Some Brief Thoughts on ‘Man of Steel’

I got to see Man of Steel early last night. I’m not writing a review since Movie Mezzanine’s own Kevin Ketchum just wrote a very positive one on the site. That being said, I have a lot to say on the film, and I want to get those thoughts out for anyone thinking about seeing it. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything since, obviously, the general public hasn’t been given the chance to see it yet. Without further ado: Here are my thoughts IN BULLET POINT FORM OMG!

  • Zack Snyder knows how to shoot a god damn action scene. The camera swoops and glides along with Superman in a smooth, always-comprehensible fashion that makes every single action sequence soar. And Snyder isn’t afraid to let things get seriously crazy either. He takes full advantage of the Kryptonians’ powers. Their super strength, their flight capabilities, the heat vision, etc. No freeze-breath, though, but that’s not a major omission. All in all, you won’t find better action the entire summer, and I doubt anything else can top this in that department.
  • The world-building is insanely cool. I didn’t realize that until I was really thinking on it, but damn is it call. Screenwriter David S. Goyer made some changes to the planet, lore, and mythology of Krypton, but they all feel like more interesting changes. I’m not gonna give away those changes, but there’s lots of cool stuff to both look at and think about. There’s some surprisingly heady sci-fi material in the world-building.
  • Henry Cavill is pretty damn perfect as Superman. He’s got the look, the hair, the physique, everything. That, plus he isn’t as cheesy as Christopher Reeves’s take on the character, who was saving cats from trees and winking at the camera (and even he was pretty damn perfect as Superman). The best part about Cavill’s performance is that he can bring in some really emotional scenes as well, lending his presence a weightiness that I continually appreciated.
  • The main thing that holds back Man of Steel from greatness, however, is its structure. Told non-linearly with pseudo-Malick-esque flashbacks to Clark’s childhood, it makes all of the origin story stuff feel skimped on, like they wanted to get all of that stuff out of the way so they can get to the action, which is a big missed opportunity because that human side of Clark and his familiar ties are what make him so likable. Kevin Costner isn’t in the film nearly enough, which is a shame since he’s simply terrific as Pa Kent, while everything in between the origin stuff and Clark becoming Superman feels rushed as well. The fisherman subplot in particular is hardly given any screentime. Told non-linearly, there’s not as much of a dramatic momentum and flow as there could’ve been.
  • The other main problem with the structure is that it feels like the film’s final action climax takes up half of the film. I didn’t mind too much in the sense that the action is fantastic, but I minded in the fact that we could’ve gotten more of Clark’s backstory. Perhaps the screenwriters were aware that everyone knows the story of how Clark became Superman and wanted to go directly to Superman doing Superman-y things. Which makes sense, but considering I still really love Clark’s backstory, I would’ve loved to have seen more focus on that stuff. It’s weird for me to ask that a film be longer considering it’s already at 2 hours and 28 minutes, but c’mon guys, it’s freaking Superman! Give him his full due!
  • There is no Zack Snyder-esque slo-mo or speed-ramps or anything. Even the CG feels less stylized than his previous works. It’s very clear that Man of Steel was inspired by Terrence Malick’s later works, specifically the Emmanuel Lubezki shot films The New World, The Tree of Life, and To the Wonder. Whenever the film is focusing on smaller scenes, it’s shot very naturally, with some slight handheld camera movements. It’s a visually flawless film, and there’s no slow-motion to distract from it either.
  • Michael Shannon is terrific as Zod. That goes without saying since Shannon is terrific in, well, everything. But the thing I appreciated the most was Zod’s evil plan, which was fascinating and felt thematically right with this world and this character. I’m not gonna reveal what it is since it’s revealed pretty elegantly in the film, but it was one of the more thought-provoking elements of the film in terms of how it commented on Superman as a figure and a character.
  • Hans Zimmer’s score is terrific. It doesn’t ape John Williams classic theme while also evoking that same majestic, optimistic feeling. Simply fantastic music on all fronts.
  • There was a scene near the end that had my jaw on the floor. You’ll know it when you see it.
  • Anyone complaining this is nothing like old Superman has a serious lack of vision. Regardless of how much it has in common with the comics, or the original Richard Donner film, or the animated series, or whatever, you should realize that this is Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan’s own original vision and it should be respected. And even then, I felt that the changes were both interesting and a natural evolution of the mythos.
  • CONCLUSION: The more I think about Man of Steel, the more I find myself liking it. Everything just grows on you really well, which is the exact opposite of how I felt with The Dark Knight Rises, which started to fall apart upon further introspection. It’s surprisingly commentative on the Superman myth, each of the performances are fantastic, the changes they bring to the lore felt very well done, there are a few surprisingly heady sci-fi elements in the background for you to ponder over, and the action is just bloody terrific. Could’ve been better, of course, but I’d say that this iteration was a success, and worthy of being part of this franchise.


Filed under cineffect, film, movie, review

2 responses to “Some Brief Thoughts on ‘Man of Steel’

  1. andyzach

    Thanks for your thoughts! I’m pumped to see it tonight.

  2. Nice review Chris. It could have been better in many ways, but was fine with what it was and where it ended up.

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