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Blog

Man of Steel Review

Mark Marianelli

Man of Steel came out what feels like eons ago, but this website isn't what I would consider "relevant" by any means, so now's as good as ever to write my review. In addition, being a father to a 6 month old means my son dictates when my wife and I are allowed to leave the house and enjoy ourselves. Not that he isn't a total bundle of joy, but good lord babies are needy! What's up with that?

I emphasize the fatherhood because I'll refer back to that later.

Let me begin this review with a minor rant that's been itching at my movie-loving soul for what feels like forever. Rotten Tomatoes. Good lord. ROTTEN TO-effing-MATOES. If ever there was a web presence that eats at the fibers of my very sanity it's that unholy website! In actuality, it's more "film critics" that I have a bone to pick with than it is the actual website. That'd be like hating the entire city of Boston because of Red Sox fans. Personally, I view critics as the Pharisees of film, but that's a whole other rant for another day. Let me put it this way:

Spider-Man 3 - 63%

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - 78%

Superman Returns - 75%

Phantom Menace - 57%

MAN OF STEEL - 56%... One percent LOWER than Phantom Menace, one of the most hated flicks of all time.

That's a very bold claim.

Before I go on, let me point out that in order for a movie to be considered "Certified Fresh" from RT.com, it has to have at least 60%. What this means is that if half the critics enjoyed the movie and the other half hated it, then the half that hated it wins. Let me explain another way, if MORE than half of the critics enjoy a film but it's still less than 60%, the minority wins. A movie is considered rotten even when more than half of the polled critics enjoy the film. Are you seeing the problem here?

Less than half = Rotten. Exactly half = Rotten. More than half = Rotten. Overwhelmingly more than half = Fresh.

There's a very high standard for a movie to be considered good and an incredibly low standard for a movie to be considered bad. This is the website that most internet users refer to for information regarding the quality of a film. And it's because of this bass ackwards system of rating films that Man of Steel is suffering a bad rap. Don't even get me going on what the standard for an Academy Award is because I have NO idea. Had anybody even heard of The Hurt Locker before it got nominated? I certainly didn't.

I get sidetracked a lot, but I need to be clear as to why I'm even writing any of this. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I really enjoyed Man of Steel. And although in the film industry's eyes it was considered a success based on the box office, reviews of this film could affect future movie-goers from seeing a movie they may actually enjoy. To be fair, an opinion is an opinion, but I feel as though this movie was unfairly judged by the Tomazi's. Yeah, that site is Hitler.

So in case anybody cares, here's my thoughts on Man of Steel:

I mentioned being a father earlier to a baby boy, and from a Father's perspective, the opening scenes of Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van with their son, Kal-El, tugged on every heart string I had within my body. Those scenes were 100% convincing. There was an emotional aspect there that I never got from watching the 1970's version of this scenario (and yes, I have re-watched it since being a father). Sure it was very well acted, but no matter how hard I tried to care about the severity of the matter, it just always sounded like this:

"Kal-El, I your father decree that you shall now go forth unto the Earth and be ye Superman! Now I die."

Well heard, but poorly felt if that makes any sense. I'll be using the 1978 version for comparison as it seems like every critic has done the same to paint Man of Steel in a negative light.

While on the subject of Krypton, I almost didn't want those scenes to end! The world was portrayed brilliantly alien - dragons and all! It gave a certain depth to the film that hadn't been covered in earlier attempts at the franchise, you knew exactly what kind of world Superman came from, it remained an essential aspect to Kal-El's development right up until the film's final moments when he essentially has to choose between his home planet and his adoptive planet. You felt that inner struggle because for once, Krypton was a real place, not some ice sculpture inhabited by people with glowing costumes.

On the subject of Alien homeworlds, this movie had a clear goal from start to finish - Superman is an alien in a strange world, not just a campy superhero in blue tights. His character arc was moved along by his desire to fit in and find a purpose, not by his desire to fight crime. In terms of that development, I enjoyed the contrast in his two parents' goals for Kal. On one hand, you had his birth father desiring that he be a god amongst men, to be a guiding light, while on the other hand you had Jonathan Kent telling him to hide his powers until the time is right, to blend in. Both views were right, and yet both views were wrong (and if you're familiar with the Superman mythos, he ultimately finds a proper balance between those views by taking on both paths... Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent and, of course, Superman).

Let's talk about Superman, shall we? He's a little ridiculous when you really think about the character. Super speed, super strength, super hearing, heat vision, x-ray vision, flight, frost breath, invincibility and a baaad outFIT! Heck, if we're going to reference our beloved Donnor film version, he can even reverse time! Dayum that man be super! And that's all anybody's ever really been able to focus on in 35 years - The Super, not the Man. This is what Man of Steel set out to accomplish, discovering the Man before we discover the Super. Sure he was doing superhuman things throughout the whole film, but every time he did one of those things, somebody was there to slap him on the wrist for doing it (and probably breaking their hand in the process). For once this iconic alien was actually alienated, and it was something fresh to see a little more attention paid to who Superman really is beyond the usual "Up Up and Away-isms" we've been bombarded with for so many years.

I'm not against the original Superman, I personally love it. It was the first Superhero movie I'd ever seen and to this day I still get goosebumps the first time he dons the Red and Blues and starts saving the day. The music, the performances by both Christopher Reeves and Gene Hackman, the emotional impact of Pa' Kent's demise... All of it is amazing and stands the test of time.

But let's be real for a moment. This is a movie where Superman flies around the earth so fast that it reverses its rotation and, obviously, reverses time just enough for Superman to save Louis Lane AND stop 2 Nuclear missiles headed in two opposite directions. It's a movie where, on their first formal meeting, Superman flies Louis Lane around the country while she resites one of the cheesiest poems in cinematic history in her mind... "Can you read my mind?" Dear god I hope not, because he'd have dropped your dippie a$$ the second he caught wind of that nonsense floating around your head.

Let us not nitpick Man of Steel while holding on to the nostalgia of such absurdity... Though I do miss the soundtrack.

I've heard a lot of criticism aimed at the use of special effects and the amount of action used in the second half of the film... Do you remember that list of super powers I just mentioned a few paragraphs up? Picture 8 of those super-beings battling to the death in the middle of a city. Don't tell me that's easily accomplished with a few strings, some building props and a handful of green screens. These are beings who move at super speeds, whose punches can demolish buildings, who shoot FIRE OUT OF THEIR EYES and fly at supersonic speeds. To capture this requires some assistance from computers. I for one was very much impressed with the use of CGI in this film. It was no better and no worse than what you see in a plethora of other highly reviewed films involving science fiction and heavy action. What it comes down to is either you love CGI or you don't. If you don't, then I better not catch you giving good reviews to movies like The Avengers which spent the last hour of their film flooding the screen with CGI spectacles complete with a man shooting down heavily armored Alien invaders riding space-skidoos with a handful of arrows and a pair of sunglasses. If you found Man of Steel ridiculous, then I trust you found EVERY superhero movie to come out in the last 10 years ridiculous, Iron Man included. All I'm saying is fair is fair.

Another complaint I've heard is in regards to the collateral damage caused by Superman's brawl with General Zod... Again, we're talking about the equivalent of two gods battling to the death in the middle of a city - Expect the city to get wrecked. As much as Superman is all about saving lives, we need to accept the fact that this movie is grounded in reality. If Superman gets thrown into a building, or throws Zod into a building, expect that there's going to be insane levels of destruction that not even Superman can avoid. It's honestly a stupid complaint that nobody gave a second thought about during the NYC battle in The Avengers. Don't bring that crap here unless you're going to bring it everywhere.

And if you want to talk about collateral damage, remember in Superman (1978) when Superman rescued a little girl's kitten from a tree and then flew off? Remember what happened when that little girl told her mom what happened? She got smacked for making up stories. Let it be known from now until forever that Superman caused the domestic abuse of an innocent little girl. Boom.

There's been a lot of criticism aimed at the film being devoid of joy... First of all, that's garbage. Second of all, did these critics actually WATCH Zero Dark Thirty? There is NO joy in that film. Not one smile, not one happy feeling, not one sense of joy other than Bin Laden getting popped in the head. And that movie got nominated for a freaking Oscar! How a movie made you feel inside is not a valid complaint for a film's quality. Just watch Requiem for a Dream sometime.

But I'm not delusional. As much as I loved this film, it wasn't without its cons (didn't think I'd go there, did you?).

Some of the plot got a little confusing for me once the "World Maker" touched down on Earth. I'm still not quite clear how they stopped it, something about baby pods? I don't know. There comes a point in most movies where something technical is explained and my mind blanks out because as far as I'm concerned, the solution is for Superman to punch it in the face. This is less of a complaint on the movie and more of a complaint on my attention span... That and the waiter at Smitty's came over to give me my bill at the exact moment they were explaining the big plan to stop Zod. Oh well.

Like most movies, there were a couple plot holes which irked me a little. First of all, why the heck did General Zod demand Louis Lane's presence on his ship in addition to Kal-El's? Nothing she had done up to this point merited her gaining the attention of Zod. Sure she let the word out to the world that Superman existed, but what's that matter to any of the antagonists in this film? In fact, her being on that ship posed a critical threat to Zod's plans so it would have been better for him to simply not request that random news reporter behind Superman to board his freaking spacecraft. Am I right??

I'm also curious how Jor El managed to sneak that snazzy Superman costume aboard a 10,000 year old spaceship.

But again, why was Superman able to turn back time by spinning the Earth's rotation backwards? Because he's Superman! Duh. How was it Thor managed to show up on Earth after the Rainbow Bridge got destroyed in the last movie? Oh that's right, "Odin did something that drained his power". Plot hole filled. Why did the NYC cops follow Captain America simply because he "could fight good"? Because he's Captain Freaking America and it created an amusing moment of dialogue. Plot hole adverted!

We as an audience accept certain plot holes if it'll further the entertainment, but we get annoyed by them when we feel like being "critics". My theory is that the 1978 Superman set a standard of how Americans view Superman. He's quick-witted, goes out of his way to rescue kittens from trees and he likes to listen to John Williams on the moon. Genuine complaints of this film that I've heard range from "Krypton didn't look like I remember it looking" to "where was the John Willaims score?"... THIS ISN'T THE ORIGINAL SUPERMAN!!! Zach Snyder did something unique with this movie that Bryan Singer wasn't able to pull off in 2006 - He REBOOTED Superman. The word "reboot" is essential for people going into this movie for the first time with fond memories of the 70's and 80's. This isn't Christopher Reeves' Superman, let his legacy be what it was and let someone else have a crack at it without having to live in the shadow of an outdated campy flick.

That all being said, I give this film a rating of 4 Rotten Tomatoes out of 5.