Man of Steel: Good, But Room for Improvement




You’ve either seen it or you haven’t, so I am going to go ahead and review Man of Steel, spoilers and all. I’ll assume you’ve seen it so I don’t have to write a tedious plot summary.

I liked the Man of Steel film, but I think its smaller moments were its best ones–like the great scene with Diane Lane as Ma Kent helping young Clark to master his X-Ray Vision and Super Hearing when his senses suddenly overwhelm him. We’ve not seen that moment before.

A fresh spin was also put on the death of Pa Kent, but I didn’t buy it, though I liked Kevin Costner in the role. What made Pa Kent’s death in the comics and in the Christopher Reeve film so powerful was that Clark’s powers could do nothing to stop an aging man dying of a coronary. In Man of Steel, Clark _allows_ his father to sacrifice himself during a tornado to avoid “outing” Clark’s big secret, which is what a public, super-powered rescue would ensure. However, this isn’t in character with any iteration of Clark in any comic, TV show, film or radio serial I’ve ever come across. Clark’s more than capable of thinking on his feet and he can also move those feet at frickin’ Super Speed. In the blink of an eye, Pa could have been saved. If Pa Kent needed to die (and most versions of the mythos share this turn), he should have been done in some other way. Making this moment worse is that we know Clark’s secret had been exposed years ago when he rescued drowning classmates. What’s up with that? He’ll jump to save classmates but won’t rescue his own pop? Great Caesar’s Ghost!

Henry Cavill is an able actor, and perhaps the most heroic-looking incarnation ever to to step inside the blue long johns. He makes Clark Kent a formidable presence. What I also wished I had seen was a moment for Clark where his powers actually seemed like fun to him, because that makes the price he pays for his otherness all the more double-edged. The DC/Nolan films in general have been overly dark, while the best of the Marvel films have been able to combine levity, gravitas and smash-em-up storytelling in the extremely dynamic ways. And this is coming from someone who was always more a fan of DC/Just League characters than Avengers characters.

The story would also have been helped a bit if Supes had established himself on the world’s radar before Zod touched down with his plans for world domination. We needed a few good more good deeds to helped people wonder, “Who is this guy?” Metropolis needed to be more of a character, rooting for their local hero [see any Spider-Man film]. Instead, it was simply the wrestling ring for an alien vs. alien smackdown. And once you’ve seen one skyscraper crumble like cardboard, seeing twenty more tends to dull the impact. The finale was not in the same league as the climax of The Avengers.

Also, can we PLEASE put Zod to sleep for awhile? Why did we have to tell that story again? There are more interesting characters we have not yet seen on film. Braniac shrinking Kandor would be fun. In fact, I’d love to see Superman films open like James Bond films: a 5 or 10 minute opening segment where we see him getting out of some jam before the real story begins–something like tying up Toyman, outwitting the Prankster, or tricking Mister Mxyzptlk into returning to his home dimension. Open light. Then bring on the dark stuff.


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