A grim Superman, who is rarely ever called Superman throughout the film: that is what you can expect when you settle in to watch Man of Steel. And settle in you must because this is a pretty long movie.
This is an origin story that dispenses with chunks of self-discovery and gets bogged down in the alien history of Kal-El’s home planet instead. Henry Cavill is very strong (no pun intended) as the Man of Steel and he quickly dispelled any misgivings I might have harboured from watching Immortals. He plays strong, silent, as well as smiley, effectively. I can see people wanting to follow this man’s continued adventures in future films.
There is a ‘but’ however, and it is a big one.
I’ve read some Internet-chatter about how this movie makes other superhero movies look like indie films, or episodes of vintage TV shows. That is hyperbolic, and inaccurate.
Giant spaceships hovering over Earth? District 9 did it better.
Big buildings collapsing under the weight of two super-powered beings doing battle? The Transformers movies showed that already.
Exciting new sci-tech from distant planets? To my mind the Prometheus user interfaces were way better than this ‘magnetic pins crossed with liquid metal’ business that’s on display in Man of Steel.
Hell, a superhero creating a pile of rubble every time he lands was done in Hancock and that Matrix sequel.
Which is why I am disappointed with the experience of watching Man of Steel. I didn’t see anything new. Not enough to blow my mind and get me hopped up to watch this thing again. It is too dour, too been-there-done-that, and just too darned self-important for me to even consider revisiting this movie at the moment. I blame Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer for this. Because they are the ones credited with the story. Because when the nearly two-and-a-half-hour mark was reached I realized that the filmmakers hadn’t really told me a story.
I am calling bullshit on the scene where Clark finally decides to listen to Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) about keeping his identity secret. It was a total screenwriter-driven plot twist. I also have a problem with the fact that Lois Lane (Amy Adams) was so thoroughly outgorgeoused (yes that is a word I am making up) by Faora-Ul (Antje Traue), who also comes across as a total badass in the fight sequences.
Russell Crowe was effective as Jor-El (though I have to say I’m not really sure how he communicates with people he has never met before, just by the use of that logo-shaped key fob people keep shoving into different spaceships), Mr. Cavill is Superman and Michael Shannon channeled decent rage into his performance as General Zod. But that’s not enough, is it?
Final Analysis: To my mind, this is the Zack Snyder movie I cannot defend (I never really understood the bitching and moaning about Sucker Punch or Watchmen). This is what I took away from the movie: a Kryptonian baby was sent to Earth, and an angry general came after him. A lot of destruction took place on Earth…and then?
My Advice: Watch this one, only if you are a Christopher Nolan completist. It is not boring but it’s also not what I was expecting from a Superman movie.