This isn’t an actual review. For a more straight-forward take on the film, check out Dave Taylor’s review here. This is my spin, as a lifelong DC Comics fan, of this attempt to reboot the Superman franchise.
Overall, I will say I was more than satisfied with this film. I found it pretty solid from start to finish. Okay, more from start than finish, but honestly, I could nitpick it to death if I felt so inclined and I simply don’t. I felt the first half, which reinterpreted Kal-El’s famous origin to be more emotionally engaging than the last half, which was largely… well, destruction. Even so, I think the movie succeeded overall.
I started to write this piece with the intention to compare this movie with the comics, which is hard to do, considering the film makers chose to basically throw out everything from the comics and create their own story. And that worked perfectly fine! I actually find it commendable that they weren’t slavishly devoted to the source material and chose to base their film on the popular mythology while still telling their own stories. They didn’t feel indebted to plug in every aspect of the Superman mythology and that actually felt fresh. It lifted a bit of a load from the film, which I think ultimately served it well.
The Krypton sequences felt a tad protracted and I ultimately felt Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Jor-El felt more than a bit deux ex machina. Crowe’s portrayal was strong… certainly stronger than Marlon Brando’s admittedly phoned-in turn in the role in Superman: The Movie, but he was just there too much. It may have simply been that he was out-shined, but more on that in a second.
I think ultimately, one of the biggest flaws with this movie were that the two leads turned in the weakest performances. I have no objection to man candy, but Henry Cavill’s performance was no stronger than Brandon Routh’s in Superman Returns. This role could have been occupied by any Hollywood beefcake. He really brought nothing to this iconic role. And on the flip side, Michael Shannon really failed to flesh out General Zod to any degree. I mean other than shouting. However, it was extremely nice to see Superman, a nearly indestructible hero, taking on a villain worth his muscle, rather than… y’know Kal Penn.
At least both leads were surrounded by dependable supporting players. Christopher Meloni, Lawrence Fishburn and Diane Lane serve up predictably fantastic performances, but not to oversell things, Kevin Costner delivers the role he was born to play! (And I don’t mean Frank Farmer in The Bodyguard, a.k.a. my guiltiest of pleasures!) I’ve honestly never been a huge Costner fan, but he anchors this movie in an incredible fashion and it’s a damn shame his role was somewhat eclipsed by Crowe’s.
As for Amy Adams’ turn as Lois Lane, overall, I was delighted. She pieces things together like the crack reporter that she is meant to be. It felt a bit disappointing at the end when she was reduced to the typical damsel in distress, needing to be rescued.
My biggest qualms with the film come with the final scenes. SPOILERS – both Smallville and Metropolis are practically leveled. The Smallville sequence actually reminded me of Superman II and Supergirl (just sub in 7-11 for Popeye’s Fried Chicken), so I was more forgiving of that, but in a post 9/11 world, seeing airplanes and a gas truck fly into and destroy skyscrapers just felt too questionable for me. Especially since they could have been avoided. Destroying an entire downtown metropolitan area just seemed gratuitous.
There are a few fun Easter Eggs if you missed them. Jonathan Kent is shown as working at “Sullivan’s Truck and Trailer,” a reference to Cloe Sullivan from the TV series Smallville. The previously mentioned gas truck that is used to destroy a building is owned by Lexcorp, as in Lex Luthor, Superman’s most persistent villain who is otherwise absent from this film. And when Superman and Zod are battling in space they destroy a satellite labeled Wayne Industries, a reference to Batman/Bruce Wayne, presumably to tie into the much discussed Justice League movie Warner Brothers has planned.
On a superficial note, I suppose I should address Superman’s new costume. Before the film came out, as an old schooler, I was miffed that Supes was missing his famous red trunks, but honestly, when he appears onscreen in costume, he’s zipping around so much, you never have time to pay that much attention to his… y’know loins. What I’m saying is, I didn’t miss them, because he was zooming around too much for me to notice the shorts were gone. On the other hand, it got a bit mind-boggling that Lois Lane seemed able to teleport around the globe to be where ever she needed to be for any given scene.
I did not exit this movie feeling as euphoric as I did after seeing The Avengers. But there was a lot more riding on this film, i.e. a Justice League, Flash, Wonder Woman movie. So I’m just happy it turned out as well as it did.
So there you have it. This was my take on Man of Steel. Do you agree more with me or Dave? Comment below!