“Aw, Superman, come back. We promise we won’t stare at your penis anymore. These aliens are really strong.”
If you’re debating whether to catch Man of Steel and are on a time-crunch, let me save you a pile of nerd words and say, yes, go see it. Because even though it’s not quite the Superman movie people have been hoping for after Superman Returns, and I’m about to nitpick the hell out of it, it does start out full of promise and potential that you almost don’t completely zone out once the whole thing becomes a CGI pinball game with characters loosely resembling the ones you saw earlier played by actors. It’s also not quite the well-crafted reboot Batman Begins was, despite huge similarities thanks to sharing the same writer and Christopher Nolan producing, but it does come close before Zach Snyder basically goes, “Eh, that’s enough story. Just throw him at shit.”
Let’s get TL;DR.
A Note On Spoilers: I’m going to try and keep things relatively spoiler-free which shouldn’t be too hard considering there really aren’t any major spoilers at all. In fact, the only way there are spoilers are if you read the few hardcore nerd sites floating around rumors that not everything that generally happens in the Superman mythos happens. All bullshit. This thing is by-the-numbers for the most part, but not completely to its detriment. That said, I will address how one mythos event plays out because it’s too fucking ridiculous for me to ignore.
The Shit That Worked:
- Henry Cavill. Absolutely nailed Superman. He has the right presence and the right delivery without being burdened with aping Christopher Reeve. Although, he does look like a lot like Smallville‘s Tom Welling at points which was odd. Anyway, I see a lot of reviews calling Man of Steel “soulless” which I can kind of understand after the last hour, but you do actually get to see a Superman who gets angry, happy, conflicted, and genuinely trying to figure out what the fuck he’s supposed to do with himself and just how far his powers can go. As for dude-bro/conservative anti-British fears that this will be a “pussy Superman” because he was handcuffed in the first poster, that was the money scene for me and exactly the moment when I would’ve bent right over for
Henry Cavill this movie. The movie.
- Russell Crowe. Considering the only cinematic version we’ve seen of Jor-El was a Marlon Brando who desperately wanted to be replaced by a bagel – God, that man was a legend. – it really wouldn’t be hard to show a more dynamic version of Superman’s biological father, and holy shit, was Russell Crowe that. In fact, his role was so expanded, he basically devoured Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent. And possibly even tried to literally. Who’s to say?
- Krypton. As much as I’ve bitched already about the CGI, the opening sequence with Krypton was clearly where the money went. Not only do we get to see a more complex, visually stunning version of Superman being rocketed to Earth as a baby, but I’d easily watch a whole movie about Russell Crowe’s Zor-El doing space science and fucking up Kryptonians who touch his space beakers. You won’t like him when you touch his space beakers.
- Basically everything until the Battle of Smallville. Like I mentioned before, Man of Steel really starts off great. Damn near incredible even. Between Krypton and the pitch-perfect flashbacks (save one), it was to the point where I was sitting there in the theater going, “This is it. This is the definitive comic book movie.” And then just like that, “Haha! Fooled you. Everything blows up now.” It was like somebody flipped a switch from Batman Begins to Transformers 2 and never looked back.
The Shit That Kind of Worked:
- The CGI. There are some incredible looking shots in this movie, and then there are some horrible, uncanny valley sequences that could’ve taken notes from The Avengers. A film whose action sequences I now have a greater appreciation for because so far they’ve been the best of the summer superhero schlock. Christopher Nolan used to be adamant against using CGI as little as possible, but after The Bat in The Dark Knight Rises and now this, I’ll just assume he covers his eyes with bags of money.
- Lois Lane. I’m not going to fault Amy Adams because she always does the best with what she’s got, but as much as I liked how organically this movie started off Lois and Clark’s relationship and put its own spin on it, it just felt like they were checking off boxes of things that are supposed to be in a Superman movie. Which goes with the rest of the staff of The Daily Planet who were supposed to care about at one point during the final battle but don’t at all because we’ve barely seen them. It’s a reboot, you can do whatever you want. You’ve already altered a pretty significant part of the Superman story with Lois, so why stop there? Or just make a movie out of the shitty Earth One comic. It’s your money.
- General Zod. I get that this movie, and me, wanted someone for Superman to physically fight after Returns had him stopping another real estate scam and punching Lex Luthor in the face would explode his skull, but if you’re hoping to see some sort of command performance from Michael Shannon, he pretty much just plays your standard villain. Although this does make Superman more compelling because he’s not competing against a villain whose way more interesting than he is like Heath Ledger‘s Joker. I guess it took the Olsen Twins to teach us that lesson. Thanks, heroin Muppets.
The Shit That Shat:
Basically all of these are spoiler-ish, but again, nothing Earth-shattering like Batman shows up and goes, “There a reason you didn’t feel like flying a nuke out to sea? You know what? Fuck it, I still got laid. Hi, I’m Bruce.”
- The entire last hour of the movie. So Superman attacks Zod for the first time, it makes sense, it’s organic to the story, it’s an emotional reaction showing us a rage-filled Superman, and then this is the last time anything like this happens because welcome to stuff. Stuff is just going to happen now. Things are thrown around with abandon to the point where it lacks any gravitas. Nonsensical sequences happen where Superman says something will weaken him only to to randomly get even stronger and punch it through the dick. There’s a final rag-doll-looking CGI battle with Zod through hundreds of buildings I’m pretty sure people live in, and wow, that’s one way to end that, okay. A scene gets tacked on resetting the status quo, and then the credits roll with no kicker, you sons of bitches, I had to pee since the ship with the vagina doors!
- Pa Kent’s death. Let me make sure I have this straight, a character who earlier in the movie suggested letting a school bus full of kids die suddenly risks his neck to save a dog? Not a human being, but a dog? FUCK YOU, DAVID GOYER. Also, you know what was powerful when Glenn Ford’s Pa Kent died in Dick Donner’s Superman? It was from a heart attack, something Superman with all his powers couldn’t stop. But I guess this one’s cool with just standing there going, “Sure, pa, I’ll let you die in a tornado.” He does basically abort hundreds of space-babies later on, so why not?
- Lois Lane figured out who Superman was in five minutes by going to IHOP, yet the military can’t after he tells them exactly where he lives? Entirely plausible. Except, no wait, never mind. He put glasses on. In your face, vast intelligence community!
And once again, I spent three boobless hours rambling about superheroes, so time to make like Lois is pregnant and bounce. Somewhere between Superman Returns and Man of Steel is the perfect Superman movie. Although, even with the issues with Man of Steel, I’d lean more in that direction than Returns if not for the heavier emphasis on science fiction and space opera. As for what a sequel might hold, where do you go after already having Superman save the Earth by battling the last remnants of a superior alien race without doing the same thing over again? I guess Lex Luthor, but we’ve already seen this Superman isn’t afraid to use, um, practical solutions, so that’d be over quick, or we’d be right back where we started. And Doomsday would just be the last half of this movie all over again. There’s almost nowhere else to go but straight to Justice League. Fortunately, with the more “realistic approach” DC is taking, that would mainly be a Superman movie anyway because everyone would just go, “Things kill us. You handle it.” At any rate, everything I said in the intro still stands, and the important thing is Man of Steel is nowhere near the shitshow Green Lantern was, or full of gigantic plotholes like The Dark Knight Rises, but that’s because it stopped caring about one halfway through.
4 out of 5 aborted space-babies.