Man of Steel Review

I wanted Man of Steel to be awesome, and perhaps because of that, it ended up being a disappointment.

I love the idea of the character of Superman, but have my own perceptions about the character and what a Superman movie should be—informed by the cartoons, movies and TV shows I saw growing up[1]. To me a Superman movie, for the large part, should be upbeat and positive. It should include great action, but not to the exclusion of the story and the characters. And it should pose Superman with emotional, moral and/or cognitive challenges.

For me a good Superman movie should not pit Superman against similarly powered protagonists. Seeing effectively invulnerable characters bouncing off one another does not make for a great story, but instead focuses too much on spectacle.

Man of Steel started out with promise. The Krypton back story was a very different approach to what we have seen before—much more sc-fi than superhero fantasy. And this different approach followed in the Earth-based back story, even if it wasn’t the upbeat version I’d prefer to see. For a reboot, this different approach worked well to separate this Superman from previous movies.

But the second half of the movie was all the things I don’t want a Superman movie to be. It was an over the top, overly destructive and violent, CGI-fest, which was probably more disappointing because the first half of the movie had created the expectation, or at least the hope, of something better.

As a consequence it is hard to judge this movie objectively, and I have no doubt my judgement is strongly influenced by what I got as opposed to what I wanted to see.

Instead of this movie what I would have preferred to see would have been a sequel to Bryan Singer’s 2006 Superman Returns. Although it may not have been well reviewed, Superman Returns had many of the qualities I want in a Superman movie[2]—it’s just unfortunate it came over as more depressing than upbeat. It would also have had some great new story material to work with, with a son of Superman story not being something we have seen before.

There were also a couple of plot points in Man of Steel that particularly bothered me. For example, if Superman is effectively invulnerable, and has no issues on earth with poisonous or toxic gases, and can even fly into space where there is no air, why does the atmosphere on Zod’s ship affect him so badly? Also how is it that the thumb drive Jor-El sends to earth with baby Kal works in an ancient Kryptonian spaceship sent to Earth some 18,000 years earlier? Did Kryptonian technology reach some advanced state and then never progress any further? I doubt I could even find a 5¼" floppy disk drive if I needed one, and it is only a decade or so ago that they were still in regular use!

In conclusion, I didn’t hate this movie, but I’m not a fan. Despite the reviews of Superman Returns, I bought it on DVD and have watched it several times, but I doubt I’ll bother watching this movie again. If there is a sequel I just hope they learn the lessons from this movie that they need to.

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  1. I’ve never really been a comic book reader, so that character, or it’s variations, has never influenced my view of what Superman should be or do.  ↩

  2. The shuttle/airliner rescue in Superman Returns exemplifies exactly what a Superman movie should be.  ↩