I preface this post by saying BEWARE: SPOILERS FOR Man of Steel WITHIN!!!
I was really excited to watch Man of Steel when it premiered this past weekend. I found the last Superman film, Superman Returns, to be pretty enjoyable unlike what seems to be the popular opinion of that movie. My more recent exposure to Superman has been some of DC’s New 52 comics featuring Superman: Action Comics and Superman. Action Comics in particular has been very fun to read. What I have read of it has been a sort of very fleshed out and updated origin story for Clark Kent and Superman. It was refreshing to read and got me excited to see what Man of Steel director Zack Snider was going to bring to the Superman universe. I had high hopes seeing that I enjoyed his work on Watchmen and even 300. To my dismay, Man of Steel did not live up to my expectations and instead presented an aggravating reboot of the Superman film franchise.
The worst part of all this is the beginning held so much promise with the intense opening scene on Krypton. It was mostly actors on green screen, but I was willing to ignore that given the unique location and extravagant and alien lifestyle of Kryptonians. Along with the intro, most everything about Clark Kent’s past was handled very well, and was beautifully shot in such a way that felt like the audience was experiencing Clark’s memories with him. But, there was a very definitive turning point where the film started falling completely apart.
One of Kent’s final flashbacks was the loss of his father in a tornado. Up to this point, the movie had been berating the audience with the idea that “the world is not ready for Superman.” The absurd amount of times this idea stated in essentially the same way every time is one the few dampers on the otherwise great flashback scenes. As the Kent family escapes the whirling terror, they forget the family dog in the car amid the mass confusion. Once reaching a relatively safe location, for whatever reason, Clark’s mother insists the dog be rescued. Father Kent demands Clark stay put while he goes back for the dog. Despite Clark possessing far more than enough strength and invulnerability for this task, Mr. Kent pounds the message home for the umpteenth time: “the world isn’t ready for Superman” and Clark should not reveal his powers. Thus, in an incredibly forced scene, Clark’s father sacrifices his life in an attempt to save a dog. That’s right, a dog. I have nothing against dogs, but is a dog really worth risking a human life? And in the end, the dog didn’t make it either. The entire scene was poorly conceived and only served as a precursor for the mediocrity to follow.
My other major gripe was with the film’s portrayal of Lois Lane. Her introduction was jarring as they offered exactly zero direction for who this character is. Lines such as “Can we stop measuring dick sizes” and “Where am I supposed to tinkle” result in a character with which I want nothing to do. On top of that is a romance between Clark Kent and Lois Lane that seemingly came out of nowhere. It was as if the writers said “obviously Superman and Lois Lane get together because we just have to have ‘Lois and Clark’ it would be ridiculous if they didn’t get together!” Well, it ended up looking ridiculous even when they were together. They spent so little time actually building their relationship it resulted in the climactic kiss at the end falling completely flat.
There were some fun action sequences to be seen throughout the film but they were spoiled by cheesy one liners that didn’t match the tone the first third of the film had set up. These action scenes were also lessened by the wanton destruction and total disregard for Metropolis Superman while fighting General Zod. I think someone estimated the damage done exceeded one trillion dollars. This Superman did not have Earth’s safety first and foremost in his mind. Yes, his goal was to save Earth by eradicating the threat of General Zod, but his means of doing so was by any means necessary; even if that meant destroying the homes and lives of hundreds of thousands of Metropolis citizens.
Overall, Man of Steel failed to impress me with its story and characters. But I did think the cinematography and musical score were top notch. Composer Hans Zimmer did an excellent job in emoting the proper feel of Superman in his compositions. Amir Mokri did especially well with the flashback scenes that brought a truly down-to-earth personality to the sequences of Clark Kent’s childhood. I only wish Zimmer and Mokri had a better script that could exploit their success to the fullest.