Reckless Review: MAN OF STEEL (2013)

This review contains spoilers. Just about every sentence is a spoiler!

I have to admit my expectations for Man of Steel were pretty high. And it did get pretty close. If I was giving out grades, it would get a B, maybe even a B+. But an over-reliance on explosions and effects for the IMAX/3D crowd unfortunately dilute the impact of an otherwise excellent movie.

The good:

Henry Cavill as Superman and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. As I expected, Cavill expertly conveys the humility, goodness, and dry wit that work for this character. His American accent is perfect (and pretty neutral for Kansas…but this guy has worked all over the continent apparently). Let’s face it, it doesn’t hurt that he’s as handsome and almost incredibly fit as a Superman should be. Adams is convincing as a determined reporter who just can’t leave well enough alone. She isn’t sassy, just strong-willed. I liked that the character didn’t immediately go to pieces at her first sight of Superman…that’s not right for a hardboiled reporter, which is what Lois should be. These two have an easy chemistry that I’d like to have seen more of (more on that later).

In addition, I’m glad the writers found a rather clever way out of the conceit of Lois not knowing who Superman is, one that both strengthens the Lois character and furthers the plot. The idea that Superman’s identity is a secret to Lois was never believable to me — she’s a brilliant reporter and she can’t figure it out right away? Plus it’s always annoyed me that she didn’t recognize him supposedly because of his glasses, probably because I wear glasses myself. I think I basically look the same with or without them!

The casting. I think it’s excellent, from Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer as Clark’s birth parents, to Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as his adoptive ones, from Richard Schiff as the requisite scientist, to Christopher Meloni and the ever-reliable Harry Lennix as a military colonel and general respectively, it just works. Michael Shannon is an appropriately detestable Zod and parallel to Kal-El/Clark. And why didn’t it occur to anyone to cast Laurence Fishburne as a cranky newspaper editor before this? I really liked his take on Perry White. In addition, care was taken with the younger versions of Clark so that the actors playing the character at different ages actually look plausibly alike.

The structure of Superman’s back story. While the circumstances surrounding his birth kick the film off, much of Clark’s childhood is recounted in a series of flashbacks, which are triggered by seemingly ordinary occurrences in his life. While a couple of the people I saw this with were annoyed by it, I found it to be naturalistic and quite easy to follow.

Spot-on depiction of the severe ADD resulting from Superman’s powers. Sitting in a classroom at school, young Clark is bombarded with hundreds of stimuli, well-represented on film. Although I don’t have it nearly as bad, if you’ve ever wondered, that’s basically what it’s like.

The religious references. Superman is like Moses — a foundling, outcast from “normal” society — and he’s also like Jesus — Kal-El/Clark Kent was uniquely conceived, he is 33, he excels at turning the other cheek, and he sacrifices himself to save humanity. Also Jor-El (Crowe) becomes a computer-driven “ghost,” who believes Clark will be received as “a god.” All of this taps into elementary archetypes and helps to overcome the fact that we don’t really see enough motivation for Superman to save the people of Earth. Other than his parents, the only person who treats Clark with any shred of decency is a kid whose life he saves. So why should he bother? That’s why.

The not so good:

This is a CANDID, people. How do you mess this up?
This is a CANDID, people. How do you mess this up?

Cavill’s hair. I thought it was impossible to botch perfection but somehow they managed to goof up Henry’s look, at least part of the time. His hair style and color change from scene to scene and it became a distraction. This is very minor compared to…

Not enough interaction between the characters, and too much big multi-stage battle between Zod and Superman. The mass destruction of Metropolis goes on way too long, becoming tedious. This film has a handle on epic, particularly the flying scenes and big beautiful images, courtesy of director Zack Snyder and DP Amir Mokri. What interaction there is, worked well; I just wanted more of it. I wish there was a way to magically re-distribute some of the time spent on dismantling skyscrapers and put it into the characters’ relationships. It’s this unbalance that tips Man of Steel from excellent to pretty good.


Ruth from Flix Chatter predicted correctly long ago that Henry Cavill would play Superman, but here’s 13 other clues…in a gallery no less 😉

Plus Henry Cavill’s career in pictures

24 thoughts on “Reckless Review: MAN OF STEEL (2013)

  1. LOVE it doll!! I agree w/ a lot of what you said here, even the B+ rating 😀 Ahah, true about Cavill’s hair, I mean why don’t they just leave it alone?!! I hate it when they drown him in hair gel! I LOVE his natural hair when he’s just Clark Kent visiting his mom, his smile is just KILLER… but that thick, wavy dark locks is swoon-worthy in its own right!! 😀

    Thanks for the link too, very kind!!

    1. Of course, I think it’s amazing you predicted exactly what would happen so long ago. My goodnesss yes, he is stunning in those scenes, just himself. I wish repelling hair gel was a super power 😉

        1. Wow, thanks for these doll…I agree, UNbelievable. Dear Henry Cavill…please keep making movies. Dear Henry Cavill’s stylist, leave his hair alone 😉

      1. I’ll recycle much of what I left at Ruth’s Flixchatter…

        Excellent look at this event film, Paula. Like, Ruth, I enjoyed what you had to say about the film for what worked, and didn’t. I thought it…
        • it had an interesting backstory; made for an intriguing reboot of the franchise
        • Russel Crowe reminded me of Maximus from ‘Gladiator’, too, with his performance and presence
        • Michael Shannon made for a stellar villain and keeps getting better and better in the films I’ve screened
        • the Nolan/Goyer influence a very good one on this franchise
        • I see why a number of folk are talking Costner up for Supporting Actor nom
        • Cavill as Superman was a solid win for casting (hair not withstanding)
        • Diane Lane as the Earth-bound mom another good casting decision
        • a more than solid Lois Lane is critical for any great Supes flick (animated or live action) and Amy Adams, and the writing of the character, is in the plus column (and a prime reason ‘Superman Returns’ suffered, btw)
        • Chris Meloni’s small character arc was a wonderful touch, and he had the best line reversal in the entire movie

        But what knocks it from a great film, as compared with the 1978 original for its time…

        • blunt force trauma of action sequences – way, way too much. As Hannibal Lector once said,

        “Tedious, very tedious.”

        • my wife complained of too many ‘climaxes’ and I’d have to agree; what, MoS tried to top LOTR: Return of the King for number of false endings?
        • yeah, a lack of ‘savior of humanity’ scene, as Ruth surmised, was a lacking feature
        • Zimmer’s score of the quiet scenes was kinda good, but overall it disappeared among all those explosions and sound effects
        • and why, oh why, deploy shaky cam at the start…though I’m quietly thankful they only it there
        • the Zack Snyder excesses (especially in making almost two different films in one with the heavy-handed action sequences in the third-act) make me want to campaign for his removal from future sequels. There, I said it. Keep Nolan & Goyer, though.

        I gave it 3.5 reels (per Ruth’s scale), a trend I’m afraid. I reappraised Iron Man 3 and ST Into Darkness to this same rating after giving them better, too. Good, solid entertainment, but didn’t live up to the hype. It’s been a summer of disappointment in expectations for me with the big tentpole season films, I’m afraid. Believe it or not, the only film that hasn’t disappoint was Fast & Furious 6. And I pretty much expected what I gave it. Again, another 3.5.

        Thanks, Paula

        1. I love how so many of us are on basically the same wavelength with this. I am not a huge fan of shaky cam myself, for that and many of the other reasons you cite, I could live with just Nolan & Goyer returning. And I agree re: Shannnon, Costner, Crowe and Lane, though they didn’t get much attention in my review. (Fun factoid: I’m pretty sure, Crowe’s characters in Gladiator and Man of Steel were both killed in the same manner, even down to the relative positions of their murderers in the respective scenes.) You’re welcome and thanks, Michael 🙂

  2. Nice post Paula. Yeah, I agree with a lot of what you said and wish that there had been more time with some of the characters and less time with them fighting. but, hey, it’s def better than Superman III. haha

    I was a little underwhelmed by Amy Adams at times, truth be told, but even more not thrilled with the less than effective use of Laurence Fishburne (or rather the amount of his useless scenes altogether). There was a lot that was good with this film too though.

    1. Thanks T! I’ll be by later today, I put myself on a Supes ban until I actually saw the movie. I never saw Superman III…I guess I didn’t miss out on much. Interesting that we differ on Adams and Fishburne…I have an idea that plenty of both their scenes were cut and I hope those show up on the Blu-ray or something.

  3. Great post, I avoided spoilers in mine which meant that I couldn’t discuss Lois knowing about Clark’s identity. Part of me was a little disappointed that there’s no room for a Clark/Lois/Superman triangle but realistically any journalist as good as Lois and as determined to know the identity of Superman would find the truth sooner or later. Lois’s character is strengthened by her knowledge, looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the next film (should there be one).

    1. Hi Louise, good for you, I found it too difficult to avoid the spoilers, so much of why I liked a lot of it was wrapped up with them. I think there could be other opportunities for triangles, especially if Clark continues at the Daily Planet. Dang…another spoiler 😉 And I sure hope there is another film! Thanks for your comment.

  4. Good review Paula. It’s a good movie, just not a great one. Maybe that’s my fault for being so hyped-up in the first place, but honestly, I feel like it had a lot to live up to, and didn’t fully hit it’s mark.

    1. I agree. It didn’t completely live up to its very high potential. I am interested to see what, if anything, could be done in the possible sequel. Thanks 🙂

  5. Great post, Paula! Loved how you broke down the film. I totally agree on the non-linear narrative. Didn’t bother me at all and found it easy to follow. What didn’t bother me either was the climactic battle. I didn’t find it that long.

    1. Thanks Fernando, happy to hear this. To me it was really natural that the sight of a school bus would trigger a certain memory, etc. And I’m glad you enjoyed the big battle! To each their own 🙂

  6. Just read your review, Paula, and I think you are spot on regarding too much “action” and not enough “drama.” Even an action movie needs to have scenes between the characters, or else we won’t believe their relationships are real and get to know them. The fight sequences lasted too long. How many times do we need to see a building fall or need to see Superman/Zod fly each other through buildings?

    1. Not that many! After a while, we get the general idea 😉 I wouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of the more interactive scenes were cut. Thanks for stopping by, Kim 🙂

  7. I know what the critics has said. They complained about too much action, superman being too serious, lack of romance, etc. Since Zack Snyder directed this movie, I don’t think he cared about the critics. Don’t get me wrong, he DOES care about the fans’ opinion. Seems like he really wanted to really satisfy the fans. I see why critics complained about too much action. For me it’s just his way to satisfy the viewers. This is the kind of movie that is just really satisfying. When the movie ended, I got that ‘satisfying’ feeling instead of the ‘wanting more’ feeling. It’s like it was really enough.

    Even Snyder’s best movies (before this) which were 300 & Watchmen didn’t have more ratings than 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think the fans should have anticipated the bad reviews. His style is actually what critics hate. The over the top action and CGI is actually his trademark. So, even from the beginning, I think this is actually the kind of movie the producers wanted. About the lack of romance, I really do think it’s saved for the sequel. The sequel will definitely explore more about the relationship between Clark and Lois. This film focused on 2 aspects: the origin (krypon,struggle finding his place) & the action (Zod and his army). Don’t expect humor or romance.

    The visuals were spectacular! What’s best about this movie is its action scenes. The action were just relentless. I think the fans would not be disappointed at all. Yes, I know there is only a very few humor this movie but that actually doesn’t even matter. The battle between Superman & Zod will definitely ‘wow’ everyone but the critics. I mean who cares about the critics opinion? A superhero movie MUST NOT be judged by the critics opinion, what’s more important is the audience’s opinion about the movie and especially the fans’. I think the movie really delivered. Most people will definitely like this movie. I am really sure that many fanboys will consider this as the best comic book of all time. This is a MUST SEE for people who like action movie. The action were better than last year’s The Avengers.

    The sequel really have a great potential. Considering the minimum amount of romance in this movie (since they just knew each other, and superman was also more focused on Zod), the next movie could explore more of that. One of the things missing from the movie was also the presence of Clark Kent at the daily planet. It’s one of the trade marks. But, I believe the sequel will show more scenes in the Daily Planet which is interesting to see.

    As a conclusion, I think Man of Steel is so far the best action movie this year. This movie really is a Snyder movie. But it also has a quite lot of nolan-esque feel to it especially in the around first 45 minutes.

    If this was compared to Iron man 3, if Iron man 3 was a 7, this movie is a 8.6.

    More about the movie you can also find it here

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