Cinema Express: Man of Steel (2013)


This weekend saw the release of one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. It’s another superhero origins film and while it’s no Batman Begins, Man of Steel is a fairly satisfying reboot. I left the theater more excited about the potential of a follow-up than I did about what I just saw, but nonetheless, it is a very solid superhero flick. The filmmakers were faced with a unique challenge in creating a new Superman movie and for the most part, they don’t disappoint. The film seems to be influenced more by Nolan than Snyder: The tone is darker than the Superman we are used to and it takes itself very seriously. There is also a noticeable lack of the comic book campiness that is present in Snyder’s previous works. It isn’t quite on the same level as any of the installments in the Dark Knight trilogy, which every new superhero film seems to be measured against. Still, we’re being bombarded by superheroes in the box office right now and Snyder’s film has a unique flavor to it that I’d like to see more of.

One of the biggest disappointments of the movie is the lack of a palpable sense of evil. Nolan’s The Dark Knight captured such menace perfectly, but there is a saddening lack of such threatening villainy here. Michael Shannon plays the main antagonist, General Zod, with passion (and lots of shouting), but he doesn’t achieve the power of his best performances. Villains aside, the cast does well. Amy Adams is convincing as a more involved Lois Lane, Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner both turn in decent work as the hero’s fathers, and Diane Lane is well-cast as Clark’s mother. Of course, the most important role of the film is that of Superman and fortunately, Cavill is convincing.

Though it might not be a great film, there are plenty of moments that are thoroughly enjoyable. My favorite aspect of Man of Steel is that it breaks away from the genre formula that Marvel has been recycling in recent years. Non-linear storytelling, less jokes, and a darker color palette may put off some, but each contributes to an attempt at originality which deserves to be appreciated on the big screen. While it won’t become a classic like Richard Donner’s version has, Man of Steel may turn out to be an admirable start to a potentially fantastic series of Superman films.


36 responses to “Cinema Express: Man of Steel (2013)

  1. Awesome post Garrett! I’m glad you…somewhat enjoyed the film. I loved it and thoroughly thought it was well done, especially Zimmer’s epic score. Cavil is a terrific Superman and happy to hear you think so too. What was your favourite scene?

    • Thanks, Joseph! πŸ˜€ Oh, I very much enjoyed it, enough to make me want to go see it again sooner or later. However, there are just some things that I felt could have been a lot better. Zimmer’s score was excellent though (as usual).

      Favorite scene? The effects were incredible and the action was cool, but they seemed to never stop once they got going. So my favorite parts all had to do with the flashbacks, his childhood in Kansas, and the father-son moments when Superman was coping with his purpose on earth. There isn’t a particular scene that I have in mind, but those were the moments that made the film worth-while for me. Do you have a favorite scene(s)?

  2. Really nice review Garrett! I think you’ve got a really good point of view on this film — that there was not a substantial “threat” that we really faced. Especially when we consider how much emphasis is placed on making Cavill’s Superman such a mighty, invincible and good-looking character. One would think (and I certainly hoped for) that there would be an equal level of villainy to match. I thought Shannon was pretty damn good, but then again I haven’t had a lot of experience with his other work, so I’m judging it solely on it’s own merits.

    Overall I thought the movie was pretty damn good, epic as hell and managed to safely tow the line between satisfying blockbuster and an originally affecting film that was crafted with passion.

    • That lack of an equal danger is definitely hard to catch in a reboot where we know that there’s no way that the villain will die. It’s another reason I’m excited for a sequel. There is a lot more room for making a villain that convinces us that he can defeat Superman. Plus, the movie never used Kryptonite, so that will be a useful tool in that area in the next one.

      Excellent mini-review there. πŸ™‚ I’m glad to see so many enjoying this, even though many critics were quite harsh. Thanks, Tom!

  3. Good review. Still haven’t decide if I’m going to check this out or not when it comes out here; the resounding consensus seems to be “eh, it’s okay.”

    • Yeah, it’s not the best of superhero flicks, but it sure isn’t the worst either. I’d give it a try if I were you just because the score and the visuals are worth appreciating in a theater. Otherwise, it’s pretty much a solid rental pick. Thanks.

  4. Nice review. I pretty much agree with you – but would still only give it a C. It was all just a bit too much ‘whoosh’ and not enough ‘hmm’. The darkness point you make is correct – but I think that this is also partly the problem with Superman as a concept – most other superheroes have an inherently dark side to them whereas Supe is pretty much all good guy. It’s difficult when our hero doesn’t have evil enough demons inside himself to conquer.

    • “Too much ‘whoosh’ and not enough ‘hmm’.” Awesome description. πŸ™‚ You make a very good point too. Superman does present a unique challenge in that he is relatively perfect. I think the movie did a decent job of displaying his struggle of finding his purpose and if you’re going to find depth in a young Superman, I think that is the right way to go. We’ll just have to wait and see how the character is developed further. Here’s to hoping that they’ll find a better director. πŸ™‚

      • I agree about the director. But it doesn’t look as if he’s going anywhere – apparently he’s already on-board for the sequel and is almost signed up for the Justice League movie (when/if that happens).

        • That’s unfortunate, though I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised. I do like a few of his films, but he’s a weak director in several areas. Since we’re stuck with him for the next one, I’d say that the script just needs to be good enough to prevent him from going on action overload again.

  5. Really good review. I gotta say I really liked Shannon. I thought he was very threatening. In fact my favorite part of the film may have been when he first makes his presence known on earth.

    • Shannon wasn’t bad, but something was missing for me. I was never really convinced that he was a threat that would not be defeated. That’s something that the Dark Knight trilogy captured well in each film, but I just didn’t feel it in Man of Steel. I’m sure that is difficult to capture in a reboot though, since the audience knows that you can’t just kill of a main character. I did like the scene where Shannon announced himself to earth, though it reminded me of Iron Man 3 and the Mandarin broadcasts. Thanks!

  6. Nice review. I liked this less than you did and felt pretty disappointed. I agree with you on Michael Shannon; he typically delivers great performances but his character wasn’t written well.

    • Yeah, I don’t think it was Shannon’s fault. Too bad you didn’t care for it too much though. There’s no doubt that the trailer made it look much better than it turned out to be. Thanks.

  7. It’s really hard to rate really. As fantastic as the action is the characters don’t really gel well with each other. The flashbacks were odd as well.

    • The characters did lack chemistry at times, but the flaws didn’t ruin the movie for me. I actually liked the use of flashbacks though.

  8. I loved Shannon, Adams, and the Zimmerman score (can’t get it out of my head). I think we agree overall with the success of the endeavor – not great but solid and with enough interesting elements to outlay the bad (Snyder overdoes the FX sequences and lets them drag on way too long to the point of incomprehensibility). I searched for some deeper meaning as well…

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  10. This was a great review. I really liked the movie. I liked some of the changes or details that the filmmakers took time to think of that we hadn’t been introduced to before. Like you, I think the flashbacks were some of my favorite scenes. I like them because we learned as Clark did about his unique powers. I’ve heard the movie described as a “Clark Kent origin story” instead of a Superman origin, which makes sense. The only thing that I got tired of the was the constant destruction of buildings throughout the last 1/3 of the film. It was just a little too much of the same thing.
    I am looking forward to sequels and hope that it follows the example of The Dark Knight instead of Spiderman 2.

    • They destroyed SO many buildings! I can’t imagine how many people died in that! I agree, the non-stop action in the final act did get kinda boring eventually, but luckily it didn’t ruin the film for me. I certainly see Dark Knight potential for the next one. Thanks!

    • Admittedly, I was pretty generous to this, and really just because I had fun with it and it’s different than the movies that Marvel turns out all of the time. The movie definitely has plenty of problems though.

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