Rating 2/5 – Man of Steel was a mess of a movie. There are two comic characters who should never be hard to do: Superman and The Punisher. Unfortunately neither one has been done to any degree of real effort up until now. Man of Steel is not Superman: The Movie. Yes, I’m doing that comparison because it’s a fair comparison no matter how much certain types of fanboys might get all stressed about it. There’s a way to do Superman, a way that works. It’s why his comic has lasted for 50 plus years and why he’s the most recognized super hero on the planet. He’s superman. He comes with the props and the baggage that goes along with his character. Whatever Man of Steel was trying to be, it was not Superman. DC/Warner is claiming this will be the start of their cinematic universe. If Man of Steel is the example of what they have to offer, Thanos help us all. That sad part is it’s going to make money and DC/Warner will take the wrong message from that.
The Dark Knight Returns, Again and Again and Again
The examination of what comic geeks call “the Dark Age of comics” is a lot to unpack, but the effects are long lasting. If you do a search about comics in the 1990’s or the boom and bust of comics or when comic got dark you’ll find a lot of websites and YouTube videos explaining things. Frank Miller and Alan Moore happened, comics got more mature, characters started dying and coming back to life in droves, women in refrigerators because men write most comics. What no one understands is exactly how that effected the minds of comic publishers, especially DC, which in turn effected DC’s parent company, Warner Bros. Marvel has business partnerships, license deals and loans, but it was still all Marvel. Even being owned by Disney, they pretty much do things the Marvel way. By the time Dark Knight Return and Watchmen happened DC was already owned by Warner. Warner Brothers produced Superman the Movie back in 1978. All cartoons, movies and, well, anything to do with the DC Comics properties are Warner Brothers properties. So when Watchmen and Dark Knight sold through the roof and became cultural icons beyond comics, the corporation was the one paying the most attention. DC Comics might be made up by sincere comic artists and writers and editors, but the corporation is the one who keeps seeing the money. No comic collector over 25 will tell you the Death of Superman was good or even interesting. But it made a shit ton of money and that’s all Warner sees.
So I’m not surprised they tried to “Dark Knight” Superman. Henry Cavill has the look, but this movie decided to suck out the personality, the positive nature, the range of actual human emotion and the inspiration from the character. You know, the shit that makes Superman SUPERMAN? They tried to “Dark Knight” Superman in every way. Most reviewers keeps speaking to the whole Jesus allegory as if Superman hasn’t been that from day one. It’s one of those inside jokes comic readers pass around when we’re trying to be all Dead Poet’s Society on comics. This movie was trying to be Christopher Nolan in the worse way and it did not work. I don’t give a fly fuck who thinks this opinion is too “comic geek” but a Superman movie is not a Batman movie. Superman has different problems, different motivations and works when expressed in a very specific way. Man of Steel was not a Superman movie, it was an attempt to catch lightening in a bottle that will never strike again.
What was the biggest problem everyone had with Superman Returns? Superman didn’t “punch” anything. Like Man of Steel, Superman Returns was an attempt to recapture past magic. In Superman Return’s case it was the magic that was Superman I & II. They even used a ton of the same dialogue, and it was cringe worthy. People keep saying Superman is hard because no one can beat him, he’s pretty much God on Earth. There is a place where DC/Warner can find something for Superman to punch – the comics. Man of Steel has the same flaw and both movies keep falling back on Zod and Luthor.
Zod. What can I say about Zod? In Superman II Terence Stamp was all go hard or go home chewing every inch of scenery the camera threw at him. There’s a line where the President witness Zod and crew doing something insane and exclaims “Oh My God!” And Terence Stamp just looks at him and says offhandedly “Zod.” Just watch that movie and not get the urge to go up so someone, take a stance with your chest puffed out and cry “Kneel before Zod!” while emphasising every word with your finger pointing to the ground. Yeah. . .good stuff. I don’t have the first, second or third goddamn clue what Michael Shannon was going for. Holy shit did Shannon demonstrate bi-polar disorder on an epic scale.
Let’s not even get into the conflict. Instead of keeping it simple in a “You’re dad fucked me over, I’m pissed so I’m going to take it out on you.” mixed with “Hey look, I’ve got the power of a god a planet of people I can turn into my personal slave labor.” It was all Matrix and bringing back Krypton – with the last seven or eight people from Krypton, and the whole Jor-El sending him to the Phantom Zone and Jor-El being a ghost in the machine. And the fights. OMG. The fights. I’m all for great action set pieces and demonstration of Super Powers. But by this time we’ve had a lot of movies with great action and super powers. Superman destroys his home town, his own home, and a huge chunk of Metropolis fighting with Zod and crew. There was no protecting people, no automatic regard for damage, none of that. It was frat boys punching each other during a drinking game seeing who will drop first. And so much of it made no sense. How do you call Superman a super hero when he’s acting more like Godzilla and nothing like Superman.
And the problem stems from this idiotic idea that it’s hard to find anyone to really fight Superman. Hey, DC/Warner, you know where you can find people to fight Superman? Like I said earlier, in the fucking comics you’ve been printing for over 50 fucking years. It’s Superman, the audience is not going to go into shock if you bring in Brainiac or Live Wire. In fact, it would be a breath of fresh air if you actually expanded the Superman universe. Zod ad Luthor are not Superman’s only villains.
The death of Zod was most contrived piece of garbage this movie ever thought up. It was so bad I wanted to watch the credits to see if Michael Bay was somehow attached. It was trying to be pointed and shocked but this happened in the movie Clark let his father get sucked up by tornado, destroyed most of his home town in a battle of the product placements and after Superman and Zod probably murdered thousands of people tear assing through Metropolis. And the set-up for killing Zod? Holy shit could it be any more white? A Norman Rockwell family is in a corner, Zod is slowing shooting laser beams from his eyes across a wall like it’s a James Bond movie and Superman had to snap his neck before they reached the atypical white American family. I kid you not. Let’s pretend Zod couldn’t have just looked right at them a flash fry them in an instant, let’s instead figure out why he’d do it. When people fight their focus is on each other. Superman has not shown any real regard for human life, except in words. He showed some caring for Lois and his mother but in every battle he just punched his enemies through walls and smashed buildings even joking with people who got in the way. (I’m not kidding, there’s a scene where he stops to talk to a friend after punching one of the Krytonians through the building the friend was in.) So the whole “since you care about these humans, I’m going to kill them” wasn’t earned. I wish I could say it was the worse part of this movie – there’s a lot of worse parts – but it was up there.
Lois, Jimmy and the Rest
Was Jimmy Olsen in this movie? No, I’m not going to IMDB it because I should just know. When talking about Lois once again you have to reach back to Superman I & II. Man of Steel’s Lois seemed useless. Margot Kidder played Lois in much the same way Terrence Stamp handled Zod. She just put her Lois Suit on and explained the character of Lois Lane. There’s a of in-jokes about Superman the first movie completely obliterated. How does Superman hide as Clark? This is how. How come no one recognizes Superman when he wear glasses. Margot Kidder’s Lois was so full of her job, her purpose to be the reporter who got the best and first scoops, the busy women worried more about her career than some guy – unless he’s “super” of course she wouldn’t notice Clark looks like that god like dude that flies. Not only is he a clumsy duff, but she’s pretty much oblivious to Clark most of the time. That’s human. Amy Adams seemed bored, her actions forced and there was absolutely no real build or pay off to the kiss in the middle of the destruction of Metropolis. (Because that’s what you do in a completely destroyed city after murdering someone, kiss.) The rest of the cast? I honestly didn’t give a shit.
Man of Steel Begins a Bad Universe
If this is DC/Warner’s idea of their new connected universe we’re in for a bad time all around. Man of Steel is a messy spectacle drained of color, common sense and a real script. This angry brooding Superman is not going to work and the whole “you’re an alien thing” the movie is trying to force down our throats is so far away from what the character is and represents I’m shocked the very people who own Superman are the one who put this garbage together. Not a good start for the beginning of a shared universe.