Here’s my snark-infested synopsis and review of Warner Brothers’ Man of Steel. If you want to avoid the bulk of the spoilers, just go the overview and analysis.
And don’t take the snark too seriously. Doesn’t mean I don’t like the film, it just helps me analyze my feelings about it.
I still remember the opening night of Superman Returns. It was a packed theater, anticipation piqued, and after a round of uninspired trailers it was almost showtime. Just as the audience silenced itself, a single voice, with all the slurred intelligence it could muster, belted out a
I remember the guy, a couple rows ahead of me. flabby enthusiasm pushed into a superman tee a few sizes too small. And I imagine him, after 2 1/2 hours of land schemes and henchmen, and the final scenes of creepy lullaby Superman sneaking in a little boy’s bedroom, leaving the theater, dazed and confused, whimpering like a castrated puppy
“But it’s Sooperman…”
I remember you, Tight T-Shirt Dude, I remember you, and more importantly, Zack Snyder remembers you. Your suffering was not in vain.
That’s right, Tight T-Shirt Dude, there’s a new movie in town.
Man of Steel was made for you.
Man of Steel starts on Krypton with Lara Zor-El in the throes of labor. A concerned Jor-El watches the inside of her womb on a metallic 3D display (which must’ve made Krypton gynecology a pure delight). Baby Kal-El is born, but Jor-El can’t be happy since he knows the world is about to end.
Jor-El heads to Krypton’s ruling counsel, and we see the first glimpses of the Krypton homeworld It’s a techno-organic marvel of foreboding spires and sparse landscapes. It’s quite beautiful. However, the people who live there are assholes. It’s not that Superdickery couldn’t have told you about the nature of Kryptonians already, but MoS’ version are a special kind. They’re a feckless, xenophobic, classist race who, for reasoning I can’t understand, decided to stop exploring the stars and its abundance of resources and strip mine their planet into submission. And god, are they melodramatic, a Tolstoy novel fitted with aluminum robes and skin-tight leather.
As I said, assholes. But at least they’re not assholes who procreate in the traditional sense. They grow their baby assholes underwater in birthing chambers taken right out of the Matrix.
But not Jor-El. Dude’s a real man, a virile sonuvabitch who made Lady Lara earn her motherhood the hard way. Baby Kal is the first of his kind in thousands of year: a child born out of love and not doomed to serve whims of predetermined genetics. He’s the symbol for a new Krypton.
Krypton’s short-sightedness is on full display, as Jor-El begs for his people to listen and of course they won’t. So it’s not really a sad moment when they all fall dead, a victim of a Coup d’Zod.
I could go on and on, but you can guess what happens: Zod asks Jor-El to join him, J-Dawg refuses, chaos ensues, Jor-El hightails it out on his pet dragonfly. Before Zod can stop him, Jor-El sends Kal up, up, and away. Zod kills Jor-El, gets captured, gets tried, yada yada yada phantom zone, sourpuss Lara, yada yada yada, planet go ka-boom! And all the while we’re left wondering how many Kryptonians could’ve been saved had they spent more time building spaceships and less time riding around on dumbass dragonflies.
The movie moves to the present-day, where Kal, now of course Clark, but not calling himself Clark (oh shut up, it’s not that complicated), works on a fishing rig while on a path of self-discovery. Because there’s no better place to find yourself than in close quarters in the middle of the ocean with men who smell like fish and pee. A nearby drilling platform erupts into flames, and Clark is the rescue, abs ablaze to the delight of my wife, saving the men and pretty much blowing his cover.
FLASHBACK! as elementary school Clark, unable to control his x-ray vision in class, gives us a glimpse of the pervert he’d become in Superman Returns. Little jerk. The world’s too big for him, he says. “Then let’s make it smaller,” Ma Kent responds, not realizing how hard that is when you can see everyone’s junk in your face.
Back to the present, we find Clark thieving some clothes as he prepares to move on and start over yet again. As he’s walking away, he see’s a school bus…
FLASHBACK! Even on Earth, Clark can’t escape the daddy-jerkface syndrome, as Pa Costner tells him the next time he thinks about saving little fatties on sinking buses, he should strongly reconsider. Angst! Guilt! Clark learns that he’s not human. Touching father/son moment…
Back to the present, Lois arrives at a military research encampment in the arctic, where Clark (who’s not calling himself Clark here, either…just shut up and go with it) just happens to work. What’s believed to be a marooned Russian sub is a portion of Kal’s crashed Kryptonian ship. Clark goes exploring and discovers his heritage through his father’s AI consciousness. Lois, of course, follows, and needs rescuing. Their meddling activates a homing beacon, and you can guess who’s going to soon be coming to dinner.
After Perry Black rejects Lois’ story, since it makes her sound like a stark-raving lunatic, Lois fails to take the hint and continues to dig. In all of, like, 20 minutes, Lois discovers her mystery man’s name is really Clark Ke…
FLASHBACK! Why dogs don’t mix with tornadoes! See Pa Jerkhole as he waves his son away and makes Clark watch him die.
Back to the present, and YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Zod’s ship arrives (see, he escaped the phantom zone because Krypton jails evidently can’t handle what’s the equivalent of an LA earthquake), and he demands the people of Earth release Kal-El into his custody. Clark consults a priest and poses before Christ, and they compare notes as to which one of their Daddys screwed them over worse. He decides to turn himself over to the military, where he proclaims himself Hope Dude and assures them he’s here to help. They ain’t buying that shit and hand him over to Zod.
To the delight of the male servicemen, Ursa arrives, clad in leather and spikes, and takes Clark and Lois away.
Continuity change! Krypton’s atmosphere weakens Clark the way Kryptonite used to.
Kryptonian mind meld! Forced Zodomy in your brain! Clark drowns in a sea of skulls…
Zod’s looking for a codex of Kryptonian DNA so he can bring Krypton to Earth. Jor-El, in his infinite wisdom, planted an even bigger target on his baby boy’s back by injecting the codex–the genetic codes of billions of possible Kryptonians–into his son’s DNA.
Thanks pop. Thanks a bunch.
Mind you, this is the same man who used his disdain for caste-based genetics to send his child–and only his–to another planet for safety and said a big fuck you to the other “tainted” babies. Yet he decides to save the tainted template and implant it in his son’s newborn scrotum. Kryptonian logic, people.
Yes, Clark, it’s safe to assume your fathers secretly hate you.
Speaking of Jor-El, it seems his AI has a side-job with Verizon, because he just appears, over and over and over, always looking over your shoulder, always watching. Yes, Lois, Jor-El sees you and he likes.
Clark escapes and fights ensue. So many fights it’s hard to keep count. By, my gawd, they’re awesome fights, resulting in the destruction of everything from gas stations to skyscrapers. Fortunately, by the glory of product placement a few building like Sears go untouched.
After Emil Hamilton somehow identifies the sexually rhythmic undulations of Zod’s machine as terraforming, Superman (yeah, he’s Superman now, I guess, thanks to on-the-spot branding by members of the US army) destroys it, sets off a Phantom Zone bomb, and gets rid of all the Kryptonians except Zod.
The last fight scene is as mesmerizing and violent as the first. Zod forces Superman’s hand and, in an moment that’ll be debated ad nauseum, Supes snaps the HELL out of Zod’s neck. As Superman screams at the agony of his decision, Lois soothes him, and they end up kissing in the sunset, seemingly oblivious that an entire city lies in ruin behind them.
Yeah, Superman’s new to this.
So Earth is saved and has a new hero, although for some reason the Army tries to use multi-million dollar drones to do what Lois was able to with a bus ticket and a few scraps of newspaper.
The movie ends on a uplifting note, as we meet the Daily Planet’s newest intern: nerdy looking yet strikingly gorgeous Clark Kent.
Don’t let the snark fool you: this is a good movie.
Man of Steel is unlike any other Superman movie we’ve seen to date. If you’re hoping for an interaction of Donner’s Superman, Morrison’s Superman, the 30s Superman, or even the Nu52 Superman, you’ll be sorely disappointed and probably a bit pissed. Snyder and Nolan build this Superman from the ground up (as the annoying commentary that preceded my showing made sure to point out), carefully planting lifelong issues for the character to deal with, all the way from inception to the present day.
And this Clark Kent has a lot of issues. There’s no examination of nature vs. nurture: it’s clear they’re both to blame. Jor-El burdens Kal with the weight of two worlds, tasking him with the physical and metaphorical legacy of the dead Kryptonian race, and the protection and elevation of the human race. Pa Kent is even worse, scolding Clark for showing any signs of his physical gifts, raising him to be a good man but not letting him use the tools to do so.
This Clark isn’t born Superman. He’s not even Superman when he puts on the suit. He’s a withdrawn, insulated shell who’s spent his entire life running from what he is until, one day, he’s suddenly told not to. It’s a jarring experience for the character and a progression for the moviegoer that’s not shown in the most elegant of manners. But by the end of the evolution, we see the Clark we know and love, finally at ease with himself and ready to change the world.
The rest of the main characters serve a purpose. While the actions of his fathers force Clark into a lonely isolation that makes the world somewhat bearable, Clark’s introduction to Lois serves to do the opposite. There’s someone he can confide in. He can finally breathe.
Lois is written with the appropriate amount of attitude and, more importantly, smarts. This isn’t the Pulitzer-for-ditziness version of the past, the Lois actually seems like a journalist. It doesn’t take her long to track her mystery savior, and when she does, she knows what to do with the information.
Jor-El and Pa Kent are, as I’ve said, jerkfaces, but well-meaning ones: Jor-El because of the inadvertent dangers he creates for Clark and Pa Kent because, well, he’s Kevin Costner. Seriously, if you’ve seen any trailer, you get the gist of his character. He wants the best for Clark, but he burdens his son with more guilt than even a Superman can manage. If there’s a huge weakness in Clark’s character, it’s that for most of the movie he’s driven by the ideas of his fathers than his own conscious.
Zod and his Kryptonian army serve as the appropriate foils for a rebooted franchise. There’s nothing extraordinary about his character other than his raw power, nothing special about his his villainy than its scope. The most depth the character shows is at his bitter end, when he forces Superman’s hand and we see the lengths he’ll go to avenge the extinction of his people.
While Perry isn’t a major character, he’s what you’d expect, while Jenny Olsen isn’t on-screen long enough to judge.
The plot is nothing special, but it’s serviceable for a reboot. The script is average. But there’s no confusion when it comes to motivations and how one event connects to another. WB played it safe, and who can blame them. Man of Steel does big and dumb as well as it can be done. While movies like The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and The Avengers elevated its movie genre, Man of Steel maintains a safe medium.
As far as wit and charm: you’re not gong to crack many smiles the first 25 minutes. Yes, it’s dour. I mean, if you were to put a rainbow on Krypton I’m sure it would be upside down. There are plenty of missed opportunities for humor a franchise like Iron Man would knock out of the park. But is this a dark movie? No. And Superman sure as hell isn’t gritty. The mood dramatically lightens once Lois is introduced and the star character can embrace who he really is.
This isn’t a cold film by any stretch, but it’s not as welcoming for long-time fans as a reboot could be.
Snyder gives the movie a nice sci-fi horror flair for a good portion of the film, which gradually gives way to a character study, which gradually gives way to hard-core action. There’s a fractured feel to the movie as it seems to move from scene to scene in the early parts. It’s doesn’t destroy the cohesion of the film, but it’s…
FLASHBACK! Yeah, the goddamn flashbacks can be annoying, but it serves the narrative, and the transitions are pretty seamless.
Henry Cavill is a good Superman, able to convey Clark’s conflicted nature. Physically, he’s perfect. With a rigid jawline and razor-sharp abs that seemingly cut through shirts, he provides a diversity of sexism most superhero movies fail to match. If Snyder’s Watchmen had blue dong, Cavill gives the director a chance to showcase Big Blue Bulge. By the end, Cavill emotes a Clark that’s fully evolved, ready to embrace the world and take it by storm.
Amy Adams is a talented actress and brings her own flair to Lois. As said earlier, she plays the character smart, with verve aplenty, and is nobody’s fool
The rest of the cast, specifically Kevin Costner, play their parts the best they can. Michael Shannon is the only exception, as he seem restricted by the material, and Zod seems wasted as a result.
Breathtaking. The action sequences are easily the best of any superhero movie ever. It’s visceral and at times brutal, and some sequences look like they were lifted directly from Mortal Kombat (in a good way).
Superman punches. And punches. And punches. He punches men, he punches women, and if you were too close to the screen I’m sure he’d punch you too.
As far as the action being too long or monotonous…if you’re an action/superhero movie fan and find that flaw, you probably should stop watching action movies altogether and relax with a nice evening of merlot and chemical castration.
Hans Zimmer’s score is, as always, exemplary. For the most part the movie takes advantage of it, even if there are moments the score seemed weirdly out of place. The music for the small moments are great, but after a certain point in the movie the small moments disappeared, rendering the music useless.
What Man of Steel is
A fresh introduction to the Superman mythos with breathtaking action to easily make it worth the price of admission.
What Man of Steel isn’t
A movie about any Superman we’ve come to know. This is a Superman built specifically for the big-screen, with an actor with shoulders broad enough to carry the fortunes of the DC Movieverse.
What Man of Steel means for a DC Movieverse
Its box office success means everything, and if my local theater is an indication, it WILL be a success. The theater was packed and there was applause at the end. Being the idiots that we are, we waited for an after-credit scene that never came, but the fact almost everyone was willing to do so says a lot.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Not as good as the the Nolan Batman movies, The Avengers, or the first Iron Man, and on a level just above the original Spiderman and X1. However, the action sequences set it apart.