How do you make a movie about the world's greatest superhero? Do you tell a thrilling rollercoaster ride filled with action and cinema spectacle? Or do you create a personal story about a man who is more human inside than alien? Zack Snyder tries to tell both with good results, but not results great enough for Superman.
This is a SPOILER REVIEW!
Man of Steel makes for some great eye candy, but at two and a half hours, the film doesn't make any headway. Now, this is a literal origin story. For half an hour, we are on Krypton, watching Kal-El get born and Jor-El die. We witness General Zod stage a coup and lose. Strangely these sequences feels like something written by an environmental activist. Krypton is falling apart because the Kryptonians have used up all resources on the planet. It is only a matter of time until Krypton destroys itself. Jor-El feels that there is hope in Kal-El, who has been the first natural birth in hundreds of years. I did enjoy my time on Krypton. Every character played their parts amazingly. But, the literal origin story of Kal-El threw me off. In a two and a half hour movie that has bad pacing issues, the director could have found ways to get through the half hour Krypton seen faster.
After Jor-El sends Kal-El off to Earth the movie goes into horrible pacing issues. This is the worst part of the film. We skip back and forth between young Clark Kent and older Clark Kent as they both struggle to find a place in their society and use their powers. Funny enough, it seems that David Goyer almost took the script of Batman Begins and then saw what he was doing and tried changing it around. Many scenes during the films bad paced middle felt like scenes we saw when Bruce Wayne was searching for who he was in Asia. This time, there wasn't Liam Neeson to give us some great expository dialogue.
We then receive welcome to Amy Adams and the crew of the Daily Planet. Adams's Lois Lane comes to Canada with, apparently, the United States military and starts to snoop around a glacier where something has been buried for many years. Long behold, without any exposition, Clark Kent has arrived and found what has been buried; a Kryptonian ship. From here until the end, the film loses most of its pacing issues.
After flying off in the ship and gaining his cape and tights, the film is mostly action packed till the very end. General Zod arrives on Earth and requests the humans to hand over Kal-El. This makes for some witty dialogue between Clark and the United States military. But, once Clark arrives on General Zod's ship, Clark discovers gritty truths and agonizing pain. This was another gripe with the film. Zack Snyder spoke about how the real "kryptonite" of the film would be Kal-El's inner demons. In reality, the "kryptonite" of the film was the atmosphere of Krypton. Kal-El has lived on Earth so long that he has become accustomed to the atmosphere. Once he arrives on General Zod's ship, the atmosphere is different, much like Krypton, and Kal-El is weak and powerless. For reasons still unknown, General Zod invites Lois Lane onto the ship. For more reasons unknown, Lois Lane is bearing the burden to save Kal-El from danger. So, what does Lois Lane do? Awesome feministic stuff that allows the audience to see how powerful Lois Lane is as a woman. This is the jest of the scene, no more and no less. Is it bad for the movie to do this? No, but it is not good when the film doesn't need it. And during every scene with Lois Lane and Kal-El, it seems that the audience must feel something right off the bat, but the relationship never develops properly. The film goes from Lois Lane and Kal-El seeing each other once, to them having a very strong connection and possibly already being in love with each other. Or, at least Lois loving Kal-El, because Henry Cavill is an amazing incarnation of the caped superhero.
After General Zod's ship, there is non-stop action. Kal-El must fight Zod's minions while gaining the trust of the military and save citizens. This comes with some nice dialogue and some really cheesy dialogue. Throughout the action the audience gets little easter eggs spread throughout, i.e. Smallville water tower, Lexcorp tanker truck, Wayne Enterprise satellite.
Near the end of all the action, we see the best scene in the film. General Zod decides to try and fry a couple humans in Grand Central with Kal-El holding the general. When great hesitation and sadness, Kal-El kills General Zod. It is one of the best scenes in the film, almost. Adams's Lois Lane shows up for no plausible reason to watch this. After the action, the film slows down to the conclusion that Clark Kent is heading to the Daily Planet to get a job and enjoy his time on Earth with Lois Lane.
Sadly, this movie suffers from blockbuster syndrome. It also suffers from Zack Snyderome. Zack Snyder creates amazing action sequences, but seems to ignore most of the emotional set ups. We look back at many films of his and think, do we really feel anything for some of these characters? In Sucker Punch, I didn't. In 300, I didn't. In most of this film, I didn't. Certain characters had great moments, like the beginning with Jor-El, the middle with Pa Kent, and the end with General Zod. But, the romance between Kal-El and Lois Lane wasn't there. It also seemed that near the end of every action sequence, I felt overwhelmed. Each action sequence felt stacked on top of the other. I felt that I was just watching useless action sequence after useless action sequence, even if it was awesome action between Kal-El and whoever he was fighting. It also seemed that Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan created a great bond with each other to the point that Christopher Nolan would come in to the production, nod his head and leave. Sure, Christopher Nolan helped produce the film, but there wasn't really any Christopher Nolan-esque bits, scenes, and clear ideas in the film. It felt like a Snyder-fest all the way.
The actors all played their parts as best as they could with the script and scenes given. Henry Cavill killed it as the modern incarnation of Superman. Kevin Costner to me was an amazing Pa Kent. As so, was Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Lois Lane and Michael Shannon played their parts well, but the person who really stood out to me was Antje Traue who played Faora, General Zod's right hand assistant. Faora was the most ferocious female villain I've seen in a long time.
This film had much to go off of and much to live up to. Every fanboy wants a different interpretation of Superman. I would have enjoyed a much more emotional, lost-in-the-world Superman that I thought I was going to get. Other fanboys would have wanted the action-fest they received here. Was the film great? It is all based on your interpretation of what you wanted out of a Superman film.
Major Achievements: Great characters and the actors who played them; good action sequences
Major Faults: Many major character relationships felt rushed; overuse of action sequences; poor script during some scenes