Man of Steel – Review Part 1
Some people (rightly) claim Superman is boring because he is borderline omnipotent. But that’s only true because the people writing his stories don’t have any room to mess with anything that would upset the easily dismayed diehard fans. Superman is the epitome of virtuousness. He is a beacon of integrity, morality and justice. He is an extraterrestrial who has immeasurable strength, ludicrous speed, the ability to fly, freaking lasers coming out of his freaking head, and he only uses those powers for good, no matter what. But he is also a man, and men are not infallible. Producer Christopher Nolan, writer David S. Goyer, and director Zack Snyder understand his alienation and humanity on some fundamental level, but they neglected that noble part of him that makes him so iconic.
Fortunately, Man of Steel isn’t boring at all. In fact, the fight scenes towards the end are particularly spectacular. But, truth be told, I wanted to like Man of Steel more than I did.
The film stumbles right out of the gate in the laborious telling of his birth. I honestly was falling asleep during the anemic dialogue and pointless killing of Jor-El by General Mumbles McMarbleMouth. There are some wonderful moments of emotion from mother Lara, but they are just glanced over quickly in favor of more pointless fighting and dragon riding. I wrongly assumed that the drab colors and dreary atmosphere were confined to the planet of Krypton, which would subtly hint at the planet’s impending destruction and alien ecosystems. Maybe the foreboding ambiance would have some juxtaposition once the Last Son of Krypton arrived on Earth. Nope. The whole movie is bleak and melancholy. Very un-Superman like.
It is painfully apparent that they are trying to recreate the success they had with Batman in this retelling of Superman’s origins. Grounding Bruce Wayne in reality was the best thing for the Dark Knight, and giving him a dark, broody atmosphere works for his character. In many ways, Man of Steel works best when its bringing Clark down to Earth and showing how human he really is. As a boy he struggles with the onset of his powers while his peers constantly provoke him towards violence. You get the sense that he knows he can hurt these people and almost does several times, but there is always someone to remind him of what is right. But, the pale, ominous tone poisoning every part of the movie doesn’t work for Superman.
*Spoilers* The climax of the movie is what most people seem to take issue with. It’s a bold decision to be sure. But, weirdly, I’m not even upset that Superman kills Zod. I think it’s absolutely wonderful that it happened and that it’s possibly the best part of the entire movie. After he snaps his neck, you can see that he immediately regretted it, even though he felt he had no other choice. But, they needed to take it even further.
The movie is about a man becoming Superman. The film plays with the idea of Superman having to decide who lives and dies when his father is taken from him, but it doesn’t flesh it out. In his journey, Superman must come to terms with the fact that having superpowers doesn’t give him the moral authority to decide who lives and who dies. In fact, it gives him less authority, since he has so much more power to abuse. It could have even served as a tie in with how the nation is feeling right now, as our government spies on its own civilians.
The ending of the Man of Steel could have saved the entire film by adding gravity to Superman’s actions. He needed to make a conscious decision to never take another life, no matter what. Instead, it levels Metropolis and shrugs it off like nothing has happened. In Man of Steel, Superman isn’t the paradigm of a hero, he’s just an alien who can punch stuff really hard.