A realistic Superman. Let me say that again… A realistic Superman?!
It’s completely fine if you want to try and go down a darker route with this character, but please – Superman is not a comic book creation that can be made realistic; you can get away with Batman, but this one is a no-no. Sure Mr. Snyder, you can make the film look saturated and grimy, but that can’t hold up when the audience is eventually watching super beings throw one another through concrete buildings again and again and again and again.
I didn’t dislike Man of Steel, I was just disappointed. I walked out of the theatre and went back home, spoke to friends about it, said that I thought it was pretty good and just moved on. As the hours went by, I soon realised that what I had seen wasn’t really anything special. It’s essentially a vehicle to kick-start a new Superman franchise and nothing more. It has those little bits in it which I did enjoy, but mostly it’s like what Marvel did in their Amazing-Spiderman reboot. Change the central villain, a few tiny little details and then boom. We’ve got our reboot to get this money-making monster going again.
We open on Krypton with everything that could possibly go wrong, going wrong. A coup d’état is led by the brutal military leader General Zod, played by a menacing Michael Shannon. Meanwhile the planet itself is slowly degenerating into a gloomy end of days. In these first twenty minutes we watch Russell Crowe as Jor-El essentially become an action hero as he manages to scramble through CGI action set pieces to get his new-born son flown across the galaxy to safety. The planet is destroyed and little Kal-El is seemingly the only Kryptonian left as he crashes to Earth and is taken in by Jonathan and Martha Kent, played in this version by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. Named Clark Kent by the couple, he eventually grows up to be played by Henry Cavill who must accept his extraordinary super powers and don the cape when Zod and his minions arrive to threaten Earth once they escape their outer space incarceration for their failed coup d’état on Krypton. There’s nothing wrong with Cavill in the role – just sadly there’s nothing much for him to do. Amy Adams plays Lois Lane… I would write more on her but she’s really just there as an uninteresting love interest who quips a few lines and nothing more.
The film is essentially trying to do the ‘Dark Knight’ treatment by being very serious and realistic in its telling of the character; but this is always going to be very hard when you’ve got a film that has extraterrestrial elements and a final action sequence where a maniacally shaky camera tries to keep up with a CGI Superman and his enemies throwing one another through buildings of a highly damaged Metropolis – there’s only so many times when you can watch that before it becomes really boring and repetitive. It’s obvious why the film tries to take this dark and realistic path as it’s produced by the Dark Knight team of Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.
The film really tries to fit in as much as it can but it’s all mostly the origin story with the confrontation against Zod squeezed into the final act. The original 1978 version in my opinion got it right and still is the best of the Superman film canon, despite that absolutely ridiculous ending. They dedicate the first hour to Superman’s origins, explore everything that is required and move on; simple as that, and then we have an exhilarating second hour and a bit with Superman taking on the super-villain Lex Luthor. The original Superman starts slowly and quietly on Krypton, whilst Man of Steel just tries to throw everything in your face from the get go. Build us up a bit movie!
You’re reading this probably thinking that I really hate this movie and I don’t. It’s competent at best with its many flaws. I’m just really very tired of every rebooted superhero franchise having to go back to the beginning and tell us the same old story, again. It’s as I said, the film is merely a vehicle – I really wanted to like the movie but the hype got to me. It has its moments: Kevin Costner really is great in the few scenes he has, there’s a few little references for the fans to enjoy and I couldn’t help but nerdgasm at the scenes where we finally get to see the Man of Steel himself in costume.
The film I guess has done its job: to set up the franchise and make loads of money – at the end of the day this wasn’t a Superman movie which went out of it’s way to set itself apart from the rest and make me go wow, it was just an origin story that trudged through, no better than the 1978 version. I will watch the sequels and I hope they can at least conjure up some really fun and enjoyable future Superman adventures. Just please Mr. Snyder, if you’re going to return: drop the realism, inject just a little bit more humour and hold the camera still!
3 stars ★★★✰✰