The ‘Man of Steel’ Takes His First Test Flight (Movie Review)

Man of Steel TNThe day is finally upon us.  They said it couldn’t be done.  They said it was impossible.  They said not in your wildest imagination.  Okay.  I admit it.  I said all of this when I first found out they were attempting to go down the road of reinventing, rebranding and rebooting the legendary Superman franchise.  Ha!  You should have heard the expletives I said when I found out that Watchmen’s Zack Snyder was helming the project.  I have nothing against the looks and visual style of his Watchmen, but my God was that one of the most boringly long, tearjerking films of recent years filled with too many frames of big blue @#$%.  However, I know Snyder has more potential than that.  After all he did do 300 and created one of the most stunning movie intros ever, in my opinion, in Sucker Punch.  So the cat has talent, that much I can’t deny.  But then it became to be known that Christopher Nolan was going to be serving as a producer and I thought maybe, just maybe, under the tutelage of King Nolan, Snyder could possibly nail it on the head and get it right this time out.  This franchise needs a hero.  If anybody can do it, it’s Nolan.  I have faith in Nolan, and therefore I now have faith in Snyder.  You picking up what I’m dropping here?  Good!  Because we’re about to get down to business.  And this sh1t’s going to get real.  Prepare to soar and be dazzled.  You never know what may happen.  This is a review made out of steel.  Treat it accordingly.

Man of Steel 1

So I assume we can all skip on by past the Siegel’s family threat to Warner Bros. that they had to start production on a Superman movie by 2011 or face the legal wrath that the family could sue for additional royalties from previous films.  Blah, blah, blah.  The time is among us.  The story behind Man of Steel is actually based upon an idea by David S. Goyer that Nolan pitched to the studio around the time that The Dark Knight Rises was wrapping up production.  Snyder was hired on as director back in October of 2010.  I guess you can say he’s the veteran here, but in my eyes, still very much the pupil under Nolan’s uncompromising wits.  It’s all about the story and that’s the part where going into Man of Steel I was confident that we were in good hands here because if Nolan knows one thing…it’s story.

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Now as I mentioned before, Man of Steel is a reboot of the Superman film series, which captures and puts a slightly new and refreshing take on the character’s origin story.  However, you already knew what you were getting into once you heard or should I said read the word “reboot.”  The film stars Henry Cavill (Immortals) in the titular title role with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Russell Crowe as Jor-El (Superman’s father) and Antje Traue as Faora.  And equally important, if you’re a fan of the Dark Knight trilogy like I am, you’ll be stoked that we’re also in good hands in the score department with the inclusion of Hans Zimmer onboard filling some pretty big shoes of John Williams from the previous films.  While I’m sure it’s much to everyone’s surprise that there’s no reference at all to William’s iconic “Superman March,” that’s not necessary a bad thing…it’s a good thing.  Have faith.  Zimmer, in my opinion, is the new John Williams and no one knows his craft better than Hans.  Just wait until you hear what Zimmer has in store for your ears.  It’s like candy.  It’s so sweet you just have to have it!

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There’s so many good things going for this feature that I previously mentioned above so why didn’t I like it as much as I wanted to?  Were my expectations set way too high, almost unbeatable?  Did the wild second half action tromp the fact that the story lacked really rich character development and charisma?  Did the fact that Goyer penned this script singlehandedly and it didn’t have Nolan’s TLC touch bore me a tad?  Honestly, for me, it was a little bit of all of those things.  Believe me, I’m the last person who wants to be saying anything bad about this film.  My world needed a hero and I really…let me emphasize the word again…REALLY needed a hero this summer.  Unfortunately, Man of Steel isn’t that savior for me.  Truth be told, I had way more fun with Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Into The Darkness and Oblivion this year than this.  And God…you don’t know how sad that makes me.  But here’s the deal.  I gave myself a day to digest this film and take it all in before I sat down to write this as I did not want my crushed expectations spoiling or littering this review sourly in any way after my screening Tuesday night.  But the more and more I thought about it the more I loosened up on some things I disliked and started focusing on others.  It’s not a perfect film.  The Dark Knight trilogy wasn’t either.  But unlike the Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel was completely forgettable where as with the Dark Knight flicks they were provoking and stimulating my mind for days, weeks and even months after only the first viewing.  I wanted to feel that so much for this new incarnation of Superman.  I wanted to be lost in thought provoking moments, but alas I was not.  Sadly, I haven’t even listened to the soundtrack again today, but don’t let me sour the mood there.  The soundtrack is stellar.  There’s no denying that and I’d be a fool to tell you otherwise.

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Believe it or not, I even had plans to go see this one in IMAX over the coming weekend.  That’s how much I was banking on the fact that I would love it.  But that’s not going to happen, folks.  I’ll give it a second chance on the Blu-ray format, but the theaters aren’t getting my hard earned money or repeat business on this one like I thought they would.  I never thought it was plausible or even possible after becoming so attached to those past few trailers, but I felt so emotionally detached, distant and deprived.  It felt like I was hearing an ex tell me I don’t love you anymore…well not in that way.  And I believe it had much to do with the weak characters and their respective lack of robust development.  That’s why I’m sad that Nolan didn’t have a hand in writing the screenplay.  I know, at least I hope, his characters would have been richer and the dialogue would have been a lot more credible, if not remarkable.  Oh, how sad I am….the burden I bear.

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Now let’s not get carried away or blow things out of proportion here with my sadness.  Man of Steel is NOT an incredibly bad movie.  It just could have been done a lot better and that’s the main reason for my sourness here.  But have no fear, it’s nothing like Superman Returns.  I dig the gritty real world approach that Nolan likes to instill and inject his characters in, but there’s also a lot of things that did not work for me either.  For starters, let’s take a look at Lois and Clark/Superman’s relationship.  I truly appreciate the fact that they modernized things and knew the characters’ portrayals in the Donner films from the 80’s were not going to hold up in today’s times, but they totally flipped the dynamics of Clark and Lois’ relationship head over heels and it just didn’t work for me.  It worked for others that I talked to, but not for me.  Again I appreciate the modern human approach, but this relationship really had me scratching my head and saying really an awful lot.  And I was bored by it.  How’s that possible?  This is the Man of Steel after all.  What’s cool was Krypton.  It was “stellar” to see the ruined planet represented onscreen like it was, almost fantasy or Avatar like.  I loved it!  Actually, I NEVER wanted to leave Krypton.  It was an exciting and thrilling way to begin the first act of the film.  The movie could have taken place there its entire runtime and I would have been perfectly happy, but once we came to Earth the other half of the origin story telling flipped flopped so erratically for me it kind of took me out of my triumphant mood a bit.  It worked in Batman Begins because it felt cohesive and formulaic, but I don’t think it was effective at all here that much.  I really really wanted to feel that strong family bond between Clark (Kal-El) and his adopted parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent.  I really needed that cohesive bonding.  I wanted to be grounded int he story and lost in suspension of disbelief.  But the story was so choppy I never got to feel comfortable with the world in which Clark grew up in, thus I never felt the essential, emotional connection between the two most important people in Clark’s life.  And the whole Lois Lane thing once again.  Ugh.  It’s going to take another viewing or two to see if I warm up to how her character was portrayed.  I’ll save that mission for later on in the year.

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So while I’m on roll here with rambling off all my likes and dislikes let’s talk about the characters.  Henry Cavill, while not as charismatic as the late Christopher Reeve, is completely stoic and chiseled as DC’s headliner superhero.  He wears and fills his tights with pride, enthusiasm and seems to have fun with it (and no that’s not a bash on the missing red tights…lol).  There just wasn’t a lot for him to work with though in my opinion.  I did not feel his moments of pain like Zack wanted me to other than the rare moments where I was taken aback though when young Clark had problems dealing with his superpowers such as x-ray vision (and I mean actually seeing through people’s skin) and hearing everyone’s conversations going on all around (and this all figures in brilliantly around the film’s second plot point too).  That realism was probably my favorite moment in the movie and I never seen it explored that way.  I liked it very much!!!  However, with the good always comes the bad and I’ll be honest and go on record by saying I’m not crazy of Amy Adams as Lois Lane.  I really think she is erroneously casted in this role, but again that’s just me.  On the flip side, I L-O-V-E the casting of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Mr. and Mrs. Kent.  They were outstanding and I wish I could have seen a hell of a whole lot more of them throughout.  I had no problems with the reincarnation of the characters of Perry White or that of Jor-El, they were actually perfectly casted in my opinion.  And while we’re at it, our paragraph wouldn’t be complete without mention of the brilliant Michael Shannon.  I think he did a fine job here too and flexed as much emotion and intensity as he could, but I also feel like he did not have a lot to work with here too.  I truly think he could have brought much more ferocity and energy to the character.  He felt a bit dialed back.  Antje’s character of Faora was kind of a throwaway role, but I dug her nonetheless.  I mean what’s not to like, right?

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I guess that leaves us with the reason why we are all here reading this…the tentpole summer action movie.  And I’m not going to lie to you.  If you like big, robust action in vein of The Transformers, then you came to the right place.  The second half of Man of Steel is action packed and as explosive as Krypton’s core.  Understandably so since this is a reboot of the franchise that there will be a lengthy origin story, but believe me when I say no time was wasted between the moment Clark received his blue alien underwear to the point where he confronted a cranky General Zod.  Maybe that’s why I am in such dismay.  It really wasn’t an iconic moment and I didn’t get to see him discover his newfound powers innocently enough like we do in all the other superhero films in recent times.  And to be completely honest, the last third of the film really did feel like a bombastic, peril Transformers moment taken from any of the last three films.  It kind of took away whatever humanity Zack achieved with the first two acts as it was just in your face nonsensical Hulk-like smashing action.  But nevertheless, it was cool!  And riddle me this?  For someone so concerned with the well being of human life, aka Superman, how does he not care about the destruction him and Zod ensue on Metropolis?  I mean, come on, about a million people must have died in that final battle.  I don’t know.  Whenever I think about it more and more I find plot holes I don’t like, but let’s face it, The Dark Knight Rises is notorious for them too, more often than not.  No matter how you slice, the mythos of Superman is a hard one to tackle.  You’re either going to do it completely wrong by going too much with the comics and geek lore or you’re going to risk looking ridiculous by making cheese.  Here’s where I think Goyer and Nolan succeeded at least in bringing a real world “feel” to Man of Steel and it appears like the future Justice League universe too…if that happens.  It’s not prefect, but it’s a start and a foundation to build upon.

So up above you have my score.  You probably thought with all the b1tching and moaning I have been doing my score would have been a lot lower.  Here’s the deal, I had to account for my high expectations and I’m pretty sure I’ll warm up to things the second time around on Blu-ray, but for the time being I had to also get all the above off my chest.  By all means, don’t let my words above be the final words.  You should go and experience Kal-El’s journey for yourself on the big screen.  I will let you in on two little secrets though.  Don’t waste the money on 3-D.  There’s nothing to be seen here.  And when the credits roll, sadly that’s it, folks.  Don’t expect no huge Justice League tie-in like they did for Avengers in all the latest Marvel films.  It’s not there.  However, for a film who’s sole purpose is to launch a shared fictional universe of DC Comics characters on film, I think it works.  The choppy origin story kind of lost me there for a bit and there were parts with the script that I would have liked to seen gone very differently, but that’s why I’m not making the big bucks, Nolan, Snyder and Goyer are.  What do I know, eh?  I do know this.  Never before has Superman been tackled like this.  They do a great job at making you feel what Clark feels as an alien outcast and putting a “real world spin” (I’m sure you are sick of hearing me say that over and over) on the DC Comics universe, something I hope they continue with.  This isn’t your daddy’s or 80’s childhood Superman.  Man of Steel is an action packed ride on the darker side of the DC Universe.  It’s Superman’s trials and tribulations as he discovers what kind of man he is going to be and how the people of Earth are going to treat him when his powers are discovered and big bad General Zod comes looking for Krypton’s last son.  It’s very much an “alien” movie.  It’s not as good as Nolan’s three Batman films, but it’s a start in the right direction.  I hope you’re able to enjoy your time in the movies with this one over the weekend.  Thanks for reading and feel free to bash me below in the comments field.  I know I’m not the only one who feels the way I do above.  That’s my saving grace.  I heard critics bash it to the right of me in the theater and praise it to the left of me.  I’m just happy to be stuck in the middle for once in life.  Later!

Man of Steel Poster


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

3 Responses to “The ‘Man of Steel’ Takes His First Test Flight (Movie Review)”

  1. Gregg

    This movie wanted so badly to be epic. Unfortunately, flying through walls for an hour won’t get you there.
    Man of Splinters. Ha!

  2. Sean Ferguson

    While I disagree with you on this I think you’ve done a good job explaining your thoughts on it. And “Hans Zimmer is the new John Williams”? I don’t think so. John Williams is still very much with us and still the man. I loved Zimmer’s score for this film and think he’s a great composer, but let’s not shortchange the true master that the others must look up to!

  3. Brian White

    Wow! Thanks Sean for the awesome feedback.
    Here’s my consensus. My expectations were skyrocketing HIGH when I went into to see this. Maybe I’ll warm up to it the second time around. I did like this more than Iron Man 3, but I digress. However, I did not like it enough to support it financially in the theaters. I hope to find solitude with it on the Blu-ray format one day when it’s a good price. I know you’ll shoot me for saying this, but I have been judging everything by my number 1 film of the year Oblivion. Say what you want about it. Yes it’s a mismodge of a lot of sic-fi plots and whatnot, but I’m just enamored by the tight script, the scenery, the score, the people, the story and the resolution. Tom Cruise simply had my heart going piddily plot in that one. I loved it!
    Now I will agree with you on the following and I’m sorry for stepping out of bounds. You are right. Hans Zimmer is NOT John Williams. What I meant to say is that he’s like him in a cult status way and one day when Mr. Williams is long gone, I’m hoping Zimmer replaces him (no you can never replace the man, but you can live up to him). Just my two cents.