Man of Steel Review

poster in the Warner Bros. film Man of Steel 2013

I’m not a fan of the old Superman movies. They’re too “Superman does super stuff.” It’s character that grabs me, so I much prefer the TV show Lois and Clark, which was “Clark does reporter stuff” with Superman as more of a hobby. I was excited for Man of Steel because the scenes of Clark as a lonely hobo led me to believe the movie might have the same focus on character.

A lonely refugee alien decides to use his super powers to protect his adopted planet from an attack by other members of his species.

However, now that I’ve seen Man of Steel I realize that they’ve invented a third category for themselves: “super alien does alien stuff.” So it’s action packed and it doesn’t rehash anything you’ve seen before (keep in mind I haven’t seen the comics or cartoons) but it doesn’t quite manage to become my favorite.

One of the things that always bothered me about Superman was the fact no one ever seemed to recognize him as Clark despite the fact that all he did was put on a pair of glasses. They get around this unbelievable glitch in Man of Steel by not giving Clark a reporter alter ego. In fact, they don’t even make him Superman, at least not until well into the film. Instead he’s Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) lonely drifter who occasionally saves people.

Clark and the littlest hobo in the Warner Bros. film Man of Steel 2013

Here he is receiving lifestyle tips from The Littlest Hobo.

During a military excavation of a crashed spaceship in the Arctic, nosey reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) gets into trouble and is rescued by Super Clark, who subsequently disappears. She’s taken by him and decides she wants to find him, so her boss Perry White (Laurence Fishbourne) at the Daily Planet gives her the go-ahead to do the story. After about five minutes of investigating, she finds Clark at his parents’ farm in Kansas. She must have magic powers, because it took TV Lois two years to figure out that Clark = Superman.

Perry White and Lois Lane in the Warner Bros. film Man of Steel 2013

PERRY: Lois, my desk is floating again.
LOIS: Sorry, Perry. I never quite got around to attending Hogwarts.

Lois is Clark’s love interest in Man of Steel, but after she finds him General Zod (Michael Shannon) shows up and the movie is largely given over to alien affairs, which means Lois and Clark only have about three scenes together in which to build the basis of their relationship. Lois is pretty awesome in the scenes she’s in, and they’re cute together, but it just doesn’t seem like enough.

Lois about to kiss Superman in the Warner Bros. film Man of Steel 2013

Just a few quick smoochies, then you can go back to punching aliens.

General Zod is a Kryptonian rebel who was the enemy of Clark’s parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Faora-Ul (Antje Traue). He and his cronies escaped the destruction of Krypton in the movie’s prologue by dint of being in an offworld jail at the time. They’re pissed about Krypton and have tracked Clark to Earth in order to steal back a powerful and culturally important item that Clark’s parents sent with him in his space-going baby basket.

General Zod and his cronies in the Warner Bros. film Man of Steel 2013

Okay everyone, spread out and look for a sookie blankie with ‘Kal-El’ stitched into the hem.

Zod threatens the world if he doesn’t get what he wants, and Clark has to decide whether he’s going to step up and reveal himself to the humans or not. Apparently fear of how other people would react to him if they knew he had superpowers was the overriding concern of Clark’s adoptive parents, Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane). This seems a little ridiculous to me, since the most anyone could do is hurt Clark’s feelings.

Jonathan Kent and Young Clark in the Warner Bros. film Man of Steel 2013

Clark, repeat after me: I am rubber and you are glue…

All this takes about an hour and a half, during which there’s very little action except for flashbacks to Krypton under attack and a few of Clark’s early rescues. But once the action starts, boy do they ever make up for it. Clark and Zod, who has all the same powers as Superman, engage in enough epic dust ups to leave three quarters of Smallville and half of Metropolis in rubble.

Jenny is the new Jimmy in the Warner Bros. film Man of Steel 2013

Dear Superman,
Is it too much to ask that there be some world left after you’ve saved it?
– Love the Citizens of Metropolis

I would have enjoyed the fighting more if director Zack Snyder hadn’t chosen to do so much fast cutting and shaky-cam work. As it was, I could barely tell what was going on and I was developing quite the headache. I’ve been on roller coasters that affected me less. I saw it in 2D (because I’m an old fuddy-duddy) so I can only imagine how much worse it must have been in three dimensions.

Superman in the Warner Bros. film Man of Steel 2013

SUPERMAN: I’m breaking the sound barrier!
ME: I’m having a seizure!

But the alien technology was really cool and original (particularly liked the gravity weapons and the pin-based 3D displays), Henry Cavill looked and acted terrific as Superman (they ditched the red underpants and yellow belt so even his costume looks more badass) and even after the movie was over my brain didn’t turn up any really obvious plot holes, so I declare it a success. I really enjoyed Man of Steel, both while I was watching it and in retrospect. It doesn’t supplant my undying affection for Dean Cain and his campy TV show, but I look forward to the sequel nonetheless.

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