5 Things I Liked and 1 Thing I Didn’t about Man of Steel
I should begin with saying that I am a Marvel man through and through, which bears some weight, I think. In my opinion, DC Comics only ever had one chance to grab my attention as a kid growing up in the 90’s and that was with the Death of Superman event. The actual event and comic worked, but the events afterwards with the 4 different “Supermen” wasn’t captivating. Marvel did nearly everything right with the Saturday morning cartoon version of the X-Men and that bought my patronage from there.
The comic book Superman works for me as interesting dual personas, but less as a superhero because I feel he has too few weaknesses. Movie Superman is a little different. When we get Movie Superman, he’s usually dealing with being accepted as an outsider rather than being the pinnacle of heroism. He achieves that pinnacle by the end of the movie – it’s a part of being a re-launch, but I like how that plays as opposed to the established Superman fighting the new threat.
So, it is as a Marvel fan that I went to go see Man of Steel recently. As the title suggests, I found 5 things that i liked about the movie and one over-arching thing I did not like:
1. Henry Cavill
The Superman in this movie is Henry Cavill, whom I did not know very well. There’s a scene about 10-20 minutes into the movie where you see Superman sneaking through a town looking for new clothes to replace the tattered ones he’s wearing. The scene serves as eye-candy, but Henry Cavill is HUGE. He’s not in the camp with the 80’s beef like Stallone and Arnold, but Henry Cavill is right there with Hugh Jackman as the new apex of screen muscle. He made Chris Hemsworth(Thor) look small.
OK, so he’s muscle-y. So what? You get that scene early on, but then the rest of the movie he’s able to hide in street clothes and look pretty normal. He looks like a ripped Don Draper the whole movie, in fact, and played a sensitive and tiny-bit shy Clark Kent. Looking at IMDB, I found that Henry Cavill’s other headlining role is in Immortals, a movie I turned off after 15 minutes. He impressed me with his dynamic range in this movie, while looking and acting the part of the true hero. He did a better Christopher Reeve than Christopher Reeve, at times. He proved himself worthy of the high mantle in a small amount of screen time in the movie. You’ll probably see him every summer for the the next decade.
2 The plot as told by flashback
The story in Man of Steel does a lot of showing, rather than telling, and it does so in a great number of flashbacks. In the first 30 minutes of the movie, it is hard to tell if this is a story that’s going to be told chronologically or not, but is done in such a way that this isn’t a concern by the viewer. You go back to see Russell Crowe on Krypton, travel to see Clark kent as a child learning some hard life lessons, see him learn from his adopted father, and him trying to learn his true identity. Each flashback was clear, the lessons learned were essential and relevant, and no one was left confused as to where the story had gone with each change.
Consider the flashbacks of Mystic River, Inception, and Shutter Island – those are movies that play with the timeline of the story by showing out of order scenes. At points I was left with the feeling of, “Hey, are we going back to that?” or “Are we sure that person is really thinking of that incident from 10 years ago right now?” Man of Steel shows restraint and patience, while being clear and concise with its story-telling. As a movie-goer, I really appreciate that.
3 Restraint with “the kiss” and humor
From the minute you see that there’s a Lois Lane in this movie, you get the feeling there will be a kiss between her and Superman. Why wouldn’t there be, right? Those two characters are put together in some dangerous and intimate situations many times in the movie, but there’s a realistic and sensible restraint on the screenwriter’s part (and Lois, too) to hold back a kiss between them until the end of the movie. It’s a great point and a great scene and there’s only one! I really liked the simplicity of that.
There’s also a sense of restraint in the movie to not go after some of the cheap or easy laughs. The Avengers movie, for example, goes for some easy and sometimes creative humor throughout the movie, but it does so often enough to make you stop to think, “C’mon, the Black Widow is a serious woman” or “Nick Fury does not joke around.” Man of Steel isn’t necessarily a serious movie, but it presents itself well as an identity story as well as being an action/comic book movie. Again, good simplicity.
4 Emphasis on the alien
Superman is an alien and that is heavily emphasized. It’s funny that this isn’t a regularly perceived notion, but the movie establishes and then repeats the fact that Superman is an alien that is hiding amongst the people of Earth. Nevermind that he is a superhero, the movie goes from the premise that this is a pseudo-E.T. hiding from the moment of his crash-landing.
I think the movie producers might have been influenced a bit by the Thor movie and the reaction that the other Marvel movies had to Thor’s arrival, but it makes perfect sense to making a big deal about Superman and his arrival.
5 The Fathers
Of course, no one goes into the creation of a movie with the premise of, ” Let’s honor fathers with this movie and release it on Father’s Day weekend!” However, if there was a perfect Father’s Day movie, it is Man of Steel. Superman has two fathers – and that’s in a way that even Fox News can get behind!
Russell Crowe makes for a fantastic Jor-El in the beginning of this movie. The first ten minutes are completely his – the prologue of the movie is almost a seperate movie by itself. He starts with the serious-faced Crowe that made him great about ten years ago, then gets to stay in the movie as a hologram version with sensitive compassion. He was very likeable – a graduated version of the Gladiator/Master & Commander-Crowe as opposed to tired and broken Russell Crowe seen in Robin Hood and Les Misérables.
Kevin Costner was also great! There’s something about serious Costner that I like – maybe it’s the graduation he’s finally made into playing the older gentleman, but he fits the bill as Jonathan Kent. Maybe it’s blue-collar Costner that I like, but gone is his miserable snark and in its place is an earthy and sympathetic man. He’s a teacher, a farmer, a dad, and the great sacrificial example that Superman is built on top of – much in the same vein as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben. I mean, all Superhero stories run along the lines of “with great power comes great responsability,” but the moral backbone that the two fathers show off in Man of Steel was a pleasure to watch.
OK, so I liked all of those things, here’s the one I did not like about Man of Steel:
1 – The indiscriminate and overwhelming destruction
Everything gets destroyed in this movie. One could say that the amount of destruction wreaked upon Smallville and Metropolis as Superman and the other superhumans fight is a realistic portrayal of what might happen. However, it was highly violent and destructive! It looked like a Michael Bay movie at times with the sheer amount of particles and shredded building flying through the air.
I’m almost 30, my high school and college years were immediately post-9/11, and I was kinda disturbed by the visualization of the MANY falling buildings in the movie. And I’m not even a New Yorker! I have a problem with how that was handled and I think the repetitive destruction in the movie was overdone and inappropriate. I think the movie collapsed three buildings from a pedestrian’s point of view. There’s a line between portraying the wreckage of this movie’s climax and then there’s excessive bad form. It crossed that line.
I also had an issue with the amount of destruction and Superman’s either inability or unwillingness to stop it. The Superman I know protects the public, the weak, the innocent, and there looked to be too much collateral damage for his sense of morals. I wanted him to stop the bad guys from hurting others, even at his expense, and this movie gave me the impression that wasn’t a Superman agenda, yet. Not until the movie’s climax, at least.
Somewhere along the lines, someone decided it was time for Hollywood to push the envelope of what was OK to portray in terms of 9/11-like destruction. They deliberately chose images and scenes that looked very similar to the falling World Trade Center and I think someone should have stopped them from doing that, especially in a Superman movie. Let Michael Bay do that in Transformers 7 – Superman has an ethical standard to uphold and the 20 minutes of crumbling buildings in Man of Steel violated that. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, but I was left with a bone to pick about all of that destruction.
As a final grade, Man of Steel gets 7 Father’s Day ties.