When I first saw the preview for Man of Steel, I was a little disappointed and considered not going to see the movie in the theater. My friend, Jason, challenged me to a movie review mash-up (go read his review here). He didn’t like it at all, but I liked it a little more.
Mostly, my initial disappointment came from the choice of Superman. Henry Cavill played Humphrey (Yes! The Humphrey who picked on my beloved Tristan) in Stardust and Charles Brandon in The Tudors, and I just couldn’t imagine him transforming into Superman (BTW, what’s up with the British invasion? Henry Cavill plays the ultra American superhero– Superman– and Daniel Day-Lewis is Lincoln. I think Americans must spend too much time on the phone to be American now). Also, I thought he was just TOO good-looking… I mean Superman is supposed to be good-looking, but not THAT good-looking…
Well, after seeing the movie, I can tell you I was not disappointed in Henry Cavill and definitely don’t mind his looks. Yowza, that is one handsome man. I can’t say they chose Cavill just because of his ability to act… but maybe also for his biceps and traps, which after seeing them, is somewhat understandable. As far as his acting goes though, I think he was pretty good, as he has a subtlety to him that actually undercuts the muscles and pretty face. Okay, my girl-gushing over the cute boy is over…
As for the film, I give it a decided “ho-hum.” I guess if it were on TV and I was home and there was nothing else to watch, read or do, I would watch it again, but it was just okay. I expected more. I mean… it’s SUPERMAN! I can remember watching the original, Christopher Reeves as Superman movies as a child and feeling wowed by them. I hated Lex Luther, and I was scared of General Zod (Terrance Stamp) and hated him, too. I wanted Superman to save the planet, I wanted things to be better, and I believed that he could make things better. I was really, truly inspired by Superman, by his unwavering need to do good and to help others. His altruism was inherent, in an idyllic but perhaps not unrealistic way. Even now, those movies still retain that feeling of Superman as being a really, good, in fact… a superman.
This movie tries for inspiration, but it fails. Part of the reason I think the movie falls flat of super is that it explains too much. Guillermo del Toro, in his discussion about Pan’s Labyrinth, talks about how Hollywood explains too much and how too much explanation can actually rob a story of its magic. That is exactly what happened in this film.
Knowing that General Zod (Michael Shannon) was born and crafted into a soldier whose soul mission in life is to protect Krypton makes me feel sorry for him. I mean, he can’t help it that he’s trying to protect Krypton, that’s what he’s SUPPOSED to do. Feeling sorry for someone takes away from the hatred we’re meant to feel for the guy who wants to destroy Earth and kill Superman. I mean, the movie kind of made all the Kryptonian characters into robots gone amuck, except, inexplicably Jor-El (Russell Crowe, who I’ve still not forgiven for ruining Les Miserables) and Lora Lor-Van (Ayelet Zuror). If they can conceive a child and a rebellion… then why can’t anyone else? If they were willing to save their own child, why not save others? Saving just him, given what we know in this film makes them seem selfish and short-sighted.
The problem with over-explaining the mythology is that when the explanations don’t make sense, as these don’t, then the story and the myth feels like a let-down. And that was exactly what happened. I felt let down.
The other problem with this movie was too much building crashing and general destruction and computer graphics. At some point, it’s just annoying, and I reached that point about 1 hour into the movie. By the time there was a giant machine re-setting Earth’s mass or whatever that was, I just wanted the entire movie to be over so that I could quit seeing buildings crash and have characters I’d only seen for 3 seconds prior suddenly be used for dramatic tension, when I’m supposed to be ever-so-concerned about his/her/their possible impending death. And, oh, god, the annoying destruction caused by the Kryptonians as they fought! Please! Superman can walk without making dents and ride in a truck, he’s not THAT heavy.
Overall, though, I still give this movie a good rating. That’s mostly because of Lois Lane (Amy Adams). In previous versions of Superman, Lois was the typical damsel-in-distress and was, to be frank, pretty annoying. She just seemed to sit around and wait on Superman to save her, after doing something rash and stupid to get in trouble. This Lois, though, is tough, she makes her own decisions, and she remains ethical, truthful and brave throughout the movie. The moment where she hugs Superman at the end, well, it was totally corny, but I appreciated that they showed the comfort and compassion that she could offer. Another positive was Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent and Diane Lane as Martha Kent as Clark’s parents. And, again, they shone in the film because they showed true understanding, love and compassion, even for a child that wasn’t biologically theirs or something they even really understood. These three, really, were the inspirational characters in the movie. It’s because of them that I understand why Superman chose humans instead of Krypton. They showed that even though human kind is flawed and imperfect, there are still enough of us that are, really, altruistic and kind, and maybe not idyllic, but good enough.