This is a seriously belated review. The movie came out in the summer of 2013 and the DVD sometime around November but I didn’t bother getting it, it was buried on my Amazon gift list for a long time, mostly because I just didn’t care enough to order it until recently. However, it was cheap, I was ordering anyhow, so I finally received the 2-disc special edition set and got around to watching it. How was it? Read on and see!
This comes as no surprise to anyone who has heard me talk about DC comics, but I am not and never have been a fan of Superman. I don’t care for the character, I don’t like how he’s written and beyond the first couple of Christopher Reeve movies, I haven’t liked him in the majority of his film versions, live action or animated.
In short, I think Superman is far too godlike to be believable and far too ungodlike to be useful. He’s supposed to be the best of us but there’s really no reason for him to do so and all Superman-fanboys can point to is his upbringing on the Kent Farm. Personally, I’ve liked the Superman: Red Son version much better, where a Superman, born in the USSR, takes over the planet because he’s better at doing most of the mundane work than any human.
While I’m not going into the plot on this film, I figure if you haven’t seen it yet, you really don’t care about the movie and probably aren’t reading this review anyhow. It’s just a long, drawn out retelling of Superman’s origin with a few left turns but nothing that’s terribly unexpected.
I haven’t done a good/bad/neutral review for a while so I’ll do it here. These aren’t in any particular order, just my thoughts about things that happened in the movie.
BAD – The religious overtones sucked and Man of Steel was crammed full of them. Superman and his crucifixion poses, Clark being on Earth for 33 years before he becomes Superman, you name it, it was obnoxious. The thing is, it’s a reminder of everything that I hate about Superman. It wasn’t remotely subtle either, it was ridiculously blatant. Superman Returns had the same thing but at least you weren’t beaten over the head with it like you were here.
GOOD – I did like how they portrayed Lois Lane, at least for the most part. I’ve always thought that it was utterly ridiculous in the Superman mythos that Lois Lane, the person closest to both Superman and Clark Kent, wouldn’t know they were one and the same person. Here, she knows from the very beginning that Clark and Superman are the same and I wish they had shown that she had gotten him the job at the Daily Planet, that would have made a lot of sense, whether or not that’s the way it actually happened.
NEUTRAL – The Kryptonian ships. Some of them are really cool and some, really awful. The pods that Zod and his followers are frozen into before they are sent to the Phantom Zone reminded me of the ships from the 1974 soft-core porn flick Flesh Gordon. My favorite was the scout ship that remained on Earth for 18,000 years, most of the stuff that Zod was flying around, the ones that looked a lot like fish and anthropods, were largely forgettable.
GOOD – I did like Henry Cavill as Superman, he sold the part well, even on those rare occasions when he was Clark Kent. However, nobody ever really noticed that he was doing absurd things as Clark Kent, like holding up the oil rig so the other men could get off, or pushing the school bus back up on land. Even though there were reports by other kids that he did these things, there were no apparent repercussions. It’s like everyone just forgot.
BAD – The movie is just too dark, exactly like the Nolan Batman films. When I asked my wife what she thought of it, that was her first complaint. Unlike the Marvel movies, where no matter how bad things get, there’s always a joke here or a look there that lightens the mood, DC movies are, at least in recent years, dark, dank and disgusting. I hate that in a movie.
GOOD – Amazingly, I think it’s a good thing that the movie spends so much time making sure the audience knows Superman isn’t human. However, I think that’s why he and Lois should never have kissed. She, more than most, should know that he’s not human, kissing him is like making out with a chihuahua. It should be the farthest thing from anyone’s mind, especially hers.
BAD – The destruction porn in this film is absurd, it’s Michael Bay absurd, they destroy things just for the sake of destroying them, throwing in massive explosions left and right and it wasn’t called for.
GOOD – It was a really clever move to have the Kryptonian atmosphere and the Earth atmosphere different, I liked the masks that they had to wear but I thought that they were far too quick to transition between the two. If you’re going to have it at all, have it matter.
BAD – Seriously, Superman can’t think for himself in this movie. Everything he does, he does because someone told him to do it. Jonathan Kent died because he told Clark to let him die. Clark could have easily saved him and the death was hollow. Clark only became Superman because ghost-Jor-El told him to. Otherwise, he was just a mopey guy. Zod only died because Zod told him that one of them would have to die to end this conflict. There were easy ways to avoid killing but Clark is too much of a spineless wimp.
GOOD – While there was no mention of Lex Luthor in the movie, it is interesting to note that there were trucks belonging to Lexcorp on the streets of Metropolis. That’s a nice touch.
BAD – When Zod and his crew appear on Earth in their black armor, all of it is computer generated and honestly, it isn’t very well done. In fact, there were times when I could have sworn that Michael Shannon’s face was digitally replaced and I was looking at a video game cut scene.
BAD – Apparently Zack Snyder forgets what gives Superman his powers because when he’s fighting the World Builder, Lois tells him that he might be weaker working around it. Why? Alright, there is the change in atmosphere but he worked his way through that earlier in the movie. What gives him his strength? The sun. Nothing that the World Builder is doing changes the output of the sun. He should be getting plenty of solar rays, he should have been able to fly straight through the thing with little trouble.
BAD – People are stupid in this movie. At the end, Superman and Zod are wrestling and Zod is threatening to kill some people with his heat vision. It’s not like the people couldn’t have just, I don’t know… walked away or anything. They just stood there with an absurdly clear escape path, yet they choose to be in peril. Screw ’em. They’re too stupid to live.
BAD – Inconsistencies with Superman’s character. Now I know that this is a reboot and they can do whatever they want to the character, but Superman’s actions are extremely inconsistent with his comic book self. A lot of this film is based, at least loosely, around John Byrne’s run on Man of Steel back in the 80s and in that series, Byrne had Superman kill General Zod with a canister of Krpytonite. The shame of having killed someone in cold blood, even a monster like Zod, drove Superman insane and he spent a while as a super-vigilante named Gangbuster before he exiled himself from the Earth to avoid being a danger to the world. The murder of Zod in the movie really served no purpose, it wasn’t to save the stupid people (see above), Superman could have turned Zod’s head easily, thrown him through a wall, etc. It was just gratuitous, dark for the sake of being dark.
BAD – In the end, Superman provides the rocket he arrived in as a bomb that will create a black hole and suck all the bad guys back into the Phantom Zone. All this time, we’re told that the “S” means “hope”. Sure, a massive black hole bomb is certainly hopeful, isn’t it?
In the end, there just isn’t a lot to care about here. I asked my wife what she thought of the movie and she said “meh”. That sums up my feelings too.