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Thoughts on Man of Steel

June 16, 2013

Had a chance to get out to see ‘Man of Steel’ today and wanted to share my take on it.  Here there be spoilers, so just move on to some other post if that’s going to be a problem for you.

Let me start out saying that I really enjoyed the film overall.  Sure, I have my nits to pick on a few things, but overall it was well worth my time and money, and I feel like it could make a nice start down the road to a Justice League film.  It’s well worth a watch, and the action is flat-out epic.

This wasn’t a perfect reboot, but it was head and shoulders above the last attempt at reviving the titular Man of Steel for live action film.  This film definitely learned from Singer’s dud and delivered what people were longing for: action.

The movie started off with a bang.  Well, I suppose it started with a bang, a few booms, a couple dozen pops and cracks, then a few more bangs.  Seeing the end of Zod’s rebellion played out with a huge effects budget was a great way to engage the audience.  I’ll even forgive it the silliness of Jor-El free driving through the Matrix battery-trees (sorry, Genesis Chamber) to steal the magic Kryptonian neanderthal skull in the middle of it all.

This started out what became a running issue with me involving the Krypton-based aspect of the film.  It looked cool (if somewhat derivative of various other film’s art design; I’m looking at you Fallout power armor and Engineer ships from Prometheus) but didn’t always make very much sense.  Take the scout ship locked in ice for thousands of years.  All the systems still worked, at least one sentry/helper robot was still up and floating around and it was full of people who should have started feeling all ‘super’ just from the solar radiation they could have soaked up on the way into orbit.  And yet all of them were dead and mummified despite the life support seeming to still be working well enough to maintain the genesis system and it’s attached embryos-in-stasis.  Not to mention all the Kryptonian corpses on other colony worlds.  At least some of those should have had conditions similar enough to earth to power them up, especially since it seems the whole ‘absorb solar rays, become nigh-invincible superbeing’ thing seems to have been reasonably common knowledge.  Why were they all dead?

As I said, it looked very cool, just didn’t always make much sense.

All that said, I still really liked this film.  I think telling Clark/Kal’s backstory through short flashbacks was a great choice.  It kept the narrative moving while providing just enough background to give viewers a little insight into why this man acts as he does.  The scenes with the Kents were actually some of the strongest in the film that didn’t involve superhumans beating the fuck out of each other.  It was also interesting seeing Clark in his ‘walking the earth’ phase.  It almost had the feel of the old Incredible Hulk TV series with Banner drifting from town to town, trying to hide and keep a low profile.

The action and effects were, simply, astounding.  It was insane and over-the-top in a way that felt right out of the pages of Action Comics.  This is how unstoppable forces should clash with one another.  It was beautifully (and often brutally) choreographed and really, viscerally fun to watch.

The trouble, and maybe because of the action being so good, was that the scenes in-between the action, at least after Clark puts on ‘The Suit’ seemed really dry and lifeless in comparison.  Once Henry Cavill got the spandex on it felt like his personality just dried up, and it was an effect that bled out into the actors sharing scenes with him.

As long as I’m in free-form ramble mode, let me add a couple huge thank yous to the writers.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for finally turning Lois Lane into the actual prize-winning investigative journalist she is supposed to be.  Honestly, if she was that good, how could a pair of cheap reading glasses have had her fooled for years?  None of that here.  No, instead we get a smart, brash young woman who follows a thin trail of breadcrumbs from a random guy using a fake name in the Canadian arctic and finds Clark at his father’s grave, knowing full-well who and what he is.

Thank you also for giving Zod a real, compelling, almost Shakespearean motivation behind his actions instead of just being driven by revenge for the sake of revenge.  If anything, I think they missed some chances to even make things more interesting.

As thrilling as that final battle was, I’d have loved to have seen a twist where Zod tells Kal-El that, “his whole reason for being was defending Krypton, and now you are Krypton” and then offered to serve/protect Kal to preserve the genetic codes he carries (don’t get me started on that, this post will never end… ugh).

That would have sacrificed an epic final battle, but led to some really interesting potential story options moving forward that I don’t think anyone has ever even tried telling yet.

One last pet peeve here while I’m thinking of that final battle.  After beating the holy hell out of one another across half of a destroyed Metropolis cityscape the battle reaches it’s midpoint and the combatants both stop to catch their breath while Zod begins telling Kal why he sucks.  A large part of this involves a reminder that Zod is, by every possible measure, a superior fighter who has been bred to be warrior, and trained for decades, honing his fighting skills, while Kal was working odd jobs.

Zod is right.  He SHOULD be winning.  And yet from the time he finishes that line he never again has the upper hand in the fight.  Kal-El takes the fight to him and just plain wins.

All right, that’s it I suppose.  Just some quick bullets and I’m out.

  • Really liked Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, though he was tragically underused.
  • Loved the inclusion of ‘Seasons’ in the soundtrack.
  • The Wayne Industries and Lexcorp logos made me happy.
  • Did that scout ship have a Kryptonian Genomic DNA dialysis machine on it, and if not, how was Kal supposed to get the magic skull DNA out of his blood if he ever wanted to resurrect his race?
  • So as I see it now, this new Superman movie has set the rule that you don’t need Kryptonite to depower Superman, you just need a combination of gasses that mimic the dead planet’s atmosphere.  Seems like a much, much easier weapon to use as it was shown in the film (which was interesting because seemingly he doesn’t really need to breath anyway).
  • Loved watching Kal fly into a rage, pounding the hell out of Zod to defend his mom.  It was a great moment of humanizing the character.
  • For my money, Christopher Meloni had the best ‘hero moments’ of the film.  Great character actor, playing a great character.
  • The military overall comes off looking great, competent, and brave as hell, which is a nice change of pace from a lot of films.  Those guys were getting their asses handed to them, were hopelessly outgunned, and still tried to hold the line to the last man.

That’s it for now folks.  Thanks for reading if you made it this far.  Would love to talk more about the movie if anyone feels like it.

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