Before we talk about Man of Steel the movie, I’d first like to talk about Man of Steel the trailer. This trailer is amazing. It promised a Superman movie that was serious without being dark for dark’s sake, an action packed epic that’s thoughtful and hopeful.
Man of Steel is not like that trailer. The pacing is totally off, it’s five different genres smushed into one movie, the tone is all over the place, and I can’t remember the last time I was this disappointed by a movie.
It seems like the entire plot of Man of Steel takes place over the course of one afternoon, not counting a couple flashbacks. Superman learns how to fly, the world learns aliens exist, Superman goes public and then the Kryptonian aliens destroy a city before being stopped in the span of what appears to be maybe 14 hours. None of these things are really treated as a being a big deal. The movie doesn’t give anything time to breathe once the plot involving the bad guy, an admittedly delightful Michael Shannon as General Zod, gets into motion. Nothing gets a chance to feel as epic or important as it should because of how fast everything seems to be moving.
Superman himself seems way less important in this movie than the fact that a dozen or so super powered aliens a) exist and b) just destroyed most of a major American city, killed thousands of people, and almost destroyed the world. Superman’s origin story gets lost in the scope of the surrounding events. It’s an alien invasion flick that happens to feature Superman. Granted, he plays an important part in the invasion, but tonally the movie feels less like the rise of Superman and more like the arrival and defeat of General Zod.
If you’re wondering how old Superman is in this movie, I have an answer. He’s 33. I know this because the film makes it very clear, pointing it out not just once, but twice, in case you missed it the first time. Do you know who else was 33? Jesus, when he died.
I mean, Jesus Christ there is a lot of Jesus Christ in this movie about a character created by two New York Jews. Superman stretching out his arms like he’s on the cross is pretty standard stuff by this point, but there’s a scene where he talks to a priest about whether he should sacrifice himself to save mankind with a giant stained-glass window of Jesus right behind him, clearly visible in every shot. At that point it’s not really subtext – it’s just text.
Superman’s Krytponian dad, Jor-El, is the God to Superman’s Jesus. Jor-El dies in the first ten minutes of the movie, but a computer simulation of his consciousness shows up later in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Data Jor-El isn’t really there, but he can control Kryptonian spaceships, and is more or less omnipotent and omniscient while aboard them. In Lois Lane’s time of need, the father of mankind’s savior saves her with mysterious powers despite not actually being there. Subtle.
I don’t understand why people who make Superman movies feel the need to insert the Jesus metaphor. It doesn’t make the movie any better or deeper, and while it doesn’t really make it worse so to speak, it’s just annoying. It’s noticeable in an “ugh, I see what they’re doing here” kind of way. The movie is so heavy-handed with the “Superman is Jesus” message that it distracts from telling a good story that’s actually about, you know, Superman.
All that said, Man of Steel isn’t terrible, though it certainly isn’t good. There are some decent aspects and good ideas amidst the myriad of problems. Mostly what this movie was is a disappointment. It could have been great. The ingredients were all there and perhaps I’m being overly harsh because I’m thinking of what this movie could have been could have been. I think that a sequel could still be great. There’s a lot of wasted potential that could be taken advantage of in a Man of Steel 2. They just need to hire the guy who cut that trailer to write and direct the whole thing.
Man of Steel: C
- Seriously, tens of thousands of people have to have died in the final battle, but the movie completely ignores that because, explosions! Also, the main characters are safe so who cares?
- Hans Zimmer’s score is amazing. Best part of the movie.
- There is a scene in the office of the Daily Planet where all the reporters are starring at a wall of TVs in the newsroom broadcasting General Zod’s arrival. Every TV is turned to CNN. This is not how newsrooms work. You have multiple TVs to watch multiple channels. It isn’t a Best Buy. But hey, that’s product placement for ya. (The scene immediately following this shot? Superman drinking a Budweiser.)
- I don’t quite understand Pa Kent’s characterization in this movie. He really wants to hide Superman’s powers, even in ridiculous circumstances, suggesting that maybe young Clark Kent should’ve let a buss full of his classmates drown instead of saving them and letting people know his secret. Anyways, I left the movie with the sense that if Clark were gay instead of a super-powered alien, Pa Kent might’ve wanted him to keep that hidden too.
- The entire movie is embarrassed to say the name “Superman.” It’s only said once over the course of the whole film and even then it’s as a joke. Why they do this is a complete mystery to me.
- Based on the trailer, the next Hobbit movie looks terrible too.