Normally I hate to spoil a movie for those who read my reviews, but in the case of Man of Steel it’s problematic to explain why is it that I disliked the film without divulging into some of the intricacies of the story.
First and foremost I do not plan to compare the Man of Steel with the previously released Superman films. I went to see the film with an open mind, knowing that it was an origins film, and since the earlier renditions were way in the past, it was easy to not think of them, for me, while watching Man of Steel. Furthermore, as always I had no choice but to watch the film in 3D. By default that did make me a bit irritable from the start since my hate for 3D should be known to you by now. Nevertheless, in the end I try really hard to not just base my like or dislike for a film on the 3D factor. Lastly, I have not read the Superman comics, so I look at the film as an individual entity.
Man of Steel falters on many levels. It tries really hard to be original and present an updated version of the Superman saga, yet in doing so remains slightly confused with the direction it is heading towards. Starting with the events at Krypton it resembles a number of other films throughout its running time. There is a scene where Jor-El, played beautifully by Russell Crowe, calls upon a bird like creature to carry him, and it is the same creature that swoops in to save him a few minutes later when he is almost certainly falling towards his end. The scene reminded me of Avatar and I even got a hint of a similar scene in a promotional piece for After Earth (which I am yet to watch). Much later in the film when the fight between General Zod and Superman moves to Metropolis, the destruction of the city reminded me of the Avengers climax. The only difference being that in the case of Man of Steel the devastation seems to be more epic and severe without many repercussions it seems. Similarly, there is a fight sequence that takes place in a town in Kansas where the Kent’s farm is, and here Thor came to mind. Again, with planes falling down all over and in this case not much damage to show afterwards, the fights seem a tad out of place. There are moments when I was reminded of Star Trek, and just couldn’t help think of other films during Man of Steel so-much-so that when the time comes for Jonathan Kent to die in a tornado, I was thinking about Spiderman, since Clarke and Jonathan have a “you are not my father” verbal confrontation just before the event, and Twister.
Shifting away from the story, for a bit, the special effects were a huge disappointment. Right from the start when we see Clark save workers at an oil rig, to the tornado, to the final fight, the effects never reached a wow factor that a film of this stature deserves. The 3D was abysmal as in most cases.
While I have always been a huge fan of Zack Snyder, even loving Sucker Punch, his direction left a lot to be desired. The films moves back and forth too much trying to cover up the life of Clark Kent, but in the end each visit to the past doesn’t bring too much to the table except for the fact that he had a hard time being an outcast and that his father kept him from disclosing his true identity. The real drama and angst, while present, never really reaches a level that someone who has been an outcast all his life, and is just breaking free, should exude.
The fights throughout the film are extremely repetitive. Most of the scenes consist of one character grabbing the other and taking him/her through various buildings. My problem with Superman is that in the end, when Metropolis has been “saved” except for Zod who I still lingering around, he doesn’t take the fight outside the city. What we get it more of what I have termed as hug-bashing till more building are destroyed.
Another minor aspect of the film that bothered me was the when Superman finally gets called as Superman. There is a scene between Lois and Kal-El where they talk about the “S” on his chest. It’s brilliantly interrupted at the word “Super” just when Lois is about to label him. When there is a build up like this to his name, it was a huge anti-climax when an ordinary soldier walks in to inform his superior about what Superman has been doing, at a later stage. I would have personally loved a much grander introduction to when finally he is called Superman.
Man of Steel isn’t all bad. It entertains, just not to its fullest capacity. It has a strong cast, and Henry Cavill presents himself as a worthy Superman. The supporting cast is simply excellent, although Michael Shannon‘s Zod is well acted, yet it might not be as memorable a character as I would have hoped for it to be.
What really stands out in the entire film is the soundtrack. I can confess and say that I hardly pay too much attention to the background score when I watch a film the first time round. But, be the fact that I was irritated with the film, or otherwise, Hans Zimmer’s score is beyond epic and for me the star of the film.
At the end, Man of Steel works well as a preview to the next instalment. Unfortunately, a preview that is too long. It tries desperately to check all the boxes in the story of Superman and feels disjointed and rushed at the end. It covers the birth of Kal-El and the destruction of Kryton; it glances over his life as a child in flashbacks; it also is about Clark discovering his biological father and his race, which mind you is more of an advert for Nikon than anything. Unfortunately while doing all of the above and fighting General Zod, it fails to bring real drama to the story; or sadly the romance between Lois and Superman is too forced for my linking.
Keeping in the mind the barrage of superhero films we have had in the recent past, Man of Steel doesn’t have the same impact as some of its contemporaries. What it does do is get away with telling an origins story so that the next in series can be more of a straightforward and hopefully more entertaining film.