The Man of Steel in Review

Unlike the new movie I encourage reading the newest Superman comic.
I saw the Man of Steel at 12:01 AM on Friday morning. I left the Fenway Theater in Boston not only tired but conflicted over what I had just seen. Before getting to the movie, I want to rant about the need to show a dozen trailers before a Midnight movie. It was after 12:30 when the movie finally began. There were trailers for every big budget movie yet to be released. Maybe I was just tired and cranky. But when the price of the movie is fifteen bucks, plus parking and (God forbid you want a soda, bottle of water or a pack of Mike and Ike's) you might expect them to take it easy on the damn commercials. Then when the movie was finally over (finally because of the time and not a comment on the movie itself which I'll get to soon) the parking lot only had one open exit and only one working attendant so it took an hour just to leave the premises. I finally hit the bed around 4AM.

Overall, I thought the movie was okay, leaning closer to good than bad but with a lot of problems. The largest problem is that the movie tries too hard to please everyone and the result is that many movie fans and Superman fans will leave the theater disappointed, though not necessarily for the same reasons.The film is loaded with huge action scenes as well as some nice character moments. The cast is fantastic with huge actors like Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner filling what were relatively minor roles considering their usual top billing. I think it is the performance of the cast (the big stars and the relative unknowns) that make this movie at worst, watchable. Even the dialog is fine, he does not refer to himself as a friend or mention that he'll be around even once. It's the story and to some extent the characterization of the main character that is just tragically bad.

As any Superman franchise must, the film begins on Krypton. We all know that Kal-El was born to father Jor-El and mother Lara and at a very young age is rocketed away from the doomed planet. This version of the film gives us so much more than that and the result is that what should be our chance to connect with Superman's parents is lost. Our ability to understand the sacrifice they are making to ensure their son's survival is lost in a blizzard of explosions and fight scenes that seem entirely unnecessary.

When we finally reach the Earth, Kal-El is already Superman even if he is sans costume at times. He is traveling around the globe and saving lives in whatever fashion he can, seemingly uncaring about protecting any secret identity. Yeah, that is a problem for me. There is very little Clark Kent in the movie. Some fans of the character might argue that Clark and Superman are just two sides of the same coin. Both sides driven to do the right thing, one side with super strength and heat vision and the other side as a journalist who exposes injustice. Even if that is true the problem here is that the Clark side of the coin is rarely scene other than in flashbacks scattered throughout the movie. Those scenes are robbed of their power by being buried between long, huge and loud battles between Superman and the movie's bad guys. We never have the time to care about Superman or any other character.

Some fans will have a problem with the end of the movie, okay, the first of the three endings. But in this version of the character I do not feel it matters much. This is a Superman film in the same fashion that Matthew Broderick's giant lizard film was a Godzilla movie. If you know the character as well as I do, you also know that the alterations to his origins and costume do not matter nearly as much as getting the long established core beliefs and philosophy of the character right. This movie does not do it. And yes, I do miss the underwear on the outside look.