Man of Steel Review

man-of-steel-posterMan Of Steel
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon
Review by Stephanie Cooke

*This Review is Spoiler-Free*

Man of Steel was easily one of my most anticipated movies of the summer, nay the YEAR. It seems that lately studios have been getting comic book movies right and giving us something to hope for in the future.  The film starts out as a classic origin story, which is what you would expect from a rebooted franchise, but after that the film’s pacing takes a massive turn for the worse.  We go back and forth through Clark’s past and present but it doesn’t have any order to it. All of it could’ve easily been told chronologically, but instead Snyder doesn’t give us time to absorb what Clark is going through before taking us somewhere else.

Henry Cavill is spot on as both Clark Kent and Superman. The little kid that they cast as young Clark Kent (Dylan Sprayberry) looks EXACTLY what you think a young Henry Cavill would look like, so major kudos to casting for that. Cavill manages to really channel what a young Clark Kent might be going through at the stages in his life that he plays and is convincingly all of the things that he needs to be: morally conflicted, angry, confused, sad and he does it all without looking like a deer in headlights.

We all know that Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe are top-notch actors. Top of their field, really. Michael Shannon especially won me over after Boardwalk Empire and his role in the slow-burn film Take Shelter (if you haven’t seen it, you really should). Shannon’s character, General Zod is built-up to not really be a bad guy so much as a guy willing to do ANYTHING to ensure the survival of his people (so, basically a bad guy…), while Russell Crowe plays Clark’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El and we get a brief glimpse of him in the last dying breaths of the world. Overall, they’re both pretty convincing in their roles and do a good job of it. My only quarrels with them were Crowe had these dramatic arm gestures throughout the whole film that made him look like he was auditioning for a Backstreet Boys music video and Michael Shannon, in almost every serious moment, had these absolutely RIDICULOUS exaggerated facial expressions that just made him look like a cartoon character. Which, to be fair, should work but really somehow doesn’t.

And then there’s Amy Adams who was cast as Lois Lane. I’m a big Amy Adams fan and when she was cast, I was so hesitant because she just does not resemble that character. However, I got over it since I’d rather a good actress be cast in the role, than a bad actress who happens to look more like the character. However, after all is said and done, Adams still wound up just not fitting the bill for me.

Which brings me to one of my major problems with the film: the dialogue. I think a big chunk of why Adams failed in the role wasn’t because she was ill suited for the role, but because Adams was given such poor dialogue throughout the whole film. In fact, it seemed like her entire purpose in the film was to make Superman look good. I realize that in the comics, Superman saves Lois a ton, but I thought we had evolved in films to the point where we could also validate her existence by making her a smart character, that women could admire and look up to. We don’t really get to glimpse that smart character though; instead we’re just told numerous times that Lois Lane is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and I guess that’s supposed to be enough for us to grasp that she’s more than just a pretty face. For me, it was not. Characters don’t get to be validated with titles; they need to prove their worth with actions and Lois’s actions in the film screamed perpetual damsel in distress.

Then there’s the issue of the choices that characters make in Man Of Steel. Everything that they do feels unnatural to me and they consistently make the most idiotic choices possible. There are examples, but I won’t get into spoilery territory. Things that characters say and do just don’t feel like their characters. Yuo can see the most prominent of these right from one of the early trailers, when a young Clark asks if he should’ve just let his classmates die in a bus accident and Pa Kent says “Maybe…”

Man Of Steel is a beautiful film in terms of the cinematography and visual effects. It’s the full benefits of a massively budgeted Hollywood film. Some of the fight scenes look a bit like something straight out of a video game (perhaps Injustice!), but that’s to be expected when you have characters doing things that real people just simply can’t do. There’s just a lot of face punching and CG in these scenes not necessarily making them bad, just fake, to an extent.

After sitting through the 2 ½ hour film, that feels like a 2 ½ hour film, I’m left feeling so let down by the whole experience. I wanted so badly to not only like this movie but to love it and I just didn’t. I unabashedly love all of Zack Snyder’s films: Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and even Sucker Punch, but Man Of Steel did nothing for me.

Man Of Steel was just a mess that lacked a distinct direction and had no emotion and no heart… something that I think should be the very core of a Superman film.

28 thoughts on “Man of Steel Review

  1. I’ve been seeing/hearing bad things about this. It’s upsetting, I was really looking forward to this film. I’ll still see it but I feel like it will be DC’s equivalent to Iron Man 3 for me now.

    1. I REALLY wanted to love it because good comic book movies are great for the world that we’re immersed in. Disliking them unless there’s just cause is so detrimental, but I was so disappointed. I’m actually seeing it again tonight and I’ll see if it gets any better, but yeah.

      1. As someone who has had multiple viewings, I liked it…as a movie where Superman experiences things that give him visceral moments that are opportunities to become Superman. As a movie for receiving Superman in final form, it is, no doubt, a failure. The sequel, and how it explores killing and mot saving everyone, will actually inform my thinking about this film. If the sequel ignores this piece of it, that would be a problem for me. If it fully explores it, particularly as a motivation for, say, Luthor, or for Bruce in terms of the horrific potential of this alien, than it might be, continuity-wise, entirely appropriate. The idea of chemistry with Adams and Cavill? I thought it was there, and contextual. I do agree that taking 65% of the end battles and using the other 35% we got and transforming that time into more character development would have been better for me. Yet, the idea that we didn’t get Adams delivering on her reporting skills bastardizes the actual scenes we got with her doing that. Your podcast peers offer up the actress playing Lara as an emotional corpse: how can that be when she lets go tears holding Kal, when she makes him wait, emoting the truth of not wanting to let go of this natural born baby; when she pauses with emotional weight at Zod’s demand she stop, giving us the sense that she, too, has doubts, but ultimately trusts Jor-El? This movie was better than many are giving it credit for, much MUCH better than IM3 in my view (at least it didn’t turn Luthor into an actor playing Luthor!). Man of Steel is about BECOMING Superman, and if that process isn’t complete, and takes until the sequel, I’m okay…if they get all that done, i.e., a scene in MoS2 where, say, Bruce says to Kal, “you need to lighten up that suit. Its not as hopeful as your symbol claims” would be cool, and arc-completing.

  2. I’m curious to know what you thought of Man of Steel compared to Batman Begins. It seems like a lot of Internet build-up for MoS was centered around it being as good as/like The Dark Knight, yet I think a lot of people forget that was the second film in the trilogy. Do you think there’s enough of an idea in MoS that the sequel could be a step-up as Dark Knight was to Batman Begins?

    1. I honestly don’t see how that would be possible. I know a sequel is being fast-tracked, but I think the Nolan-esque vision for this movie doesn’t work in the same way that it did for Batman, but that’s still what they’re seemingly going to continue to work with.

  3. This is too bad. Obviously, I’m going to see it for myself, but I was really hoping for a non-Batman movie “win” for DC. This seems very similar to Green Lantern in terms of lots of pre-movie hype but falling short on the delivery. Say it ain’t so!

    BTW: how does it compare to the Green Lantern movie? Is it any better, or just as bad, or (please don’t let it be this one) worse?

    1. I definitely recommend that everyone make their own opinions on the film. I’m happy to share my thoughts, but I always want other people to see it for themselves. Don’t let reviews deter you! I’ve heard so many mixed things about the film too, that really the only way to find out for yourself is to just see it.

      As for comparing it to Green Lantern… Hmmm… that’s hard to say. I only watched it once on an airplane and greatly disliked it, but at least it was fun in certain places? I think they just took different directions and it’s hard to compare apples to oranges, you know?

  4. I thought the film was amazing. The problem with people walking away disappointed, in my opinion, is that they’re all expecting it to be something from TDK Trilogy. It’s not. Michael Shannon’s facial expressions didn’t bother me, he looks like a man desperate to accomplish his mission to the point it’s driven him mad. Lois shows that she’s the journalist they make her out to be, I won’t mention how to keep it spoiler free for those who have seen it yet.

    All in all, they did a terrific job at showing Clark’s inner turmoil caused by trying to fit in, and knowing that he never truly will. DO NOT go in to this expecting a Nolan Batman-esque movie, it’s not. It’s a Zack Snyder movie, full of action and sprinkled with some light hearted moments.

    1. I didn’t expect it to be something from TDK Trilogy, in fact, I wanted it to be far from it. Superman is NOT Batman and you can’t write the characters the same and expect the same results. They have to be handled differently and they weren’t.

      Young Clark’s inner turmoil is fine and I have almost no problems with Cavill’s portrayal of the character. As mentioned, my main issues were with the pacing, the dialogue and a few other things. Lois Lane does NOT show that she’s an intelligent character. Recklessly endangering herself at every turn does not make her intelligent and a montage that sort of shows how she managed to find Clark in like two minutes was more or less ridiculous.

      Bah… Anyways, you’re allowed to like the film, this is just MY opinion on it, but if you want to know exactly what was wrong with the film in more spoilery terms that I won’t post here, Meghan Lane writes a fantastic piece on what was wrong with the film here. Andrew Parker also does a great review of the film and Elliott Serrano does an outline of what annoyed him about it here and then there’s Mark Waid’s review of the film, in which he states that it “broke his heart”.

      All of the provided links are things that completely accurately sum up my feelings on the film.

  5. I didn’t mean anything disrespectfully, and I wasn’t implying you we’re expecting a Nolan Batman film. Most of the people I’ve seen anticipating the film always jump straight to ‘oh Chris Nolan, batman! Blah blah blah.’ I was more or less just sharing my thoughts on the film because they’re pretty well polar opposite from your’s, but I can agree that it’s not for everyone.

    1. Ah, no worries. I think I got a little defensive since a couple of people have tried to tell me more or less that I’m wrong for not liking it.

      Lots of people will like the movie and that’s perfectly ok. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, unfortunately.

  6. Yeah, but if you really think about it, they made a movie pretty much totally opposite of Superman Returns (which most people hated) and still whiffed on it. I think the perfect modern day superman movie is going to be a trial and error process. Maybe man of steel 2?

  7. I loved it. For me it was a Superman movie that I have been waiting for. I won’t say you are wrong for not liking it, that is entirely up to you.

    I found the Pa Kent comment to the bus happening was powerful as it highlighted what I thought would have been a real answer from a father trying to protect his son, that moment even meant more when Pa Kent motions to Clark to not save him. It showed that Pa Kent would rather die to protect his son, I felt it showed the value to which Pa Kent placed on Clark. At least that is the way it unfolded to me.

    I found there to be a lot of emotion and character to the film, but to each their own.

  8. This movie was epic, It was the first comic book movie with flying especially where I felt like I could feel the power of the Hero/Anti Hero’s. Yes some of the fight scenes were a bit drawn out especially since no one could really be hurt except for the innocent onlookers, but they had to show how powerful these people truly were. One thing about the older Superman movies is that the effects just were not there and the Superman Returns movie just didn’t have any action. Could Superman have drawn them out of the city, most likely, but being tossed through buildings like a rag doll let the viewer know the magnitude of the power of these beings and how helpless the human race really is without him in the face of such danger.
    I hear some people saying Zod was kind of one tracked or frozen faced. Well you have to remember this guy was a product of the Genesis chamber on Krypton, bread to be a combat soldier, trained since birth to defend Krypton, this guy had a serious one track mind and to him, well he thought he was trying to save the day. Superman had to kill him, he would not have stopped otherwise. Superman’s powers are still very young and him killing Zod is not necessarily a bad thing, it may even cement his future “No one will die today” mind set.
    I loved it and while everyone is entitled to their opinions, I think people are being a bit over critical on it because certain parts of the origin or story have changed.

    1. I wrote that point about Zod in my review for the film. He doesn’t think of himself as a bad guy so much as a guy willing to do ANYTHING to ensure the survival of his people. I get that.

      I personally don’t fault anyone for liking the film. I know Steve and I talked about how we didn’t like people clapping after it was done, but I mean I like lots of movies that other people don’t and it’s just sometimes people interpret things differently. Nothing we can do about it since it’s just a personal way that we associate with the film, or in this case, for me don’t associate.

      I hope that kind of makes sense.

  9. Superman was very inexperienced in terms of fighting, he tried to take Zod into space, but Zod threw him back in.

    Of course this is going to be a different Superman, because as it stood he wasn’t yet the Superman yet.

  10. I think people have harped on the shock ending without really giving it enough thought. In your podcast review, you guys all talk about all the other things he could have done like putting his hand over his eyes or flying off with him. But consider this: where or when would it end? You make a valid point that there is a ridiculous amount of destruction from these battles and the apparent loss of life was nothing short of catastrophic; and there seemed to be no end to it because he and Zod were equally matched. He had to end it once and for all. There is no prison on earth that could contain Zod, a being whose sole mission now is to destroy everything living thing on it. There is no more access to the Phantom Zone, there is nothing to be done but to end it once and for all. This is a young Superman having his first confrontation–he is not prepared for it. He is not trained, he hasn’t thought about what he would do in situations like, he’s never played it out in his head. Going forward, there will be measures in place should this ever happen again and he will not have to kill to stop all the senseless destruction. But on this first outing, he did what he had to do to stop all the carnage, to save what was left. I think so many people who criticize the film for this decision are letting their emotions cloud their judgment, and the four of you are about as irrationally emotional as I’ve heard anyone be. And come on, Bob, this is really worse than Batman and Robin? Really?

  11. I’ve been reading DC Comics for almost 35 years now. I’ve seen Superman in so many different versions across so many kinds of media I can’t count because I know I’d miss something. That said Man of Steel was absolutely incredible. I couldn’t ask for a whole lot more in a modern Superman movie or for a film to serve as the keystone to the DC cinematic universe.

    In listening to the podcast review I think their was an expectation for a classic Superman. The New 52 is a much darker look at the DCU. How many people died in Justice League during Throne of Atlantis in the opening attacks when Metropolis, Boston, and Gotham were flooded? There is a reason there is a PG-13 rating.

    Superman has killed in the past and he’s never been happy about it as he wasn’t in the movie. This was a zero year story. That’s why they didn’t refer to him as Superman until later in the movie. He still hasn’t fully settled into who who he is in this new role and what exactly he is doing. As far him not leading Zod away from Metropolis like he tried with Doomsday?Not going to happen. Zod is a military strategist. Metropolis is his tactical target and his leverage in this fight. He’s not going anywhere.

    As far as the suit? Jor El says their ancestors always reached to the stars, as in the El’s.” the suit is obviously an ancestors. The color are brighter because the Kryptonians are not a conquering race. The suit looks to be a formal or diplomatic uniform. Much like a Marines dress blues.

    I love the podcast and you guys are aewsome but in this case I think you guys weren’t paying attention. To the story being told here.

  12. As a listener, I think what some of the other listeners are trying to express here is not that the podcasters shouldn’t be expressing their negative views, but rather it felt excessive in this particular podcast. I only listened to the spoiler-free section of the review, and by the end of that I felt a dead horse was starting to get beaten. I attempted to skip ahead of the spoilers, but it seems the overall discussion went on for well over an hour, so I can see why some listeners would get tired of that.
    There were positives that were discussed, but the topics quickly changed back to the negatives.
    From what I listened to though, I do think the podcasters gave their reasons for any criticism, and Bobby is usually pretty quick to ask people “Why?” and push for those reasons.
    Anyways, I’ll be back listening next week. 🙂

  13. One last thing, a lot of criticism appears to be judging this movie for what it should have been, and those in favor of it are looking at it for what it is.

    1. That seems to be the way I keep seeing the differences between the views as well. I for one loved it and found the second viewing to be much better. I did watch it the second time after having listened to all the negative podcasts, other ones as well, and found that some of the things people complained about were things that they missed in their first viewing.

  14. My expectations of this movie were high. I agree with Steve, Superman is an institution. Comparing this movie to the TDK or Batman Begins is silly. It’s a totally different character and universe. And for $17.25 a ticket, I don’t lower my expectations in a movie, just because it’s a summer movie blockbuster. I work hard for my money, and love my comics, it better deliver! I was incredibly disappointed, and each podcaster touched on all of the issues with the script, plot and execution.

    Amy Adams was flat and her chemistry was non-existant. In fact, I felt like all the woman in this movie were written poorly. I felt bad for Henry Cavill, who was a decent Superman. The plot was manic, and jumped every where effecting pace. Russell Crowe was actually decent. Apparently Kripton has a penis fetish. Shame on Warner for making a PG-13 Superman movie, where no parent can introduce a family friendly superhero character to small children, the way I was introduced during the Christopher Reeves years. Just for once, I wish DC would stop being so damned dark, and moody. I agree with Bobby, this was joyless. I felt no hope or inspiration or felt good. Man of Steel just felt like another sci-fi action movie. I’d rather re-watch Aliens.

    Steve hit it on the head, I think this awakened a love for the character, I didn’t realize I had. I actually bought a couple of past trades, and even gave Birthright to a co-worker, who didn’t get why I was so passionate about this.

    I won’t bicker with those who liked it. Good for you, Im glad you felt you got your monies worth.

    Every time there is a podcast, I enjoy hearing each perspective, and each one had their good points of the film. Bobby and co., knowing full well that none of them enjoyed it, let listeners who did, have their say. I was thrilled that they all agreed on something, and got to say exactly how they felt. Not just because I felt the same way, but because they do not have to tone down on their opinions for the sake of not angering sponsors. That’s one of the primary reasons I listen to this podcast. There are plenty of podcasts where I am yelling out loud in disagreement with a podcaster, and other times Im nodding in agreement.

    Long comment short (too late), in the immortal words of the vapid & immature, this movie sucked!

  15. The tagline for this movie was “He’ll make you believe man can fly again”, now I’ve seen almost every superhero related movie ever made, but never did this movie ever once make me believe man could fly. As much as everyone was disappointed with Superman Returns I still like that movie more than Man of Steel. Man of Steel did have great action sequences but the story was all over the place and the break star was “Antje Traue” she played Faora-Ul and she really kicked ass. I would rather have the Bryan Singer Story from Superman Returns and Zach Snyder action from Man of Steel. My overall for this movie is I’d rather watch X-Men the last stand again.

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