Matt did a nice review of Man of Steel back when it first came out a while back. I finally had a chance to see the movie the other day, so I’ll be talking about it on the podcast that will air on the 29th. But, I wanted to put a few thoughts out there, as I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie, especially in the wake of seeing Pacific Rim days before Man of Steel.
I will be spoiling the heck out of the movie, so stop here if you care about that.
Overall, I enjoyed Man of Steel, and there are some genuinely great moments that I took away from the movie. Most of these were from the brief flashbacks we get of Clark growing up.
Like the scene where Clark starts manifesting his powers in the classroom and Martha has to come coax him out of a broom closet at school. When he looked at her and asked “What’s wrong with me?” I cried. As a parent, that cuts you deep, and Diane Lane nailed that scene (she was also my favorite performance in the movie by far).
But my main problem with Man of Steel is that those character moments I spoke of were way too few and far between. This was a grim movie from start to finish, and for me, that just does not match up with my understanding of Superman/Clark Kent as a character.
Outside of the first time he truly flies and then when he sees his mom at the end of the film, I cannot think of any other times that Clark smiles in this movie. His entire life has been about hiding who he is.
The idea that Jonathan Kent would make Clark watch him die, and that Clark would actually listen fundamentally broke this movie for me. I get what Snyder and company were trying to do, but it’s not the Superman I know. And it made me sad that with the exception of that final scene where Jonathan is watching Clark, every other scene with Jonathan Kent is just him telling Clark to hide who he is. It was a bummer.
The second issue I had with the film has been talked about to death already, and it’s a twofold issue--the collateral deaths Clark allows and his decision to kill Zod.
First, the collateral damage. It’s not just that thousands of people die in the destruction caused by Clark fighting Zod. It’s that those deaths don’t even register for Clark. Kevin Smith actually Tweeted something that perfectly encapsulates how I felt:
Watched AVENGERS again. Banner wakes after the Hulk falls through a roof and immediately asks if he's hurt anybody. Take note, MAN OF STEEL.
As far as killing Zod, it’s inexcusable to me. Find another way to tell your story. What was worse about it was that outside of the immediate regret Clark has, the epilogue of the movie shows him having completely gotten over it. There’s no shame in it for him. He talks about wanting his dad to see who he’s become. Would Jonathan really want to see that Clark had become a murderer? Maybe Jonathan would feel guilty that he spent so many years holding Clark back that Clark was completely unprepared for life or death situations and handled the Kryptonian invasion in the worst way he possibly could have--by allowing tons of innocent people to die and then resorting to murder.
And that’s the real bummer for me. I feel like one of the main themes of the movie is that Jonathan Kent was a terrible dad who didn't prepare his son for what he might face down the road. His main message to Clark was “Someday you’ll figure it out, but that day isn't today.”
As an action movie, I thought Man of Steel was great. As a Superman movie, I thought it really missed the mark. The good news is that the movie ends on an up note, and there’s no reason the next movie couldn't establish a much more optimistic tone and recapture some of the humor, whimsy and hope that embody the Superman I grew up with.