Man of Steel (2013)

Man of SteelThis review will contain minor spoilers, and hint towards larger ones that any critical thinker could probably deduce.  Consider yourself warned.

 Man of Steel is the story of an alien, raised on Earth, to be the best person he can be.  But when his own kind come looking for him, he’s got to finally put his trust in the hands of weaker–almost to the point of uselessness–former enemies.  Willing to sacrifice everything he believes in for the people of Earth, this alien must triumph over evil.  But at what cost?

In short, Man of Steel is the best episode of Dragonball Z I’ve ever seen.

Sorry, kids of the 90s, that’s not high praise.  A great Superman story should never be able to be compared to DBZ.  At best, DBZ should be seen as taking the simpler, more basic story elements of Superman and adding several hits of acid with a side of cheddar.

Oh, let’s say some good stuff before I start getting mad.  This is the best action superhero movie I’ve seen since The Avengers.  On an action movie level, it may even be better than The Avengers.  When stuff was ‘sploding on screen, the visceral FUCKYEAH reactions I was having were fantastic.

For probably the first half of the movie, they had me.  They had me good.  They were balancing the need to tell a story against the need to see things blow up.  Character was shown through on screen actions and acting.  Everyone on screen in this movie, I felt, brought their A-Game.

For, I don’t know, 45 minutes at least… I believed that a man could fly enjoy a Superman movie on every conceivable level.  They got his passion for doing the right thing.  They got his love for his family, and his desire to discover who or what he was.  They got it through their heads that a comic book movie needs a steady pace of action.

Then they save the fucking dog and they throw it all away.

I can’t stand dog-saving in my action movies.  Every mindless action movie from the mid-late 90s had a dog saving scene.  The trend hasn’t really gone away.  So throwing in a dog-saving scene stops any momentum a movie has with me.  But to then add in a huge character defining moment… one that would forever alter the Superman of this film universe’s life… and have Supes act 100% completely out of character…  and hinge it on the save the dog scene.  I just don’t know how to express what a huge disappointment that was.  Man…  I’m getting mad again just thinking about it.  It was stupid, bad, awful, lazy story telling that had no business in any movie, much less a Superman one.

But, I let that go as quickly as I could.  Shortly after that is when General Zod shows up on Earth, and things pick up the pace again.  But the damage had been done.  The lazy story telling was starting to peek through more and more.  I couldn’t enjoy the suspenseful build up towards an action sequence… because apparently atmospheric pressure has replaced kryptonite.

On the subject of action sequences… holy hell.  They were amazing.   The pacing of this movie is fantastic, and the action scenes are crafted masterfully.  In the beginning, you don’t even really need to have your brain turned off.  The action and storytelling are that well done.   Absolutely amazing.

One of the chief complaints about the last film was that there was little to no action.  It was the top complaint of many a moviegoer.  Well, that cry was heard loud and clear.  But that’s the problem sometimes when you only notice the complaints about one flaw.  You forget to fill in the other details that people want out of your product.

Once the film gets going there’s a definite need to turn off your brain.  The collateral damage of Superman’s fights puts every other superhero movie to shame.  Which is awesome to see… but not to think about.  Not once, that I noticed, does Supes worry about collateral damage.  Not once.  He casually floats down to the ground holding Lois dreamily in his arms… while fucking debris crashes down on the cityscape around him.  Sorry, citizens.  No time to catch that shit… I’m wearing my Fuck Me Eyes.  He hops over a B-train of Lexcorp tanker trucks casually… letting it just explode in the storefront behind him.  Fuck that guy and his store.  He was probably an embedded terrorist.

What the fuck, Supes?  It’s asshole stunts like that that inspired The Incredibles.  If the real Supes was to think about all the people who must’ve died thanks to him tossing Zod, Ursa and Non (was that the underlings names this time aroung?  I don’t know) through building after tanker truck after subway… he’d pull a Dr. Manhattan and blink off to Mars or something.

But still… I managed to get my brain turned off in time… And that was some cool shit to watch.  I almost forgot about saving the dog.  There’s flying and jumping and punching and double overhand axehandle smashes and explosions and laservision galore.  There’s even more product placement in the Ursa & Non street fight than last time.  Hilarious. FUCKYEAH moments everywhere.

So I kept my brain turned off for all the fighting, and the weaknesses that apppeared out of thin air, (literally, ’cause of the atmosphere or something) and the wanton destruction, and the Buck O’Five ‘Murican soldiers, and I enjoyed the ride as best I could… all the way up to the very end.  But… despite all it’s amazing powers, there was one flaw that beat me.  Maybe it was destiny.  How sad.

The ending of this movie was as close to a Mass Effect 3-level failing as I think I’ll ever experience in a theatre.  Say what you want about it.  Say it happened that way before.  I don’t care.  I understand where you’re coming from.  But that’s how I feel.  Mass Effect 3′s ending ruined the entire trilogy for me.  I was disappointed by the Mandarin, but not enough to ruin the movie.  I was disappointed by pretty much everything in Star Trek Into Darkness, but not enough to ruin the movie.

The ending of Man of Steel practically ruins the entire movie for me.  The flaws I’ve been mentioning have mostly come to me as I think back to the movie.  I find as time goes on, I’m remembering less and less of the visceral FUCKYEAH moments, and more and more of the flaws.  When this movie started, for a very large portion of it, I thought I was finally going to see a fantastic Superman movie.  One that nailed it on every level.  It started so strong.

If I was going to rank my experience watching a mindless comic book movie… this would easily be 5/5.  If only I could get over the really, in my lowly opinion, catastrophicly poor story decisions.  Or even if it hadn’t started out of the gate seeming like they got it.  Maybe then it wouldn’t bother me so much.  I can’t on good conscience give it anything better than


21 comments on “Man of Steel (2013)

  1. Good review. While I wouldn’t say I was terribly upset with this one, I still couldn’t help but think that maybe there was more to it than could have been done in order to actually help the flick work more than just a superhero movie. That said, it was a pretty good movie nonetheless, just a bit stupid and over-the-top by the end.

    • Thanks.

      I really think they focused too hard on making sure the pacing and action was just right, and not enough thought went into anything else. The actors were fantastic, and nailed what they had to work with… but story-wise it was an epic failure.

  2. Agreed – the save the dog scene was terrible. I had a lot of problems with it, mainly that I think Nolan/Goyer/Snyder just did it to give Superman that parental guilt that Batman has 🙄 Not a movie wrecker for me.

    Agreed – the action is awesome.

    Disagreed – you don’t need to turn off your brain for this movie. It’s not THAT bad in terms of egregious plot holes, dumb character decisions, etc.

    LOL @ him gently carrying Lois while the city gets destroyed. 😀 Funny

    I had problems with the ending, as well. BIG problems. I definitely didn’t like it. Surprisingly though, it didn’t bother a lot of people.

    At the end of the day, this isn’t a movie I love, but if I were being objective about it it was still pretty good.

    • If it weren’t for the back and forth on whether or not Kryptonians derive their powers from being raised in the sun, versus exposure to the sun, I would have been okay. But when it started to boil down to the atmospheric pressure becoming kryptonite, or reverse kryptonite… Fuck no. Nope. No. Between that and Supes’ wanton destruction, my brain had to go off.

      I can see why many wouldn’t have a problem with the end… because, like I kinda mentioned… he’s done it before. Repeatedly. To the same character. 3/5 encounters that I’m aware of end with the same result in one manner or another. I don’t agree there either… but it is what it is. Oh well. Maybe next time.

  3. The atmosphere thing I actually liked just a little bit (it was composition, not pressure) since it ties in with the pseudo-science of the yellow sun and Earth’s gravity, but I can definitely agree that the way it was used, it was an unnecessary element. Like we didn’t all know that Zod was going to adapt to it eventually anyway, right?

    Agreed about the dog scene. That whole thing kind of exemplified my problems with how they treated Jonathan Kent through the whole thing. Pa Kent would never have placed Clark’s secret above somebody’s life. Maybe his own, but even that’s unlikely since he would have been aware of how devastating it would be to his family.

    And yeah, as we’ve discussed, I wasn’t fond of “that moment” either. I’m… adjusting to it as interviews with Goyer & Snyder indicate that it’ll be the basis for him establishing that aspect of his moral code, but it’s still a bit tough for an old fan to take.

    • Whether it was composition or pressure or the presence of Argon makes no difference. It’s a poor choice. Whatever it was, when he left the Earth’s atmosphere testing his powers he would have lost his powers and popped. Terrible choice regardless, but an even more terrible explanation and presentation.

      I’m glad you’re adjusting based on the team’s interviews. Despite what I ever think of a movie, I’m always glad to hear people enjoyed it on as many levels as they’re able. I’ve defended dozens of shitty movies to people that hated them, and I’ll probably defend dozens more. It’s always about how much you get out of them as an individual, and not what anyone else thinks.

      The stuff I’ve read hasn’t justified the decisions, but I get where they were coming from. I still vehemently disagree with every story choice that was made.

      It’s odd. I feel like if the presentation and execution of the thematic changes had been better done, made more sense, or something, I’d be okay with it. This wasn’t the first time Supes made that decision in regards to that character. But we’re presented this picture of how restrained and controlled he’s been all his life, and now he can’t even try to be? Supes doesn’t need an Uncle Ben or Bucky moment to be Superman. He should be taught his values from Ma & Pa Kent. Instead, everything that Pa teaches him, tells him, instructs him on… is outright wrong, and he needs to make uncharacteristic mistakes to learn lessons, like he’s a 16 year old Spider-Man. Nope. I don’t like it.

      But they wanted The Blue Knight Rises… and they gave us The Blue Knight Rises… It was a pale imitation of a half a dozen other things (DBZ, Superman 2, The Superman persona, Batman, Spider-man, and more).

      Fantastic action movie, though.

      • Good point about leaving the atmosphere… guess I had my brain off enough to miss that. 🙂

        You’re absolutely right about how he should be taught his values from Ma and Pa Kent, and how this movie didn’t handle that well. Frankly, I prefer the 80s/90s version of the story (Lois & Clark, the comics) where Pa Kent is still alive, because it gives Clark that touchstone to go back to when he is in doubt.

        The “Blue Knight Rises” label is pretty good too. I don’t think the DBZ comparison is fair, though — it’s not Superman’s fault that DBZ is essentially “Japanese Superman” in story. It’s a little like calling Batman a less-violent Punisher. 😛

  4. Yeah, the dog scene didn’t kill the movie for me, but Chrissy and I were joking about it in the car on the way home. Like CO, I don’t mind Pa Kent being alive in the comics, having your whole planet blow up is enough of a tragic touchstone for anyone.

    I was listening to Fogs and Tank yesterday discussing if the action was “too much action”, and I knew I had a problem with it but couldn’t put my finger on it. Reading your review helped me figure it out. It’s not too much action, it’s too much destruction.

    I read this morning an article that some science/insurance geeks computed what the real-world cost would be if the destruction showed on-screen in MoS to Metropolis happened in a real city like Chicago. The answer was something like 200,000 dead, $2 trillion in damage. In short, it would be the equivilant as setting off a nuclear bomb in the middle of a major city. That’s precisely what bothered me about the last battle, not the action, but the gratutitous shots of buildings falling over. I guess maybe Nolan had some left over city destruction shots from Inception or something.

    • The dog scene itself didn’t kill to movie for me, it’s when it lost its momentum. I was on board with everything ’til that point. After that, no matter how much brain I got shut off, it was no longer a perfect movie for me. I was seeing flaw after flaw, until, ultimately in the end… well… you know.

      I could’ve been okay with the destruction. Here’s my problem. Supes is an active part of it. He doesn’t try to minimize it at all. They say this (and the ending) were choices made so that he can decide he needs to do better in the next movie.

      Well then, his final appearance shouldn’t be one of the two less than serious scenes in the entire movie.

      In all seriousness, Zod could have caused the destruction, and Supes could have tried his best to minimize it, and he could still be whatever Whiny-Emo-Man they want to make him in the next movie. “I should have tried harder, Lois!” as he tosses a pitchfork into the ground from the other side of a hayfield.

      But since he doesn’t try at all, they miss the point. Supes not trying to save innocents and stop the bad guy is like ending a Spider-man movie with Peter caught under a pile of rubble he can’t lift… until he starts thinking about Aunt May, and Mary Jane, and he tries harder… only to be crushed to death as more rubble falls on top of him.

      I know I don’t need to tell you this… but finding the way out of the Sadistic Choice is what Superman does.

      If he had’ve caught some rubble, stopped the Lexcorp truck and played “Guess who’s behind you” with Zod…. I’d be over the moon about this movie.

  5. Completely agree about the collateral damage. Above any other, Superman is the superhero who cares the most about who is going to get hurt. He just didn’t seem to care in this movie.

    • Yup. It was hard to watch in that respect. More so, it’s been frustrating seeing how many people are okay with it. I’ve seen so many people talk about how Goyer/Nolan/Snyder want to explain *why* he never kills anyone.

      Well, it’s quite simple… the father who raised him wasn’t a paranoid guy who happened to have faith in humanity, and taught him to value life above all else. Not some dude that basically said, “Fuck ’em it’s too dangerous,” and then killed himself for a dog.

    • Even it though it sounds like we’re basically in agreement, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it that much. I still had a good time, once I got my head out of the game.

      It really was so good at first, and it seemed like they were going to get it right. Oh well.

  6. The dog scene really held the movie together if you ask me. Nah, just kidding, it was terrible. This movie totally blows. Check out my review if you like. It just seems impossible for anyone to crack the code to making the perfect Superman film. Maybe the next one will be better?

  7. I was on board for the first forty five minutes. Finally a Superman film I was enjoying but then things went all matrix/michael Bay looking and I hated it. Has there ever been a movie with more punches thrown than this film?

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