I’ve seen far too many positive reviews of this movie and I disagree. SO I WROTE A REVIEW.
About a month ago I finally got around to seeing “Drive” with Ryan Gosling and it reminded me what a good movie should be, a character driven story who’s plot only serves to develop the character more. Unfortunately the recent DC flick “Man of Steel” was the opposite of this. I’ll break the movie down and explain why I think it fell flat. This may be partly due to my general knowledge of the universe, but I think in general people unfamiliar with the source material will find the same issues.
[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
1. The characters
A huge issue this movie faced was a general lack of good characters to relate to or at least enjoy, and given the mythos behind these characters, I feel it was a writer problem first, if then later the actors.
A. Lois Lane
Lois Lane is supposed to be the badass, too good for you, facing danger at every turn kind of reporter that many women would strive to be. This movie lowers her and ruins a lot of the chemistry and humour that accompanied her and Clark’s relationship in other Superman stories. When we see her out on the arctic expedition, there is a sense that she forged her way on and did what nobody else would, making her seem like a strong character. THIS is immediately destroyed when she reaches her “room” and instead of maintaining her tough image and asking “where do I piss/pee?” she looks to the man next her and says “where do I tinkle?”, making her seem like a little girl who still can’t even confidently talk about bodily functions. The rest of the movie has her gradually becoming more dependent on Clark and the fact that she knows his secret ruins the tension created in other stories where Lois loves Superman, and Clark loves Lois but can’t reveal his identity to her.
I usually like Amy Adams because she manages to be a strong and snarky character but she was too weak here for me.
Some super hero movies just don’t know what to do with their hero’s when they are talking, and as a result you have a bad character who’s only interesting trait is their power.
Clark’s character is set up very interestingly, he discovers his powers as a child and feels like an outsider since he can’t use them to stand out. Because of this he decides to wonder from job to job and be a loner who occasionally saves people in need, interesting enough. But the second he finds out where he’s from and opens his mouth, his character loses his charm. Clark quickly becomes a full of himself and self-entitled person who never shows any concern for the situation at hand until he kills Zod, making a confusing mess of his character. Superman who isn’t supposed to kill people just killed the last of his kind, and then lets out an animal-like groan. This would be powerful if at any point had they made a point that he is so dead set against it that he would only do it if necessary. Instead the movie relies on you knowing this from outside sources and then makes you see Superman as more muscle than brains.
Zod was one of the few characters I thought was portrayed well throughout the movie. Michael Shannon has become known recently for playing over the top, angry villains so it’s no surprise he pulled it off well. To be honest I only wish he had survived since I felt for his character more than Clark since he was just doing his job. If he had taken it to the level of angry he had in the Sigma Nu video it would’ve been Oscar material.
D. Everyone Else
The movie makes very little effort to make you care for any other character throughout the movie, the entire time I was watching the sequence where the other Daily Planet workers were trying to escape the range of Zod’s terraforming machine I was mostly just twiddling my thumbs since I really didn’t care if they made it or not. Basically all we knew was that they were all jerks, so having this one scene where they are given about as much screen time as Clark’s mom didn’t really work at all.
Also the portrayal of Jon Kent was very strange. There is a strong sense that he wants Clark’s powers to remain secret, even if it means letting innocent people die. This is used to explain why Clark can’t save him in his death scene with the tornado, but leaves the more important question, why didn’t he save himself if the dog he went back for CLEARLY had enough time to make it to safety.
2. The Plot & Scenes that didn’t work
Now to the main course, the plot. There were several scenes and plot points that made little sense to me so I’ll touch them now.
A. Zod’s Death
Perhaps the most confusing part of the entire movie is when Clark kills Zod. Obviously this is supposed to be a big deal as Superman (like Batman) doesn’t kill. This would have been a powerful scene if at any point in the movie they had made a point of this. Without that, this scene just makes the whole fight with Zod seem trivial, why did thousands have to die if it could’ve been as simple as snapping his neck. How is it Kryptonians are invincible except for their necks and how was Zod able to adjust to all of his powers so quickly.
B. Secret Identity
Throughout the flashbacks of Clark’s youth, their is a clear message from his dad, especially in his death scene, that Clark revealing his identity is a bad thing. Then he reveals his identity to everyone, namely the army and a large group of reporters, at the first sign of trouble. This made little sense to me and rendered the whole Father-Son sequences pointless.
Also the fact that he only dons his glasses disguise at the end was somewhat confusing as most people would know who he is no and his large reveals earlier ruined using the disguise as a respect to his father’s wishes.
C. Lois on the ship and Exposition
Zod comes to Earth to take Clark to get the Codex/k and turn Earth into Krypton II. So why when receiving him with no struggle, did Zod insist on Lois going on board? If it had been the reason Clark went it would’ve made sense but it wasn’t. The explanation I discovered (thanks to Red Letter Media) is that Lois is used for exposition, meaning that any time they need to explain something to the audience, they tell Lois. This provides for a very poorly explained reason Lois goes up with Zod and appears on the bomber at the end of the movie, although necessary in the end, realistically there was no justifiable reason to put her there knowing what they knew at takeoff.
D. Invincibility or How to remove tension
Superman is essentially invincible, therefore making all the conflicts in the movie fights, creates very boring conflicts. You know nothing is going to happen when he fights anyone and him vs Zod is literally the equivalent of a kid banging two of his toys together to fight. Superman’s old conflicts were those of choice and mind games like the classic 2 missiles ultimatum (save lois or thousands of lives), the switch to physical conflicts is just boring.
E. The Snyder Factor: Visuals over Story
Something I have noticed watching most of Zack Snyder’s films is that his contribution is usually the visual aspect of a movie. In movies like 300 or Watchmen where the source material is clearly defined, Snyder’s visuals bring an interesting colour to them, and makes his comicbook movies appear just as coloured as their books.
But when Snyder starts taking writing roles his movies hit a wall. Between this and Sucker Punch there was a clear lack of reasoning in many scenes or explanations for what was happening, making for two movies that despite being collections of things most people enjoy watching, fall apart without any basis for existing or context. I pray someone pulls writing away from him for Batman Vs. Superman.
3. Nods and Character
I appreciated a couple fan services the movie did, the WayneCorp satellite, the LexCorp signs, even references to Clark’s youth in Smallville, with characters like Lana Lang making a quick appearance. I thought it was unfortunate that the movie took no time to homage the original Zod flick, the “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD” line would have been acceptable given the circumstances, and it’s a shame there wasn’t even some hilarious contempt for mirrors after this scene.
The whole Krypton scene had little too much phallic imagery for my taste, between the mirror being replaced with little penis ships and the whole prison ship entering the Phantom zone, I sighed at this blatant attempt at meaning that was lost on me to be honest.
This movie really fell flat for me, I genuinely love superhero movies, and each ones gets me more and more interested in the lore. But this one just had no respect for character, good story telling or tension. This made a movie that was not interesting, fun, funny, meaningful or much else. I haven’t ever started thinking about what I’m doing after a superhero movie before, so that’s bad. Between the visuals, Zod and some parts of the movie, I can see an effort was made but it wasn’t enough.