So let’s start back about a year ago when the first trailer for Man of Steel came out, many of us were doubtful. Warner Bros. seemed to have no idea how to adapt any of their DC Comic universe outside of Batman (which was thanks to Chris Nolan), and director Zack Snyder was a known abuser of slo-mo that had just come off the craptastic bomb Sucker Punch. On top of that, the less that is said about their Green Lantern attempt, the better.
Then, as more trailers came out and plot details were revealed, I became more and more optimistic. After the three minute trailer that came out around April, I noticed general anticipation had shifted dramatically in the right direction and continued to build to a crescendo ever since. I got a chance to watch Man of Steel opening weekend. Did it soar…or suck? Minor spoilers ahead.
My thoughts? I loved Man of Steel. This film finally takes Superman in the right direction cinematically, dropping him in a modern world that is in desperate need of a Superman. As great as the Christopher Reeves Superman films were, the last one came out over 25 years ago. We really need to move on.
Thankfully, Warner Bros saw that after the poorly received Superman Returns. Was the film perfect? Not by a long shot. While there were a few moments of levity here and there, like when Clark first learned to fly and during his interaction with Lois after he dons the famous suit, the film does feel a bit too serious and even dour.
Along with that, it would have been nice to see a distinct showcase of Superman’s abilities in use when he was fighting Zod and his cronies. That would have been his edge on these Kryptonians who had little experience with the use of their abilities.
Plus, something that was unanimously an issue with fans was how during Zod and Superman’s borderline demolition of Metropolis, Superman gave not a whit of interest in the collateral damage. That is always a big aspect of Superman, trying to contain a superpowered fight away from the civilians. The causalities must have been in the thousands given how many skyscrapers they knocked over. Even though he stopped Zod, why would the US or any country trust him given how much destruction he and his kind caused across just one major city? Just saying.
Now, what worked?
First off, Krypton does explode so we can all relax there.
Let me also say that the reimagining of Krypton was amazing!! This is very different from any other iteration of that planet on or off screen. I can’t say how much I was relived to not see the same ice sculpture with the dome a top it. Finally we get to see Krypton as something more. The technology is very advanced, liquid metal at times in ways that are reminiscent of The Matrix. Even the little details such as the family crests are fantastic. Apparently, they made over 300 different family crests for this film. All the political intrigue and coups prior to Krypton’s destruction really worked for me, partially due to Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe owning the scenes they were in together. I could have stayed longer on Krypton before its explosion, but obviously the story was about Superman.
And Henry Cavill IS Superman. He’s everything a fan could hope for in a new Man of Steel. The character doesn’t need to be dark and gritty just to adapt to modern times. However, I like how we see Clark choose to become Superman instead of getting brainwashed for 12 years by his bio daddy. Along with that, Clark is still finding his footing in this new role, and Cavill embodies that loneliness and confusion in the earlier parts of the movie perfectly.
I was at first hesitant about Amy Adams as Lois, mainly because of the huge age difference and that she looked more like a Lana Lang than a Lois. But she worked for me very much, a tough as nails woman who’s good at her job but still has an overwhelming knack for getting into trouble.
Michael Shannon owned as Zod. He was not a caricature, but a man who was literally made from birth to be a soldier. His sole purpose is to protect Krypton. Anyone who gets in his way is an obstacle that must be removed. Antje Traue worked wonderfully as Zod’s right-hand Faora, not saying much but delivering ass-kickings when needed.
All the supporting cast worked for me, too. Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner added gravitas as Clark’s two fathers, though I could have done with a little less of the constant hammering home of Clark’s greater destiny. Lawrence Fishburne could have gotten a little more to do as Perry White, but I’m guessing we’ll see that in later films.
I did like how the Superman name came to be in this film. Lois was about to name him that before the Army rudely interrupted. But the name got bandied about given the S on Clark’s chest, which is the family crest of House El and stands for Hope.
A big change that I enjoyed but might irk long-time fans is how Superman and Lois first meet. Not to spoil this, but it actually makes a lot of sense given the modern day context of the movie. I mean, Lois IS a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter and not an idiot.
Another smart choice David Goyer and Zack Snyder made was how all the other Kryptonians in Zod’s crew didn’t adjust so quickly to Earth’s Sun (unlike in the show Smallville). Zod, when his protective helmet gets damaged, is overwhelmed at first by all his enhanced senses. And other than Zod, who worked to master his new powers, all the other Kryptonians could only Hulk-leap to get where they were going instead of flying outright.
Superman having trouble fighting Zod and his soldiers at first made perfect sense as well. For one, from what we can tell, the Superman in this film had never really used his powers in a fighting capacity before Zod arrived. Two, he has never encountered any person as strong as him, let alone several people. And three, Zod and his officers are all trained soldiers bred from birth to be the best, whereas Clark is not. This made for very interesting fight sequences in both the battle of Smallville and Metropolis.
And of course, the final battle between Zod and Superman. Other than the potential collateral damage that I had issues with, this fight made the destruction of New York City in The Avengers look like a minor earthquake. I’m glad we finally got to see Superman fighting a superpowered foe and the devastation that could occur because of this. Which leads us to how the fight ended.
PROCEED AT YOUR OWN PERIL.
Superman kills Zod. Now, everyone knows that Superman has a very strict no-kill policy. It's as distinct as his red underwear (which is sadly missing from his suit this time around). However, Zod had nothing left to live for after Superman foiled his plan. So he forced Superman’s hand by trying to barbeque some innocent civilians with his heat vision. Despite Superman’s pleas for him to stop, Zod refused. So Clark had no choice in the heat of the moment (no pun intended but it stays) but to kill him.
Many people hated that, but I loved this moment. Superman just killed the last remnant of his race, and hates himself for it. Henry Cavill’s reaction made that scene much more powerful. Plus, for people complaining that Superman is so perfect, he had to make a very real choice between the lives of civilians or the last of his kind. Superman chose Earth. Either way, I hope that we see the ramifications of Zod’s death ripple through the next Superman films. And, to go full geek on all of you, Superman hads been forced to kill a few times in the comics, mainly Zod.
Now that Man of Steel has come out and is cleaning house at the box office, my questions is what’s the plan? One of my biggest issues with how DC/Warners has handled their comic properties is not having a clear plan. As of right now, we know that Warners is fast-tracking a Man of Steel sequel with both Zack Snyder and David Goyer returning. Other than that, we hear Warners is developing a Wonder Woman movie or considering a Flash film or wanting to do a Justice League film in 2015. However, they have not revealed any type of release strategy for their DC Movie Nation.
Having a clear plan and sticking all those milestones is one of many reasons why Marvel has been so successful in their Shared Cinematic Universe.
The Monday after the first Iron Man film broke bank, we got a three year release schedule from Marvel. DC/Warners needs to show us what the road is to Justice League, and deliver on those dates.
Right now, they’ve grabbed the public’s interest in a larger DC Universe. Now they need to take their time, not rush into Justice League yet, introduce us to some characters other than Batman or Superman, and make movie magic.