I should have watched Man of Steel once and left it at that. I saw it the first time with Mama Jedi and my NerdBFF Geek Outlaw while we were in Vegas for Las Vegas Comic Con. In my extreme excitement and pure unadulterated joy at seeing Superman on the big screen, I loved it. I had a few issues with it but over all I was very impressed. So impressed that I decided to see it again the other night. Also, I forgot to take a notepad with me when I saw it in Vegas so I needed to see it again so that I could take notes during the movie. Cause I’m weird like that. With the initial excitement over, I was able to watch the movie a second time with a more objective perspective. I totally just made an awesome rhyme.
***INSERT OBLIGATORY SPOILER ALERT HERE***[youtube:http://youtu.be/T6DJcgm3wNY]
Ok, so here’s the thing. Some changes were awesome. I liked that it was darker. I liked the grey-ish tone Zack Snyder used. Cinematically, there were a few shots that were truly beautiful, such as Perry holding Jenny’s hand when they face imminent death together, a young Clark playing in the yard with a red towel clothes pinned to his shirt like a cape, the close up on Superman’s outstretched hand slowing forming into a fist while he’s flying into the World Engine, or the 18 times he slowly gazed at the sun. However, there was shaky cam when there didn’t need to be, such as when Jonathan Kent is giving teenage Clark a pep talk about letting people die. It was like the camera was swinging from a tree branch. Pointless and unnecessary.
I liked the extended scene on Krypton at the very beginning. It was nice to see more of Jor-El and Lara even though it was sort of like watching a bunch of Asgardians hanging out on Vulcan while growing and harvesting babies like in The Matrix. The back story of Superman has changed and been modified over the years so it’s tough to stay true to an exact origin story. This one is most like the one established during Mort Weisinger’s reign at DC. I kind of liked that Kal-El was the first natural born child of Krypton in centuries and that it made him special even before he was rocketed to Earth and our baby yellow Sun made him Super. I liked that they had a universal super fabric that all of the clothes were made out of as opposed to brightly colored spandex; although I’d like to see an explanation as to how their clothing is constructed considering the 20,000-year-old scout ship just happened to have a perfectly fitted suit with a El family crest on it just chillin’ in a chamber. My guess is that the ship does a scan of your body and the suit is made in sort of the same way as the magical floating pinscreens (think the cool table in X-Men but on a way bigger scale).
The movie is basically one long fight scene. A reeeaaally long fight scene that’s often hard to make out because it’s either too close up or consists of Kryptonians just body slamming each other in the air over and over again. It’s exciting at first but you’re sort of over it after a while and hoping that someone will try a different tactic, like, I dunno, mix it up with a kick instead of a punch for once. I love gratuitous violence so, on one hand, I appreciated most of the fight scenes even though there’s not much blood when super aliens are duking it out; however, I had serious issues with the fact that Superman allowed most of Smallville and Metropolis to be destroyed. The Superman that I know and love would have done everything he could to move the fight away from populated areas. Just when you think Metropolis couldn’t possibly have any more skyscrapers left, the fight starts all over again and a few more get knocked down just for good measure. Even more than that though, when Superman loses his temper in Smallville (note to self: don’t mess with his mama), he fly-pummels Zod through the farms and businesses of his hometown, destroying the livelihoods of people who he knows and loves. A flight path that could have and would have been avoided/altered by Superman imho. Basically, it was a ton of crashing into things just for the sake of crashing into things. Oh, and what the hell? Let’s destroy a satellite while we’re at it. Just because we can.
The time spent on Krypton meant less time spent in Smallville so we don’t get to see the relationships Clark develops with Pete Ross and Lana Lang which is a shame. We mostly see Clark hitchhiking from one blue collar job to another while experiencing flashbacks from his childhood. He’s one of those guys who can’t seem to stay out of trouble and every time he saves the day he has to move on and adopt a different fake identity. Sometimes it’s hilarious, such as the bar patron who tries to push him and bounces off his chest (and the look of confusion on his face when he goes outside and sees the condition of his rig). Other times it’s dramatic, such as when the oil rig is exploding. Other times it’s frustrating, like, why would he hitchhike across the middle of nowhere when he could get there faster just by running? It’s not like there’s a bunch of people there to see him zipping along. Despite his best efforts to stay off the grid, apparently he’s super shitty at it because Lois Lane has zero trouble tracking him down.
Small things that annoyed me:
The fact that Clark had the command key on a string around his neck but there was no hole in it for the string to go through.
I would like to know more about this technology and/or mental mindfuck that allows General Zod to go into people’s memories and talk to them in their subconscious.
How fast he got the knack for flying (after a rather impressive crash through a mountain).
I really wanted Superman to tell Lois what color underwear she was wearing when they were in the interrogation room. I was sadly disappointed.
Pfft! Nothing after the end credits?!
Small things that I loved:
The Priest’s reaction when Clark goes for an impromptu confession. That was quite possibly the most perfectly timed swallow in movie history.
The way the handcuffs barely even make a sound or are paid any attention to when Clark casually snaps them apart.
That was one smooth exit from the spaceship and a pretty awesome extrication from the escape pod.
How nervous Superman looked when he was walking towards the bad guys right before the big fight scene in Smallville.
Col. Hardy telling his troops “this man is not our enemy.”
The picture showing how Clark won a science fair with a model volcano made me chuckle. (Also, the fact that his school was named after Mort Weisinger).
The LexCorp fuel truck and building.
The World Engine playing bouncy ball with Metropolis.
That the C17 carrying Kal-El baby pod was named the Guardian.
On to individual character assessments…
Henry Cavill plays Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman and holy hell in a handbasket that man is hotter than a firecracker on the fourth of July. He’s so sexy he can calm a screaming woman with one look of exasperation. Physically, he’s got the look down pat and if he just stood there and looked pretty you’d get no complaints from me. Emotionally, it was a bit choppy. At parts I thought he was brilliant, such as his grief over killing the last of his kind even if he was a “bad guy.” You get the sense that Supes was really hoping Zod would change and learn to coexist with humans. His portrayal was more subtle than past Supes and I kind of liked that, but he had so many Luke Skywalker screams (no, REALLY) that I started rolling my eyes. The worst of which was during the tornado. But hey, he manages to make the ballet pose look sexy and that’s all that really matters, right?
Lois Lane (Amy Adams) had a completely laughable moment when she tried to follow Clark into the Super cave. You’re already thinking that she’s super dumb for even being out there in 40 below zero with just a beanie for head protection, then they pan out and she’s walking along a sheer cliff with no sign of a pathway or how she got to a seriously impossible-to-reach ledge. That feat would be no problem for Supes but nigh impossible for an average lady carrying a giant camera. I LOL’d. She had some great lines though such as: “What can I say? I get writer’s block if I’m not wearing a flak jacket.” I’m a big Amy Adams fan. I think she’s gorgeous and an incredible actress and she was a great choice for the spunky Ms. Lane. Loved her vest, hated that she was wearing stilettos. Why can’t they give girls practical shoes in these movies?
Jor-El is portrayed by Russell Crowe (aka Robin Hood #1) and he did well considering he had to live up to Marlon Brando. He was pretty badass for a scientist. It’s unclear whether he and Zod were ever friends or if they just respected each other up until recently. I’d like to think they shared some beers and laughs but Krypton just doesn’t seem like that kind of planet. His pep talk (“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They’ll race behind you. They will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders”) can’t even begin to compare with Brando’s floating head speech (“They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son”). The fact that his conscious was uploaded into the command key and he could interact with the people around him was ludicrous. I felt like I was watching Jor-El Kenobi. His wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) was a delight to watch.
Kevin Costner (aka Robin Hood #2) does not look 46 years old but other than that he did a nice job as Jonathan Kent, Clark’s adoptive father. The pep talk on the truck bed was seriously cheesy but I blame that more on the dialog than on the performances. His death was dumb. But hey, at least the dog lived.
Diane Lane portrays Martha Kent with all the blunt practicality and inherent wisdom of a born and bred farm wife. Her presence is calming, not just for Clark but for the audience as well. When Superman loses his trademark patience, it’s because his mama’s been threatened and you find yourself rooting him on as he pummels Zod’s face in retaliation. The movie’s got some pretty cheesy dialogue but Diane Lane takes lines like “nice suit, son” and delivers them with such charm that you can’t help but like her inside and out.
Michael Shannon tried to bring emotional depth to born warrior General Zod. You can see the pain it caused him to kill Jor-El and the regret in his eyes when he tells Kal-El that it haunts him. He truly believes that he’s doing all of this for the benefit of his people. When he loses his people he loses the last sensible part of his mind and he becomes very animalistic. He also demonstrates perfectly why Edna hates capes. Shannon’s specialty is making angry faces and he made many of them in this movie. Only a couple of his goons are given any lines, his right hand gal Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) and scientist Jax-Ur (Mackenzie Gray). No one else is even remotely notable except for the ginormous Kryptonion who reminded me of the Destroyer. On a side note: Kryptonian women have REALLY great makeup.
Colonel Hardy (Christopher Meloni) is a sensible, git er done kind of guy. He’s brave and perfectly willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. He acted as an excellent representation of our Armed Forces. He had a great “so Lois, we meet again” expression at one point that made me laugh out loud. I’m skeptical that he would have survived the helicopter crash scene, but hell, it’s happened before so who am I to talk? Mad props to him for throwing Faora-Ul’s “a good death is it’s own reward” line back in her face.
Dr. Emil Hamilton (Richard Schiff), General Swanwick (Harry Lennix), and a very tiny female Major (Christina Wren) who thinks that Superman is “kinda hot” round out the military component. There’s not much to say about them other than that they did a good job with what little screen time they had. Dr. Hamilton certainly helped to save the day when he realized that the pod was outta whack and twisted it back into place. Together, the grumpy General and cute Major were a nice juxtaposition.
Laurence Fishburne brought a lot of heart to Daily Planet Editor Perry White. He’s a tough boss but he genuinely cares for the people who work for him. He’s willing to risk his life for and even die with an Intern in his charge in one of the more emotional scenes in the film. Like me, Fishburne tends to lean more towards the Marvel ‘verse but his love for the project can be seen on his face and the way he speaks his lines, with a definite degree of reverence.
There’s a bunch of cool people in the smaller and cameo roles. A couple of BSG alumni in Tahmoh Penikett and Alessandro Juliani (who portrayed Dr. Emil Hamilton on Smallville), the afore mentioned Penikett and Harry Lennix from Dollhouse, and Carla Gugino as the voice of Kelor (one of the disembodied robo twins). It was neat to see who would pop up next.
There were definitely some parallels between events like 9/11 and the oil rig explosion in the gulf. And the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma certainly brought new gravity to the film’s twister scene. Overall, I enjoyed the film and I think that it’s worth seeing in the theatre, even after picking it apart the second time around. Yes, there were some parts that were cheesy and the fight scenes were way overdone but I think that Zack Snyder did a good job of modernizing a classic superhero. Superman is a little bit darker and more complicated but he’s still a big blue Boy Scout which is ultimately what we love about him. It’s not perfect but it ticks off a lot of the boxes. So to all the haters I offer a big…
I give Man of Steel 3.5 out 5 Sci-Fives!