Man of Steel Review (No Spoilers)

My friend Jason is the biggest Superman fan I know. After catching an early screening of Man of Steel this is what he had to say about the film.

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Historically speaking, the Superman film franchise has been a flop. Don’t get me wrong, the days of George Reeves and Christopher Reeve were great in their respective times, but they never really came close to exposing the raw power of the almighty Superman. Not that it was the fault of directors or actors, but of the times. The limits of technology. The limits of cultural expectations. Superman has always been limited on-screen, and let’s face it, understandably so. No son of Krypton could ever be paid a worthy tribute…until now.

First, a little bit about me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge Superman fan. My mother always kept a box of pictures from my childhood, and most of them featured me in my Superman undies, red towel tied around my neck. I can’t rattle off the entire House of El, or quote every super-villain’s last words, no…my love for the Hero wasn’t based solely in the comics. I just wanted to be Superman. I wanted to fly. I wanted to harness unlimited strength. I wanted to date Lois Lane…..To me, Superman has always been an icon. A majestic all-powerful god-like dream that I could aspire to become more like. Well, let’s keep this short….I really love Superman.

When I first heard (sometime in 2010, I believe) that there would be a Supeman reboot, I almost cried. Half out of hope and excitement, half out of sheer terror that someone else would completely RE-destroy my favorite do-gooder. Then the news came that Zach Snyder was directing, and Christopher Nolan was co-writing. Now we’re talking. I shouldn’t have to go into the work history of these two men. You know their work. I was pumped. I purposefully didn’t watch any trailers for this movie. I wanted to be surprised, whether in a good or bad way.

I digress…Let’s talk about the movie.

I was fortunate enough to see the film in 3D, which I typically despise being that a lot of 3D movies use gimmicky camera moves and tricks, almost as if the movie studios are still trying to convince themselves that 3D is worth it. I was very impressed with Man of Steel in 3D though. Every shot seemed expertly planned and choreographed from beginning to end. I witnessed some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve ever seen. Action sequences were smooth and highly detailed. The darker, more emotional scenes were…well, dark and emotional. I could really feel the sad duty of Lara El as she said goodbye to her newborn son. The anger of General Zod was raw and unbridled. These emotions were very much aided by skillful techniques of the scores of people behind the camera. All in all, it was truly one of the most beautiful films in recent history. See it in 3D if at all possible.

A quick note about the action sequences while I’m on the subject of cinematography…I’ve always thought it lazy when, in a large-scale fight scene, the camera juts about in the shaky-so-you-can’t-tell-what’s-going-on manner. It’s almost like they’re trying to hide something (probably the lack of budget). In Man of Steel, every fight sequence was crystal clear. Without the blur and shake, how could they illustrate the immense speed of each character? I honestly have no idea how they made it look so good, and so fast. I’m a motion graphics design professional and I deal with video and special effects editing on a regular basis, and I still don’t understand it. It was that good.

I especially enjoyed the depiction of Krypton. This is one location that I don’t really remember learning much about, although it has been featured in short bursts in other Superman films. The dying planet was given much thought and respect. Beautiful creatures, beautifully tragic end. I won’t go further here, but to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the representation. Highly creative.

I’ve always had an issue with the on-screen representation of flight. Not solely because it often looks so fake (which is does), but more because there’s a disconnect. I have no idea what it feels like to experience unaided flight. When I see a character fly in a movie, my thought is always, “wow, that must be really cool for them.” Man of Steel employs an awesome means for giving the viewer a sense of flight. I won’t go into detail, but you’ll know it when you see it. It just feels right. And that’s a really awesome thing. You gotta get that stuff right.

The movie might seem a little confusing to some viewers at first because of the jumpy storyline. More than twice I found myself ‘stepping outside the movie’ to figure things out. Turns out that the story is really solid as a whole, but a few scenes seem a little out of place until you’re able to catch up. Not in an “Inception” sort of way, but more like a “I wish they would’ve smoothed that out” sort of way. The scenes of Clark as a child brought a tear to the eye. I’m not sure if it was because of the great acting or just the fact that I was so stinkin’ excited about the film. Either way, the casting director deserves a double high-five for finding the younger versions of Clark. Spot-on.

Speaking of casting, I don’t know that I would’ve picked any better actors for the film. Everyone seemed to have a nice grasp of their character. For my pick of most-accurate (at least according to what my imagination would have the characters look like) was General Zod. The guy just looks right. Everything from his slightly offset eyes to his crooked demeanor just screams Zod. Surprisingly, my biggest disappointment in character choice (if I absolutely HAVE to pick one) would be Henry Cavill. Don’t get me wrong, I think he was the best choice to wear the suit, but there was just something missing. Maybe it was the Christopher Reeve eye twinkle? All of that is easily forgiven though, and really shouldn’t even be mentioned. I just feel like I need to throw at least one negative remark in my review. Really, he makes a great Superman…no question.

The superhero genre seems plagued by cheesiness (thanks for nothing, Marvel), but in Man of Steel I never felt like my comedic sensibility was being berated. There were a few funny moments that had the entire theatre laughing, but at no time did I feel like I was watching a Spiderman movie (dear lord…).

One of the things about Superman that I’ve always loved is his sense of nobility (or rather being noble). Not in a prideful sense, but more of grace and “doing the right thing”. Superman is powerful enough to destroy almost any foe, terraform mountains, and rule the earth if he wants to. But his humble nature keeps him on track. Maybe it was the farm, or Jonathan’s subtly imparted wisdom. Man of Steel does a great job of showcasing the humility and mercy of the son of Krypton. Slow to anger, quick to forgive, which brings me to…….

Superman has oft been compared to Christ. A single son comes from an other-worldly realm, endued with amazing powers, to be the savior of humanity. Outcast, downtrodden, despised…you know, Jesus stuff. One scene had me almost rolling in the aisle but I seemed to be the only one in the theatre who got the reference.

I could go on for hours about how much I loved this movie. I hope it goes on to be very successful and spawn at least a trilogy. I will indeed watch it again and again. Great story, great actors, great action, great film. Overall score, 9.5/10.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Jor-El.

“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time you will help them accomplish wonders.”

Thanks for reading.

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