Let’s get to the nitty-gritty right away and then I’ll start laying out the details that support my conclusion. Man of Steel, the latest attempt to reboot the Superman movies, opened a week ago. My family and I went to see the movie on Sunday as a Father’s Day celebration. Of course, I wore my Superman shield shirt.
Here’s the deal: Man of Steel was a very fast, very loud science-fiction superhero movie. As that, it was pretty darn good. As a Superman movie? It sucked out loud.
Sorry to use such harsh language, but the filmmakers so fundamentally misunderstood who Superman is, what he should stand for, and how his supporting cast is supposed to operate, that they should have scrapped the whole Superman association and gone with an original name. It would have made much more sense.
Don’t get me wrong. There were really good parts to the movie. I thought Russell Crowe’s Jor El was tremendous for the most part, although I could have done without his later participation in some actual action scenes that took place on Earth. Krypton was a fully realized humanoid civilization that I quite enjoyed, the mixture of an older, tired race, withdrawn from galactic concerns and focused only on their home world with the harsh line drawn by the younger generation trying to bring back that glory.
But that’s also, at the very beginning, where the humongous plot holes begin to develop. Supposedly Krypton is going to die because they “harvested the core” of the planet for energy. Because, you see, the energy reserves were dwindling too far down. However, just before the planetdeath, they sentence some criminals to the Phantom Zone and have a bit of a war. Both of these exercises were flagrantly wasting power on a massive scale.
The Phantom Zone scene, particularly, wasted so much energy, it simply was dripping from every metal surface. Where’d the energy shortage go? Well, whatever.
Then, they tried to give a biological basis for Superman’s powers. Because of the air and suchlike, the lighter gravity and, at least a little bit, his cells absorbing the yellow sun’s radiation, that’s why he’s so tough. Jor El and Lara El, in fact, knew a lot about Earth before they launched the craft bearing baby Kal. That, to me, took away a lot of the power of the moment.
Jor and Lara should be throwing their baby to the stars in a desperate, last-minute race to beat death, knowing only that to keep the child on Krypton would be tantamount to killing him. The disaster should be of such a big scale that blindly shooting your son into space in a rocket ship seems like the sane choice.
Remember those Phantom Zone criminals I mentioned earlier? Yeah, well it turns out that being in the Phantom Zone saved them from Krypton’s destruction and so they set out to find Kal El, known on Earth as Clark Kent. As we find out later in the movie, Kal El apparently has all of Krypton’s future birth genetic codes in his own cells. So, even though the Kryptonian criminals led by General Zod have a sample of Kal El’s blood, which should contain everything they need, they’re a bit too idiotic to realize this and keep going after Superman instead of just getting on with getting on.
Really quickly, the special effects were, in a word, spectacular. In a few more words, they showcased the best flying dudes punching each other fight I’ve ever seen, putting Neo vs. Agent Smith to shame. This was a Superman fight. There’s one sequence near the end, shown basically over Superman’s shoulder, that gives us a really nice impression of what it might be like to be involved in this kind of fight. Very well done.
One important thing to remember to tell you is that the casting of Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman/Kal El was very, very nice. Dude certainly has the body and definitely the voice to play Superman. I thought he needed a bit more emotional range to really take advantage of his acting skills, but not bad overall.
On a more human level, I thought Amy Adams as a really tough, fearless reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper, one Lois Lane, was fantastic. Not only is she not a damsel in distress, even though she has to be saved a couple of times, she’s instrumental in defeating the rogue Kryptonians. Even better, she’s smart, clever and makes some pretty good deductions and showcases her investigative skills in a very convincing fashion.
Which doesn’t nearly come close to making up for Perry White, played by Morpheus himself, Laurence Fishburne. Perry White is, well, a white guy in the comics. Laurence Fishburne is not. And that makes not a whit of difference. What does make a difference is that the script calls for Perry White to have a spine softer than a bowl of melted Jell-O. When Lois presents him with a story about a possible alien presence on Earth, he won’t run the story.
That’s good because, really, Lois had only the evidence of her own eyes. No actual facts to back her up. Good on Perry. Then the script has to go and spoil it by having Perry say that the reason he won’t run the story is because he’s worried how people would react to the idea that there are aliens living on Earth. This is the paragon of journalistic ethics? No. No it’s not.
Director Zack Snyder and co-writer David S. Goyer just really don’t seem to understand what kind of movie they were making.
The fundamental misconception of Superman can, I believe, be summed up in two thoughts. One: The people of Earth would have been 100 percent better off if baby Kal El had died in space and never come to our planet. Because he’s here, the Kryptonians come and they rain fire and destruction and death down on the planet. Simply because Kal El is there.
Two: At a climactic scene, Superman kills. Yeah, let me repeat that one once more. Superman kills. He does it deliberately. But it’s okay because, after? He feels really bad about it for about 20 seconds or so. So that’s okay.
So, the bottom line is that this was a very good science-fiction superhero movie. Like a lot of movies that have tried to refresh classic properties lately, we just have to pretend this is a brand-new character and the name just sounds familiar.
If only we’d get a good Superman movie once in a while.