Man of Steel review – Superman shatters and soars
A far darker take on the world’s most famous superhero, Man of Steel finds Superman more a symbol of the times than the inspirational centerpiece of the comic book sect. Call this version the Superman we deserve even if it’s not what we need. Blame every snarky Internet commentator who scoffs at Superman for being too perfect and inaccessible, but still wants the character to remain pure and untainted.
Faced with an admittedly impossible task of making Superman both more modern with less perfect Boy Scout traits and unafraid to slug it out when need be, Director Zack Snyder’s Superman is one of us even when most diehard fans would still prefer to look up to their first hero.
Not everything works perfectly here, but Snyder establishes a solid framework from which to build a better shared DC Cinematic Universe. Snyder proves the right man for the job with a visionary approach that’s not afraid to take daring chances that defies expectations of what audiences should expect in a Superman movie.
Populated with flying beasts, warships and armor-clad citizens, Krypton has a decidedly alien look. Despite its advanced society, the planet faces a familiar issue — the inhabitants have depleted its natural resources and Krypton’s destruction is imminent. Lead scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe, Les Miserables) has a risky proposition to ensure the planet’s future, but a coup staged by military leader, General Zod (Michael Shannon), forces his hand.
Despite the initial pleas of his wife Lara, (Ayelet Zurer), Jor-El sends their son, Kal-El, to Earth along with the key to restoring their home world. Zod’s coup is halted, but now before he pledges to track down Kal-El and the key.
Thirty-three Earth years later, an adult Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is wandering America trying to determine his place in the world that he worries would fear him if they knew of his full power.
You can see the influence of producer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) as the story grounds Superman and makes him a good guy, but not such a perfect Boy Scout that he isn’t relatable.
Screenwriter David S. Goyer uses a similar story-telling structure as he did with Batman Begins. Clark hasn’t yet adopted his super heroic alter-ego, but he’s midway on the journey and through a series of flashbacks, we’re shown what’s brought him to this point as he heads to his future.
Clark recalls the lessons learned from his Earth parents — Jonathan and Martha (an excellent Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and his never-yielding desire to help others.
His actions have attracted the attention of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who’s convinced her mystery man is the biggest story she’ll ever discover even if her boss, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne, Predators), wonders what happened to his ace reporter that only dealt in hard facts.
It’s a more challenging setup, but Goyer keeps it simple enough for the audience to clearly follow Clark’s road to Superman while reinforcing the importance of both Jor-El and Jonathan in helping him become the ultimate force for good.
Cavill definitely looks the part of Superman as he put in an incredible amount of work to look like the Man of Steel. He’s also got a strong screen presence and smartly didn’t just try to imitate Christopher Reeve’s iconic performance so he can establish his own interpretation of the character. Adams also finds a different approach and is able to make Lois a risk-taking reporter without becoming the typical love interest in distress.
Snyder does pay homage to the past somewhat through saluting Smallville, the decade-long TV show that looked at a pre-costume Superman, by casting several cast members in cameo roles.
But if you’re worried Man of Steel is just a meticulously arranged origin film with little happening, I assure you, there’s no need for any concern.
Snyder builds up to an action-packed final act almost as soon as Zod discovers Kal-El and Krypton’s salvation is on Earth. Antje Traue’s Faora-Ul has a throw down with Superman that would be a great final battle in a lot of films. Shannon makes for a chilling antagonist and one so hell-bent on accomplishing his mission that when Zod finally clashes with Superman you’ll be at the edge of your seat thinking “oh, now it’s on!”
Snyder puts together a finale more cataclysmic than Iron Man 3, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Marvel’s The Avengers combined in terms of wholesale destruction and massive property damage. It’s hard to believe another film could come close to matching that amount cinematic chaos and it certainly feels a bit out of character for Superman to be so oblivious to his actions.
The fight finally comes across like something that only Superman can possibly overcome. Thankfully, Snyder shoots the action in a clear manner that brings the fights right in your lap in 3D and he creatively finds different ways to show Superman’s powers in action.
There are just some slight elements that aren’t so super. Cinematographer Amir Mokri (Transformers: DOM) utilizes a slightly washed out yellowed color scheme that’s almost too dark and bleaker than a movie about Superman should look.
Unless it’s against a bright backdrop, Superman’s costume looks too dull onscreen and the lack of red (outer) trunks is sorely missed as they provide some shift in colors from the blue bodysuit he wears here. Goyer also seemed to jump the gun with the Clark/Lois relationship as well as the movie works fine without the romantic angle.
Wisely, Snyder and Goyer resist the urge to shoehorn Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor into the film with just a passing reference to potentially hint at his appearance in a sequel — a formula previously used to perfection in The Dark Knight.
I’m not sure what Warner Bros.’ plans are for a Justice League movie, but that franchise won’t have a better jumping off point than Man of Steel, the summer blockbuster you’ve been waiting for all year.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Picture Credit: Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures
22 thoughts on “Man of Steel review – Superman shatters and soars”
Very cool review!
Thanks man! Appreciate the comment!
Your writing is not thoughtful you need to analyze more things rather than write in broad strokes you gave no insight on the film, thematically or cinematically but rottentomatoes criteria of film critics is anyone who has a sight and a picture it seems. Good luck in the future
Tonight’s lesson: when you criticize someone’s writing and site, make sure you’re not talking about their sight. There’s a “tiny” difference. Sigh…
But to one point, I write broad because I want readers to be able to experience the movie themselves, without me spoiling every scene. And to another, there’s enough movie critics that take themselves too seriously. That market’s covered, I’m happy being a critic that’s a regular moviegoer and writes like one.
Great review, will be seeing “MOS” early this afternoon. 9.5 is a fantastic score, you haven’t given any CBM this high of a score since you gave “The Avengers” a perfect 10 last year, that’s saying a lot about this film and you must have really loved it. If the film turns out to be as good as your review, i’ll be ecstatic.
Thanks Fred. Definitely interested in hearing what you think. My brother and I are taking our parents to see it on Sunday!
I though “MOS” was pretty good, it wasn’t flawless but it was pretty good. I enjoyed it and it looks like it’s going to have an opening weekend of 120-130 million. It’s looking like CBM’s will dominate the box office like last year.
Glad to hear you enjoyed it. Looks like you were right about “Iron Man 3” being the top dog. ;-)
Yeah but ‘Supes’ is well on his way to being a big smash and that’s all the matters in the end. I never thought it was going to make as much at the box office as “IM3”, and it doesn’t have to, hell I don’t think any other film will top it this year. That being said “MOS” should be one of the top 2-3 grossing films of the summer and could be one of the 5 biggest hits of 2013 when it’s said and done. It’s second weekend against “Monsters University” & “World War Z” will go a long ways in telling us how big of a hit it will be. “Monsters University” will be no. 1 next week but that’s expected, so it no big deal, as long as “MOS” holds it’s on and shows a strong second weekend it will be a super smash.
I’m on the fence. Just got back from it.
There was spectacle. Loads of spectacle… But i am struggling to find good things to say about it. I am a BIG superman fan. So it pains me to have walked away from my first viewing wishing it had been different… It’s a problem when halfway through the smallville fight i got bored, and wished something of substance would happen.
I will go and see it again and try and change my mind.
I can say *this* however: “The finale of the fight was darker than i thought it would be(Or that it really *should* be considering this is the Man Of Steel).
I was surprised by that.
I will wait a month and give a final vote on whether i think it has gotten better in my eyes or not.
I’ll be curious what you think on second viewing. Sounds like it’s got a lot of buzz from audiences if nothing else.
Well don’t get me wrong. I thought it was a great movie. And it IS definitive for this generation.
I’m still on the fence over whether he is a better Superman than Routh.
But i am not trying to disparage the movie. I will likely have a better view on a second viewing.
Did you take note of the Satellite they crashed through?
Routh was asked to just be Christopher Reeve while Cavill got to do something different so not sure that could be a fair comparison.
STAR Labs, right?
I totally missed that!
Now I’ll have to be on the lookout for it!
No worries. It’s only about 10 frames and it’s upside down. Easy to miss.
Great review, and I love how you don’t spoil any plot points, and aren’t self indulgent as if a movie review is some kind of memoir, keep it up!
Thank you. I definitely want people to be able to enjoy it without me ruining all the fun. Definitely appreciate the comment!
I know what the critics has said. They complained about too much action, superman being too serious, lack of romance, etc. Since Zack Snyder directed this movie, I don’t think he cared about the critics. Don’t get me wrong, he DOES care about the fans’ opinion. Seems like he really wanted to really satisfy the fans. I see why critics complained about too much action. For me it’s just his way to satisfy the viewers. This is the kind of movie that is just really satisfying. When the movie ended, I got that ‘satisfying’ feeling instead of the ‘wanting more’ feeling. It’s like it was really enough.
Even Snyder’s best movies (before this) which were 300 & Watchmen didn’t have more ratings than 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think the fans should have anticipated the bad reviews. His style is actually what critics hate. The over the top action and CGI is actually his trademark. So, even from the beginning, I think this is actually the kind of movie the producers wanted. About the lack of romance, I really do think it’s saved for the sequel. The sequel will definitely explore more about the relationship between Clark and Lois. This film focused on 2 aspects: the origin (krypon,struggle finding his place) & the action (Zod and his army). Don’t expect humor or romance.
The visuals were spectacular! What’s best about this movie is its action scenes. The action were just relentless. I think the fans would not be disappointed at all. Yes, I know there is only a very few humor this movie but that actually doesn’t even matter. The battle between Superman & Zod will definitely ‘wow’ everyone but the critics. I mean who cares about the critics opinion? A superhero movie MUST NOT be judged by the critics opinion, what’s more important is the audience’s opinion about the movie and especially the fans’. I think the movie really delivered. Most people will definitely like this movie. I am really sure that many fanboys will consider this as the best comic book of all time. This is a MUST SEE for people who like action movie. The action were better than last year’s The Avengers.
The sequel really have a great potential. Considering the minimum amount of romance in this movie (since they just knew each other, and superman was also more focused on Zod), the next movie could explore more of that. One of the things missing from the movie was also the presence of Clark Kent at the daily planet. It’s one of the trade marks. But, I believe the sequel will show more scenes in the Daily Planet which is interesting to see.
As a conclusion, I think Man of Steel is so far the best action movie this year. This movie really is a Snyder movie. But it also has a quite lot of nolan-esque feel to it especially in the around first 45 minutes.
If this was compared to Iron man 3, if Iron man 3 was a 7, this movie is a 8.6.
More about the movie you can also find it here
Man of Steel
Superman: The Movie
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
That’s how I’d rank the Superman movies
Man of Steel
Superman: The Movie