Man of Steel (sort of a movie review)

10 Jan

A while back, Meljean Brook posted the trailer for Man of Steel, the latest movie iteration of Superman.

Now, I’m not much of a comic heroes’ fan, but I confess that the trailer did catch my eye (in more ways than one):

First of all, this is a much darker movie–both in the deliberate use of light and color and in the story itself–than, say, Christopher Reeve’s Superman. There’s a bit more of an exploration of life in Krypton, its story, society, and the reason for its collapse.

There is also a more realistic approach to what it would be to be so utterly, intrinsically different from everyone else around you–the total isolation in the midst of crowds.

I confess that I ate the first two thirds or so of the movie up. First of all, I liked how the story was structured, and virtually all the casting choices are excellent.¹

The first 18 or so minutes of the movie proper the action centers on Krypton, where both the physical planet and the society are dying. These deaths are clearly brought about by the Kryptonians own actions (sounds familiar?), and factions are bitterly divided as how to save them.This sets the basis for the later conflict between Zod and Superman.

I really liked seeing Russell Crowe as Jor-El (oh mah lord, orders of magnitude better than Marlon Brando). Despite any issues in his personal life, his screen presence is still very powerful, and he lends credibility and gravitas to Jor-El both as a warrior and as a wise-man/scientist. The scenes between him and Antje Traue, who plays Lara-El, are all the more intense for their brevity. The writing and acting are very good, and the viewer can easily believe in their love for their child and each other, and in the urgent desperation that moves them to send him alone into the infinite black, with only a faint hope of his eventual survival.

As the story moves to Earth, where the structure changes into a less linear timeline.

We first meet Cal-El/Clark Kent as he rescues the crew of an oil drilling platform from certain death. We learn later that he has been performing these sort of good deeds for most of his life, and as a result he moves around quite a bit. It’s kind of hard to stay in one place after people see you survive being covered in fire and what not, after all.

(By the by, let me tell you that the eye candy in these early scenes is gorgeous beyond the telling. I’m usually not one for facial hair but boy o boy, Henry Cavill totally sells it. Totally. Unless you don’t care for overly muscular men, in which case…well, this is probably not your bag at all.)

We see young Clark, as a boy and later as a young teen, perfectly aware of his differences, not only from his peers but even from his parents. The casting here is also impeccable. Diane Lane is a much younger Martha Kent but still very down to earth. She loves this child of her heart completely, and like any mother, all she wants for him is happiness.

Kevin Costner plays Jonathan Kent. Again, a younger and more vital version of the character, he more than anything or anyone is responsible for empowering Clark, for giving him a true reason not to simply destroy those who make him feel even more isolated than his nature makes him.

This is also the first incarnation (at least in the movies) in which the ethical conflicts of being Superman are discussed openly. “Did God do this to me?” young Clark asks Jonathan. The conversation that follows is pivotal to Clark’s character development:

“You are the answer, son, you are the answer to ‘are we alone in the Universe?'”

“Can I just keep pretending I’m your son?”

“You are my son!… But somewhere out there you have another father, who gave you another name. And he sent you here for a reason, Clark, and even if it takes you the rest of your life, you owe to yourself to find what that reason it.”

And so Clark continues to wander the world, avoiding making himself too conspicuous, too notable. Always moving, always looking for anything that may give him some clues as to his true identity.

Which brings us to the present day.

Something weird has been discovered somewhere near the Artic Circle. Weird enough and notable enough that star Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane manages to wrangle permission to see it. In short order, we find out that this strange object embedded in 18 thousand year old ice, is one of the old space probes sent by Krypton during its golden age of discovery and exploration.

What follows is a fair bit of exposition, though the filmmakers manage to make it interesting through the use of cool visuals–and of course, the fact that it’s Russell Crowe narrating doesn’t hurt any.

Here I must mention that Lex Luthor does not make an appearance in this version, which makes for a much stronger and, again, darker storyline. This is not about petty crimes, but about the fate of the world.

Which is when, of course, Zod and company make an appearance, and everything goes to the crapper.

Or at least, it mostly does for this viewer.

See, the movie is well over two hours long, but I would have been happy if most of the last forty or so minutes, which are devoted to CG and other special effect fights/brawls between Zod and Superman, had been cut. It’s not just that the whole terraformation bit strains credibility but how the effects on Metropolis are shown.

You cannot have something affecting the whole planet, yet pretend that you have a discrete destruction zone. Seriously, if there are two machines on opposite sides of the planet altering its gravity, most if not all man made structures, and plenty of natural landmarks, would have been destroyed in a very short span of time.

And so, all the bits where Perry White and company are dodging falling buildings and stuff? Wasted on me. I cannot care much for the survival of three or four people when I’m aware that hundreds of millions would be dying if such a situation was possible.

But even if I could suspend disbelief on that plot hole, the visuals of the brawl between the two main antagonists–and making the outcome of the whole battle hinge on it–turned me off completely. If that was not enough, then, like in a B horror movie, we have Zod not dying along with all the other baddies, but surviving long enough to engage Superman in another, twenty-minutes long brawl, with destruction and explosions galore.

So where does that leave me, vis á vis Man of Steel? Well, it’s a watchable bit of fluff, which–dammit!–didn’t live up to the promise of its beginning.


¹ Making Perry White, and the highest ranking military officer in the US armed forces, black men? Awesome! And Lois Lane is shown to be a lot smarter and more capable than in previous versions–even if she still wears five-inch heels for most of the movie.

9 Responses to “Man of Steel (sort of a movie review)”

  1. Lori 10/01/2015 at 6:35 PM #

    I must watch this.

    • azteclady 12/01/2015 at 7:35 PM #

      Oh please do, and tell me what you think!

  2. heavenlea27 12/01/2015 at 12:07 AM #

    I loved this movie but then I’m a Superman fan since way back when. I didn’t read the comics as a kid though – more an Archie fan lol – but I’ve seen the movies, watched Lois and Clark and I’m just getting in to Smallville. Each has been done differently and as you say, this was the darkest. Not in a bad way though.

    I’m not in to that much muscle but as you say, Henry pulls it off nicely. When he’s in his suit and that cape… Oops, never mind, that’s not for here…

    I’m not a Russell fan but he does do a good job here. And Lois isn’t as… what’s the word… I dunno but she’s not like the others and that’s good. I hear what you’re saying too about the implausibility of the machine etc. I tend to just go with it, after all, I am watching a movie about a man who comes from another planet and can fly, without a plane… 😀 Then again, I did actually just go to watch that man… sigh.

    I’m thinking I might need to watch this again now myself. Who wants to join me and should we have popcorn?


    • azteclady 12/01/2015 at 7:36 PM #

      Lois is much more a person and less a damsel to be rescued here–though still, when she follows him into the ice, she strays into TSTL territory.

      As for Russell Crowe, I’ll just say that I wouldn’t mind having him whisper sweet nothings to me in bed. (The voice, the accent…me like!)

  3. SuperWendy 12/01/2015 at 10:57 AM #

    We actually saw this in the theater and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Of course I was expecting to be bored out of my skull (I’m just not a Superman girl – there I said it), so was pleasantly surprised. I loved the casting of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as the Kents, and Henry Cavill is certainly easy on the eyes. Also I preferred this version of the story – the way Clark and Lois meet, how Clark eventually comes to the Daily Planet – it just worked better for me. Also the isolation of Clark, the ethical dilemmas etc.

    But oh Lord yes to the ending. The long, drawn-out, never ending battle scenes that went on for what felt like hours. I didn’t notice it quite as much in the theater, but watching it again at home it just went on, and on, and on……

    • azteclady 12/01/2015 at 7:38 PM #

      …and on, and on, and on.

      On the first view I thought it was me, because I’m not into pointless destruction, but on the second viewing I timed it (yes, I’m weird, don’t judge). The times I give above are accurate.

  4. heavenlea27 12/01/2015 at 11:14 PM #

    I’ll leave Russell for you Ms AL – does nothing for me lol. Of course we have adopted him as one of our own – like we have with Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Split Enz, Peter Jackson (I’m not sure about him but I think we should lmao) – but he’s still a Kiwi. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course.

    Never been too fond of him but I have liked a couple of his movies. I think my fave was ‘Sum of Us’.

    As to the destruction in MoS, I can only imagine what it will be like when Superman does battle with batboy. I’m dreading it for so many reasons but we shall see.

    Wendy, the good thing about watching it at home is you can fast forward. Or pause…



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