of the Donner Superman - This is more of a con against Superman Returns but I do give the film credit for trying a different take on the iconic character. If I want to see a Donner/Reeve style Superman, I'll watch those movies. Do your own thing!

CON'S

  • Dull Superman - I don't mind that the writers were trying to go for a more grounded, darker, grittier Superman, but I thought that David Goyer tried too hard to make him grounded and as a result the Superman that we saw was really empty, and without personality. Seriously, can anyone name some character traits of Superman in this movie, besides wanting to help people (which is like a trait of almost every single comic book hero). IMO Clark had more personality as a kid than he did as an adult. The movie spent the first hour trying to build him up but it seemed more like plot devices to move the story forward rather than character development as very little of the events that happened in the first half end up shaping Clark Kent when he becomes Superman. Henry Cavill didn't help matters much, if you've seen him in other films/shows (Immortals, The Tudors), you know that he can be stale.
  • Excessive Action - Like I said, for the first 10 minutes of the Superman/Kryptonians encounter on earth, I was genuinely entertained, but it literally dragged on and on and on like a Dragonball Z fight (not in a good way). I don't mind 40 minutes of titanic clashes but they should be spaced out, not all at once. For a movie that tried to convince us that it wasn't like all those other summer blockbuster movies that had all brawn and no brains, the 2nd half of this movie seemed to share a lot more with Transformers than it did the Dark Knight. We've come to expect more from Superhero films, especially one that thinks it's more important than it really is.
  • Collateral Damage - Yeah I went there, it's pretty much one of the few unifying critiques that all critics had with this film. I don't mind so much that it happened, because it happens in every blockbuster action film...but not to this extent and not to the characters overall apathy towards the destruction. Seriously, Metropolis is in ruins, it looks like a post-apocalyptic hell-hole and no one says a word about the hundreds of thousands of people that potentially died. Even Avengers, which is not trying to be realistic and grounded like MoS was, even THEY acknowledged the collateral damage at the end and it wasn't close to the level of destruction in this film. The thing is that when you have two super-powered beings with similar abilities fighting and it's hard for the combatants to hurt each other, what creates tension is the thought that innocent civilians will get hurt as a result of this fight and half of the conflict the protagonist has is NOT just beating the crap out of his opponent but making sure that there is as little loss of civilian life as possible. If the protagonist doesn't seem to care about civilian deaths, then where is the tension? For a movie that was striving for realism, the movie swung and missed on that key element. He didn't have to save everybody, because that's just not possible, but an attempt here and there would have been nice.
  • Boring - When you combine events that end up having no meaning to the overall character of Superman with dull Superman with a dull setting(I initially didn't mind the latter if that was the only dull part of the movie) with an overly-long battle, it's hard to get invested.
  • Score- It has a decent Superman theme but Hans Zimmer IMO is to action movie soundtracks what Michael Bay is to action movie direction. A lot of noise and no substance. He reportedly turned down writing the soundtrack three times and it's abundantly clear that he was phoning it in, in slow scenes he used the same piano strokes and in action scenes the same f@*&ing percussive blasts over and over that completely overpowered the movie, it was cool the first time I heard it...but after the 19th time, I was like Hans...do you have anything else? The musical score of a movie exists to help tell the story, in here though, it was like an antagonist wanting to take over the whole picture. Hans Zimmer when he really puts his heart to it, can make some great scores, but this is some of the most cookie-cutter soundtracks I've heard in quite some time.

OVERALL

This is a movie that had a lot to offer but ultimately fell flat on creating an interesting protagonist despite the first hour trying to do exactly that. A grounded Superman does not mean that you have to suck the soul right out of him, he doesn't have to be Christopher Reeve's Sups, but there is a happy medium between the Reeve Superman and the blank dry-erase board that we got in this movie. The most disappointing aspect of the film IMO is that the first half of this film tried really hard to convince us that this WASN'T like all the other blockbusters and that it would be a deep character study on Superman, like the Nolan films were for Batman. Then the second half comes and it just like every Michael Bay film I've seen the past 20 years, two action figures smashing against each other with mindless destruction. The events in the first half, had every little affect on Clark when he became Superman. If the film followed the tone of the first half, actually establishing the character of Superman with natural character development, instead of just putting him in situations to move the plot forward (disguising itself as character development) with shorter fights that actually meant something, this would have been my favorite Superman movie of all time, instead it an OK summer film but nothing more.

2 stars out of 4.

I'm not the best at writing blogs, so if it comes across as a difficult read, I am sorry....

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buttersdaman000

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Well, at least you didn't go full on nostalgia critic mode. I really am sick of people criticizing the movie soley based on arguments like 'He didn't inspire enough hope', 'He wasn't Superman enough' and so on. But you just had to bring up the collateral damage...Anyways, besides that, I disagree and agree with, or better yet, understand and acknowledge, your points.

1. Dull Superman - I can't lie. Cavil simply seemed depressed throughout the film. I get why they went that route, and it worked for the most part, but can he at least crack a few smiles? The few times he did made me really see him as Superman, such as when he first started flying. But, I know he really didn't have much to actually be happy about in the film, so it's understandable. I just hope Superman is a little 'happier' in the next film...and, going by the final moments of the film, he will be.

2. Excessive action - I agree and don't agree here. I don't think the action was really 'excessive' in the film. Add it all together, the action was less then a third of the film. The problem here was pacing, my biggest gripe with the film. Besides the short action scene with Jor-El, all the fighting is shoved into the final act. There are many more pacing issues, but this one, in my opinion, isn't that much of an issue. Yeah, it was non-stop action at the end but you also got a lot of acting, and emotional scenes at the beginning.

3. Collateral damage - I wholly disagree here. For one, this movie finally gave us a realistic vision of what would happen when a super powered being decides to go ballistic. The Avengers was a good movie, but there was hardly any tension there because you know that no civilians would die, and if they did it wouldn't be much. Seriously, an invasion force that causes no damage at all? Super powered beings THAT CHOSE to fight within the city limits, yet cause no death or destruction? That's really believable (sarcasm). Superman did not choose to fight within the city limits, and he never caused any outright damage to the city either. He tried to take to fight to space, he tried to reason with Zod, and all the destruction was caused by the World Engine and Zod himself. And, the area of Metropolis they fought in was already mostly cleared so there wouldn't be any citizens to worry about anyways (there were some stragglers though, but Superman took the fight away from them)Re-Watch the scenes, where and when did Superman ever cause out right damage? The closest would be in Smallville where he destroyed the energy plants(?), and the gas station. But, nobody died there anyways. And during the fight, he clearly tried to escape multiple times, he tells people to get out of the area, and he took the time to save a soldiers life. So, yeah, I really do disagree here.

4. Boring - That's you're opinion.

I give it an 8.5/10

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youknowwhattodo

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@buttersdaman000: Thanks for the reply!

Yeah 4 is obviously subjective but I had to put it there because I did feel it was a big flaw and it wasn't a nitpick.

I'm not sure if you really understood what made up my 3rd main criticism or if I just didn't explain it well enough, it was not just about the collateral damage. I just put that as the main bullet point because everything else that followed revolved around those events. I never said that I hated the aspect of collateral damage, I stated that it happens in every action blockbuster movie. One of my main gripes here was that there was a complete lack of acknowledgment from any of the characters in the movie that Metropolis is in ruins and the "realism" counter-point actually helps make my point for me. If massive collateral damage is just a natural result of superbeings fighting (fair point) , then having the general population be cognizant of the destruction is just as natural. To have one without the other is tonal (not even sure if that's a word) inconsistency. If it's just one tiny section of Metropolis is in flames, then the lack of awareness won't bother me too much, but when half of the city looks a post-apocalyptic wasteland, then it should be discussed. I never blamed Superman for the damage and I never said that he should have taken the fight somewhere else.

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lolzstastic

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#3  Edited By lolzstastic

People are still reviewing this film?

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SilverPool

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I really don't understand the boring critique, but the other arguments have merit, although I disagree with them.

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youknowwhattodo

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#5  Edited By youknowwhattodo

@lolzstastic: Someone asked me to do it yesterday lol (technically I was asked for a list of negatives but no one wants to read that)

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WIshIWasSuperman

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@youknowwhattodo - very good. I applaud your effort to not go into a nostalgic rant. Thank you for letting me know as well, much appreciated.

I don't necessarily agree, but I can understand where you're coming from. I agree with @buttersdaman000 in that the action sequences seem too long because they are spaced too close together - in fact the entire final act is quite high intensity due to what is happening - with the only respite being the kiss really once it kicks off. Personally I enjoyed the constant intense sequences one after the other - I found the same thing with World War Z in that from start to finish it didn't let up - there was no time to relax in the movie - which is something I personally enjoy when it's an action based genre. But I can understand the criticism.

I also found Henry Cavill's performance brilliant and think he's the perfect Superman for a modern world. Physically speaking to begin with, hew embodies Superman far better than any actor before him. And I have seen him before in Immortals and The Cold Light of Day (I haven't watched The Tudors however), both of which I thought he did a great job in - so I guess his acting style just generates different opinions. Given the type of character written for him (lost, alone, unsure of himself, etc...) I thought he did a wonderful job with the elements he had to work with.

The development of the character is a separate issue, and while I can appreciate your position, for me it wasn't an issue. In origin films such as this one, I'm not usually looking for a whole lot of character development - they have a finite time to tell a story and showing the character grow and mature in what is essentially an action film is always going to be hard to do - the best I hope for is to get a picture and an understanding of who the main characters are. In the 1st act I saw that they were essentially trying to establish the background, paint the picture of a hero who isn't a hero. He's fallible (destroying that guys truck for example) and still trying to find his place in the world. He's struggling still, years later, with what happened to his father and isn't sure if he or the world is ready for him to be "who he really is". He then gets the decision basically taken out of his hands and the 2nd half of the film kicks in. He's barely had time to process the reality of his identity (and the realisation he's alone in the universe, and yet the fact of knowing brings him a sense of peace we see when he speaks to Martha) when he's forced by external forces to reveal himself and what he can actually do. From there he barely has time to think, with Zod and the Kryptonians forcing his hand every step of the way and not giving him time to scratch himself basically. If you view this from a "what's realistic" perspective I find it's a perfectly logical and acceptable progression in the film. I hate it when the bad guy waits for no apparent reason to launch his attack or try and kill his enemy - Zod sets about business straight away and just wants to put his plan into action. The hero shouldn't have days to prepare and plan and think about things. And we don't get that here. The whole film takes place pretty much over 3 days at most (barring the early sequences of him going from job to job), although more likely 2 - ending on the 2nd night. Given the agreed pacing setup of the 2nd half of the film, what time did they have to show anything?

I also disagree on your point regarding collateral damage. It's not that he isn't concerned - he most definitely is - it's that once the fights start, he doesn't get a chance to actually do anything "heroic". I've gone back over this film several times - to see if I'm being too forgiving because it's Superman - but I really can't fault how they portrayed the fight sequences and the damage caused during them. As mentioned, the Zod fight for example shows the good portions of the fight take place in abandoned buildings and sections of the city - although not always. He was getting his ass handed to him though throughout the whole fight, landing maybe one punch to every 3 or 4 of Zod's. Same thing in Metropolis - such as when he tries to fly off with Faora to move away form the city - the brute jumps up and catches him and keeps the fight in the populated city center. And while I don't disagree certain aspects couldn't have been more "Superman" like in these situations - I also see it as a guy who's 1 - never been in a fight in his life; 2 - is completely outclassed; 3 - hasn't established for himself what it means to be "Superman".

I re-read Action Comics #25 yesterday, and in it, the narration is pointing out what being "Superman" means. What it stands for. In MoS he hasn't figured that out yet. Both his dad's give him hints and ideas - but he hasn't grasped it, and I'm ok with that. So when you ask " Seriously, can anyone name some character traits of Superman in this movie, besides wanting to help people" I think to myself - "but he ISN'T Superman. At least not yet. This film is leading us to that happening."

Although in direct response I would actually say yes - his willingness for personal sacrifice is one. In the film he's forced to choose between his own desires and what is the "right" course of action. Think about it; he's felt isolated and out of place his whole life. He's known from a relatively young age he's an alien in fact and knows nothing about who he really is. One day as an adult after years of wandering and wondering, he finally finds out who he is - and he's told he's the last one left... But he's also told that if he get's it right, and he stands up and is what he is meant to be - then he can basically lead these other people into a better world. So he goes "OK - let's see about that". He's been raised as a human and has been told that this race has enormous potential for good. But immediately after that, he's presented with another reality - he's not alone. There ARE others. And not only that - he personally holds the key to reviving his entire race. He can finally be "normal" and fit in. He can finally belong. But the cost is the human race. Watch the scene on the scout ship where Zod tells him if he destroys the ship he destroys any chance of reviving Krypton. He stops and thinks. He makes a clear choice after thinking about it - and destroys the ship. He's sacrificed any desire he's had his whole life to "fit in" and "belong", because the cost is too high, and he believes that humans can be better and he's finally decided to put faith in humanity (also a Superman trait). Later he's then forced to choose again. He either let's Zod live, at the expense of everyone on the planet, or he makes the choice to end his life while he has the chance. Again this is a personal sacrifice - one that pains him massively (one of the reasons I enjoyed Cavill's performance, look at his face just before the neck snapping incident and it's wrought with pain and anguish, and at the same time resolve to do what needs to be done in that moment). So that's at least a couple of traits Superman has that were shown in this film IMO.

Sorry for the lengthy and opinionated reply - if you've read some of my other posts or my blog, you'll note I tend to be wordy. I can't help myself, sorry. But let me just say, while I've obviously provided some counter-arguments and opinions - I respect and can understand your position and opinions as well. And no - I didn't get the hint of nostalgia - as you pointed out, if we want to see a Donner/Reeves Superman - we have those films we can watch, which I am very happy about it too. SO yeah - thank you for providing a genuine critique.

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deactivated-5d2b83d5a0d79

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Dull Superman and Boring are the ones that I agree with. This was an overall meh movie experience.

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SandMan_

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Dude, wasn't giving that much to work with. Cavill had few lines in the movie.

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buttersdaman000

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#9  Edited By buttersdaman000

@youknowwhattodo:

No problem

I replied with what I did since you commented that Superman didn't try to save enough people. But, whatever. You're main gripe is the lack of attention to the damage? Well, I sort of agree. It would have been nice if they included one scene where the damage was acknowledged in some way. They could have had Lois writing about it, Superman showing some guilt, citizens in shock/tears, or whatever. The movie kind of skips over it, and we're left with Clark riding his bike through a seemingly rebuilt Metropolis into the Daily Planet. However, the destruction really was limited to a dozen or so blocks. The most spread-out damage came from Zod's falling ship (which, I forgot was pretty much Supermans fault, although unintentional). When you see Metropolis from above, most of the city is still intact save from one fiery, ruined area. Zack Snyder even said only around 5000 people died. So, maybe Clark was just riding through an untouched area of the city? I believe that the awareness and acknowledgement of the destruction will be a major point in MoS2. That type of damage will take more than a few years to fix.

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youknowwhattodo

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#10  Edited By youknowwhattodo

@sandman_ said:

Dude, wasn't giving that much to work with. Cavill had few lines in the movie.

I agree, I tried to pin as much of the blame on Goyer as possible. That being said, I've seen Henry Cavill in other stuff and he ain't exactly Christian Bale.

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SandMan_

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@youknowwhattodo: it might take some time. But I'm sure he will do good. I seen good actors in terrible movies. He is gonna need some experience. I'm sure he will get it. Look at Chris Hemsworth, felt like he was reading the words of the script in the first THOR movie.

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youknowwhattodo

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@silverpool: Yeah I didn't write that as eloquently as the others, I don't know why... but I was trying to say that combing the dullness of Superman with a very dull setting (it seemed like they darkened the background), combined with a disjointed narrative that didn't mean much in the end, combined with the over-long battle sequence all made the movie a dull experience for me.

Watch the scene on the scout ship where Zod tells him if he destroys the ship he destroys any chance of reviving Krypton. He stops and thinks. He makes a clear choice after thinking about it - and destroys the ship. He's sacrificed any desire he's had his whole life to "fit in" and "belong", because the cost is too high, and he believes that humans can be better and he's finally decided to put faith in humanity (also a Superman trait). Later he's then forced to choose again. He either let's Zod live, at the expense of everyone on the planet, or he makes the choice to end his life while he has the chance.

Thanks for the well written reply, I think that this shows that we interpreted the scenes differently, both have merit and how these scenes are viewed depends on the person. You saw the events on the ship as a display of personal sacrifice from Kal-El, I saw it as a plot device to create the main conflict between Kal-El and Zod.

I do agree that him killing Zod was presented as a choice but the only problem I have with the scene is that (correct me if I missed a scene) but why was Superman afraid to kill Zod, it's a tacit fact obviously but was it ever in the movie explained why Superman was abhorrent to killing?

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WIshIWasSuperman

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@wishiwassuperman said:

Watch the scene on the scout ship where Zod tells him if he destroys the ship he destroys any chance of reviving Krypton. He stops and thinks. He makes a clear choice after thinking about it - and destroys the ship. He's sacrificed any desire he's had his whole life to "fit in" and "belong", because the cost is too high, and he believes that humans can be better and he's finally decided to put faith in humanity (also a Superman trait). Later he's then forced to choose again. He either let's Zod live, at the expense of everyone on the planet, or he makes the choice to end his life while he has the chance.

Thanks for the well written reply, I think that this shows that we interpreted the scenes differently, both have merit and how these scenes are viewed depends on the person. You saw the events on the ship as a display of personal sacrifice from Kal-El, I saw it as a plot device to create the main conflict between Kal-El and Zod.

I do agree that him killing Zod was presented as a choice but the only problem I have with the scene is that (correct me if I missed a scene) but why was Superman afraid to kill Zod, it's a tacit fact obviously but was it ever in the movie explained why Superman was abhorrent to killing?

No, you didn't miss anything. This is where the film took an intentional diversion from classic Superman story-telling. The general consensus is that Superman doesn't kill - and it's usually accepted that the idea has been drilled into him for a long time - much like the "great power, great responsibility" speech from Uncle Ben in the Spider-Man mythos. Snyder and Goyer made an intentional point though of NOT having that in the film - using the scene with Zod itself as the driver for the "Superman never kills" idea, explaining that (at least from Goyers perspective), Superman's aversion to killing sits outside the narrative in other incarnations and they didn't want to do that again - having him flat out refusing to kill for no apparent reason.

However, they also make a point to show that regardless of this message, he still values life - even at his own expense (the scene with Johnathon Kent being a prime and glaring example of his desire to use his powers to do the right thing). Also, most people are adverse to killing someone. I mean do you need to be told over and over again that you shouldn't kill people? I have 2 daughters, the eldest of which is 12 and I've never told her it's bad or wrong to kill someone, but if I ask her if it's ok to kill someone should would say no. If I put it into the context of the situation Superman was facing at the time - my guess is she would be conflicted - which is where I think he was at. Now, as to his motivation for being conflicted - it could be because he didn't want to kill Zod because he thinks it's wrong to kill anyone (which I think is a fair assumption, most people don't want to kill others, even if they're forced to) and/or it could also be that again he was being forced to choose between (his) humanity and his Kryptonian heritage. We then see the immediate response at least of his anguish over what he's just done. Again - we can ask why - but I think the answer is pretty simple - anyone with a conscience wouldn't feel the best about having just killed someone, especially if that means you are once again alone in the universe - after just discovering about 24 hours earlier some of your race had survived.

And you're perception is right in things being a plot-device - I would never deny that. I just have the opinion that all things in movies are plot-devices. The question for me is if something is more than just a plot device - which for me, that scene (and others) were. Other things however I would say were nothing more than plot devices - such as Lois being told to go on the ship and Superman giving her his little key thing. It made zero sense to do that and it happened for convenience sake and to help the film keep moving.

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