Between Man of Steel and Iron Man 3, we were poised for a superhero one-two punch this summer at the movies. While Iron Man 3 struggled to find some footing after the immense success of The Avengers last year, it was still one of the better movies, to this date, to come out this year. Then all eyes shifted to DC's offering, in Man of Steel. After the debacle, at least in my eyes it was, that is Superman Returns, I was looking forward to this David Goyer written, Christopher Nolan produced and Zack Snyder directed film. I'm still one that loves The Watchmen and what Snyder did with it, but this is a very different movie. Coming off the success of Nolan's Batman trilogy (despise what you may think of The Dark Knight Rises, the series was more than successful) everyone expected the great origins story of Superman. Well we got an origins story, but it was far from a good summer superhero blockbuster.
Man of Steel follows the story of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) as he struggles to find his place in life as he rises to become the hero we all know. We start off the movie on the planet Krypton in it's final days of existence. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is pleading with the counsel of Krypton to find a new planet to inhabit as the terraforming the Kryptonians have been doing is causing the planet to die. General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to cause an uprising to save the planet and take over Krypton. Jor-El fears that the planet will die and so will his son, so he takes the codex of Krypton and implants it in his son Kal-El. Jor- El and Lara (Ayelet Zurer), Kal-El's mother, decide it best to send him to earth in an spaceship to save his life. Despite Zod's advances, the ship takes off and in turn Zod is arrested not long after. He and his followers are banished to the Phantom Zone by the council and not long after the destruction of Krypton finally occurs. In flashbacks we see that Kal-El, now Clark, is being raised by the Kent's, Johnathan and Martha (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). He learns to hone his enhanced Krptonian abilities, due to being on earth. When he is a teenager Clark is told by Johnathan that he is in fact and alien and shouldn't publicly use his powers, in the thought the world would reject him. After Johnathan's death, Clark leaves home and becomes a nomad of sorts, bouncing from job to job, trying to find his place. He discovers a Kryptonian scout ship, that lets him communicate with Jor-El's consciousnesses. He learns about his planet's history and why his parent sent him here. Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, has also discovered this ship and is saved by Clark when injured on board. Lois' editor, Perry White (Lawrence Fishburne), refuses to publish her story about "Superman", after her travels across the US talking to people from his life. One night, all of earth's communications are taken oven as General Zod, who was freed from The Phantom Zone when Krypton exploded, threatens the earth and demands Clark be brought to him. This is easier said than done, when Clark must face the world as "Superman" for the first time, and eventually vanquish his inner demons to save the planet he was raised on.
There is a lot of problems in this but I want to get the good out of the way first. Cause there was a lot I liked about the film, despite it's massive flaws. First off the acting from Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon were absolutely great to me. Crowe stood out from the muddled mess that was Krytpon being taken over by Zod, and continued to be the best on screen presence throughout the entire movie. While Costner was only in flashbacks, we'll get to my thoughts on those later, he did a great job as Pa Kent and really guided Clark growing up. Michael Shannon has my favorite bad guy performance of the year so far as General Zod. Often over looked as a bad guy, Zod has always been that righteous character trying to save his planet, but doing it in the wrong way. If they continue with some sort of trilogy based off of this movie, I fully expect Lex Luthor to be the main villain next movie, which is perfectly fine by me. Also despite the last 15 minutes or so, the CGI isn't really that bad. Superman flying looks seamless, while the dying planet that is Krypton looked good as well. Snyder has always done will directing CGI based movies (300, The Watchmen and Sucker Punch), and despite other lacking areas this movie looks good. Finally the action is fast paced and the first big scene between Superman, Faora (Antje Traue) and the US military in Smallville is pretty awesome. This is the first time Superman has been able to show off his brutality, at least in hand to hand combat, and it's really fun to watch in the early goings. Faora taking out soldiers is amazing. But, it does get tired as the movie wears on, but man is that first big scene nuts.
I hated the pacing to this long long long LONG movie. It's not really that long, but at two and a half hours, it's feels like at the very least three. Like I said above, I was gonna touch on the flashbacks, and I hate the way they were implemented. After the first one, I thought to myself, "Oh Lord" here we go." While they aren't inherently bad, I loved Costner, they stalled the flow every time one happened. It turned the first hour of the movie into an old car that can't quite stay running and made almost half the movie seem draggy. Another problem for me is that it felt like none of the characters were "real" to me, even Superman and Zod barely cross that line. Amy Adams is a great actress, but as Lois Lane she seems like a liability and plot progresser, rather than the main love interest of Clark. Diane Lane as Martha Kent is alright, but like Amy Adams, it seems like she is only there for Clark to fly back to Smallville. Though this isn't always a bad thing. Finally we have the morality issue. The whole movie we have the struggle between Clark and himself. On saving the earth and not wanting to kill anyone and even to an extent rationalizing that defeating Zod, kills hope for Krypton. The problem is aside from the climax of the final fight, we don't see that emotion from Clark. He is fighting in the middle of Smallvillie, his hometown, destroying main street. He is fighting Zod, completely wrecking building upon building in Metropolis. In these scenes there has got to be the implied death of thousands of people yet, you never see Superman bat an eye. He just moves on with what he's doing. After Smallvillie he just moves on to Metropolis, and after the final fight he just leaves. It was a bad writing choice I just don't get. They needed to develop character in this, and as good as Crowe, Costner and Shannon are, they aren't gonna be around for the sequel, if it gets made. Cavill, Adams and Lane would be though so not just building them all up is beyond me.
Man of Steel is a completely mixed back for me. On the one hand there's three exceptional characters that I really loved throughout the film, with the action and CGI, for the most part, being good as well. On the other hand, shotty writing, terrible character development and God-awful pacing makes this movie feel like an eternity. The acting is fine by everybody, but I do wonder if given the chance in this, what Henry Cavill and Amy Adam would have done with their respective characters. The question now is where do they go next? I think they should move away from the 45 minute action sequences, and delve into Superman and Lois Lane's lives as Lex Luthor comes to fruition. This series can be salvaged, very easily. Despite what you just read here, or may have already heard, Man of Steel is still a movie worth seeing. Just don't expect it to be a five star summer blockbuster critics (like me haha) will rave about.