With the immanent release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (aka the Snyder Cut) next week on HBO Max and the recent success and enjoyment I have had watching Superman and Lois on the CW, I figured that this was a perfect time to revisit the DC movie, Man of Steel, Zack Snyder’s first and, arguably, best DC film to date.
I had some major issues with Man of Steel when I first saw it in the theaters, but it is definitely better than Batman v. Superman or The Justice League. I had been meaning to give it a rewatch over the last few months, but this was the best time.
The film reimagines the origin of Superman (Henry Cavill), bringing a more grounded and dark/moody tone to the character. Produced by Christopher Nolan, DC was anxious to give Superman the same big screen treatment as they gave Batman in the Dark Knight series of films. Man of Steel is one of the first true divisive films with some calling it a mess and others deeming it a masterpiece.
Even after the rewatch, I fall in-between of these extremes. There are several moments of wonder in the movie and it provides some of the best Superman action around. I still do not believe though that the film ever really got the character of Superman correct, choosing for more of an angsty Batman-like character.
Some of the real positives of the film include the initial “learn to fly” moment where Kal-El begins to learn what he is capable of and takes to the skies for the first time. This is as hopeful of a moment as the film has and really should have been the tone overall of the movie.
Henry Cavill does a fine job as Superman, albeit that he may not be as deep of an actor as there is, he is the perfect physical specimen for the role. The look of the film is wonderful, with some amazing special effects and the Superman suit itself in all its glory.
Amy Adams playing Lois Lane smart and figuring out who Superman really was almost immediately is a great adjustment to decades worth of stories where we, as readers, have to believe that an award-worthy reporter cannot figure out that Clark Kent is Superman just because he put on a pair of glasses and combs his hair differently. We start out with a smart and capable journalist in Lois Lane.
Michael Shannon created a great villain in Zod and the moments on Krypton were some of the best of the movie. General Zod had a motivation that could be understood and related to despite his path taking him on a way of cruelty. Shannon is always good in his roles and this is one more example.
Unfortunately, I still think the drawbacks to the movie outweigh the positives. First massive mistake this movie makes is the entire Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) in the tornado scene. Exactly who thought this was a good idea? It is totally free of sense and was an insult to the character. I can understand having Clark watch his father die. It is an important moment in his development, showing Clark that he does not have the power to save everybody, but he did have the power to save his father here and he just chose not to. It is an entirely different message and it just does not work at all.
Second big error is the relationship between Clark and Lois. I never believed it in this movie. It felt very forced and I had a hard time buying that they were as connected as they turned out to be. Sure, we all know that Superman and Lois Lane are an iconic couple, but this does not show that. Then, Amy Adams, the smart and capable reporter, does become nothing more than a damsel in distress in the second part of the film.
The biggest issue I had in the theaters is still the biggest issue I have with the film is the final act battle between Zod and Superman. It went too long, creating a sort of fight fatigue (much like the Obi-Wan-Anakin fight in Revenge of the Sith) and the film never had Superman do anything but crash through buildings and destroy property. I maintain that all it would have taken to create more empathy for Superman was show him saving some bystanders during the fight instead of leaving what had to be thousands of people to die. A couple of scenes where Superman has to pull someone to safety before they are crushed by falling debris would have helped this tremendously. He does it earlier in the film, so why not here where it was desperately needed?
When I speak of the third act problems, I am not actually speaking about Superman breaking Zod’s neck. I did not have an issue with that, outside of the fact that I think there were multiple ways he could have stopped Zod from using his heat vision to kill that family rather than breaking his neck. I also had a hard time thinking that this random family was important for Superman to break Zod’s neck because we hadn’t seen Superman save anyone else in the battle.
In the end, my thoughts on Man of Steel remain the same as they did back in 2013. It has some parts that I really liked, but too many areas where the creators just did not grasp the understanding of their main hero. A film more interested in its excesses than in its heart. A watchable movie, but not a classic and, when people say it is the best Superman movie since 1978 Superman: The Movie, well, that is not a bar too high set.