I feel like somewhere here there was a great movie waiting to happen. That’s not to immediately say that Man of Steel is bad, but I do very much feel that it could have been quite a bit better than it is. There are a lot of things to like here but the film is hampered by its writing, both in terms of dialogue and pacing.
Should you see it? Yeah, it’s fucking gorgeous to watch. Will you enjoy it? I’m not really sure, and here’s why.
Superman is a difficult character to write. He’s already the exemplar for good in our society and usually by the time he makes his appearance in whatever origin story you’e watching he’s already a complete character and as such the best way to build a story is to people reacting to him. The original Richard Donner Superman movie did this very well. This time around however in an attempt to give him an arc the full first act alternates from the present to Clark’s childhood and the competing desires of his fathers to be that ideal for the world to strive toward (as per Jor-El) and to keep himself hidden because the world will likely be afraid of him (as per Jonathan). Clark spends the entirety of this time moody and withdrawn basically not making that choice until Zod shows up and he’s basically forced into becoming Superman.
I really like this approach. It’s not 100% superman but it’s new and different without being too different and it really works for me because if Superman did show up people would likely be afraid of him. The problem is that the dialogue is terrible. Both Jor-El and Jonathan drone on and on and on about their respective philosophies for Clark, and while it’s expected that they are going to have the same message throughout they actually end up straight up repeating themselves. There’s only so many times I have hear a guy say “whatever you decide to be you’ll change the world” before I’m going to start groaning audibly.
This isn’t the only instance of repetition either, Jor-El tells Clark that the his body will “drink of the yellow sun’s radiation a whole bunch of times.
That is to say that the dialogue ispretty crap. There is no implying in this movie, in many instances the characters basically “these are the emotions i am feeling and this is why i am feeling them!”
Further still, the pacing is all over the map. Snyder has managed to make almost every scene look great and Cavill has enough charisma to make you like them, but the leaps from one scene to the next are often jarring; case in point if you can get past the lack of chemistry between Cavill and Adams when they get together it just doesn’t seem like it’s there except maybe to be another thing off the checklist. I didn’t believe for a second the things they’d been through would lead to anything other than decent coworkers.
So basically while I think that Christopher Nolan’s story idea is pretty cool, the script he and David S Goyer wrote is pretty terrible.
Cavill is pretty great, he looks the part and once he puts on the suit and becomes Superman he’s got the charisma and the talent to play the part. Adams similarly is great as Lois Lane, and I do really dig how she’s meant ot be a more active part of the story, but their chemistry is non-existent despite otherwise decent performances from each of them. The rest of the cast all have their moments. Russell Crowe plays a good Jor-El (and quite a different one from the comics) and most of the rst of the supporting cast, in particula Christopher Meloni and Richard Schiff as the on the ground military leader and the scientist respectively.
Truly though, the MVP award for this one goes to Michael Shannon. He’s an amazing character actor and it’s kind of awesome to see him being able go balls to the walls crazy as a big budget villain. Zod is crazy, sure, but Shannon brings a lot of nuance to the character which is quite welcome.
Where the film really shines is in the look and feel. Snyder has a flair for visual style and this one it’s certainly more subdued than most of his previous efforts, but he’s settled on a look that feels appropriate to all the locations, and remember that includes both the arctic and another planet as well as rural Kansas.
The action scenes are well crafted as well. I have a problem with Superman fighting other Kryptonians –in as much that people who can’t get hurt trying to hurt one another can tend to be pretty boring– but the big final battle between Superman and Zod is fantastic and manages to play out in ways I didn’t expect.
So is it a great movie? No, unfortunately not. It is however very good. Despite the bits that don’t work, the bits that do work work very well indeed.
Rating = 7 / 10