Movie Review: Man of Steel (I really WANT to like a Superman movie)

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I mean it, I REALLY want to like a Superman movie, but alas, it apparently isn’t meant to be.  I was on the fence when I came out of the theater on this one, but the more I thought about it, the more disappointed I was.  Eventually, I worked myself into a nerdy, writer’s fervor and decided that I did not, in fact, like this movie.  Dammit.

I will answer one question up front, because I know it’s the one everyone wants an answer to.  Was it better than Superman Returns?  Yes.

My thoughts and spoilers to follow . . .

I’m going to start with the most heinous of crimes this movie committed.  Why the hell would Zod ask for Lois Lane to come up to the ship with Supes?  It makes ZERO sense!  The only reason Zod would have known who she was is because some guy on TV told the world Lois Lane knew who Superman was.  Why would he care about her?  Why would he invite her up into the ship just to lock her alone in a room with a freaking control panel in it that could access ALL of the ship’s systems?!  Zero sense, I’m telling you.

The only reason Lane would be up there is to have a chance to help Supes, then be rescued by him.  This is painfully obvious from the moment her presence is demanded, and we never get any sort of explanation as to why Zod asked her to join them up in orbit in the first place.  Hello, Deus Ex Machina, not so nice to meet you.

Zod whines about how his people would have to suffer for years to acclimate to Earth’s atmosphere and environment to live peaceably alongside us lowly humans.  In fact, it’s his entire grounds for wiping us all out and rewriting Earth ecology to more closely match that of Krypton’s.  But, here’s the thing.  Zod becomes a supreme badass, seemingly adjusted to Earth’s quirks, after only a few hours.  Give me a break.  Either it’s hard for Kryptonians to adapt, or it’s not.  One line where he says “I’ve been training my whole life to be in tune with my senses” is not enough to explain this problem away.

Louis Lane is basically an ancillary character.  She has a few moments to shine through with some character during the movie, but those are few and far between.

When you first meet Miss Lane, she spouts off some line about measuring genitalia that is completely forced and out of place.  It’s like they were trying to cram in some character right away so they didn’t have to worry about doing it later, but because the line was unnecessary and forced, it came off across poorly.  Instead of Lane being a pain in the ass because she gets to the truth no matter what, she simply seems like pain in the ass.  There’s a difference.

She gets better, and more likable throughout the movie, but I never really got a sense of depth from her.  I wasn’t as afraid for her as I should have been when she escapes Zod’s ship (that she shouldn’t been in in the first place), and I wasn’t even all that moved when she kisses Supes.  My favorite part with her in it was at the very end, when she “introduces” herself to Clark Kent–but that’s more a tribute to how good the actor was that played her (great facial expressions in that scene).

The way they kill of Jonathan Kent is completely lame.  First, Jonathan isn’t an idiot.  He’s got an invincible son with him, and he knows it.  He should have sent Clark back toward the tornado to get the dog saying, “Son, be careful, and try not to make it too obvious.”

I also don’t think Clark would have stood by to watch his father die, even if it would have meant exposing who he really was to a small group of people.

So, you’re sitting through this movie, and one of the most concrete things that has been established about Clark Kent’s character is that he doesn’t like seeing people getting hurt.  He will go out of his way to help people, even at the cost of his own health or pride, right?

Why the hell would Supes then commence fighting in two populated areas?  Why wouldn’t he at least attempt to pull the fight to somewhere less crowded?  How many thousands of people died when he fought in Metropolis?  He didn’t seem to care about throwing Zod through occupied buildings, and he didn’t go out of his way to save any civilians except for one scared family at the very end of the fight.

And how about the very end of that fight?  Suddenly Zod is too weak to fight back, so he tries to roast a family with his eye lasers.  Supes has him in a choke-hold.  As the struggle continues, Supes can’t find the strength to stop Zod from bisecting the family, so he snaps Zod’s neck instead.

Think about that for a sec.  There’s a fight raging for quite some time, neither Superman nor Zod seem to show any signs of slowing, until, suddenly they land in a crowded space with a conveniently placed family.  As the beams sweep toward the innocents, the frightened father herds his children into a corner rather than running away like most of the other people do.  Superman is unable to hold Zod’s head still, or even redirect the laser-eyes, but he can somehow find the strength required to break a neck.  Seems strange.

Then there’s the fact that a race of aliens who explored and settled on several other planets throughout the galaxy just stopped doing it one day.  The only reason I can see for this happening is to make Krypton exploding more of a big deal (it fits with the story the movie was trying to tell).

Clark rides to Earth on an interstellar baby-ship, and Zod is exiled to the Phantom Zone in a spaceship that he and his cronies fit a “phantom” drive to so they can try to find old Kryptonian outposts.  This begs the question, why didn’t more Kryptonians leave the bloody planet?  I mean, did no one think, “Hey, let’s just climb in a “World Engine” and get out of here?”

When Krypton’s resources began to dwindle, why risk “harvesting the core” of the planet?  Why not just spread out a bit and import resources from other worlds?  If you can invent terraforming technology (World Engines), you can invent ways to grab resources from other worlds without destroying your own.

This is a serious weakness in the back-story, and it makes the whole thing feel that much more forced.  Maybe if we had better reasons for Krypton cutting off the colonies from the home world?  Maybe they rebelled?  Maybe there was some sort of interstellar plague?  I dunno, just give me something.

*sigh*

I could keep listing problems I had with this movie, but I’ll only mention one more, then end my nerdy rant.  There was no laughter in this movie.  Seriously; there was zero comic relief, and the only chuckle I got was when Supes used one bad guy as a club to hit another bad guy.  There was a lame attempt at humor when Supes was trying to learn to fly (which he figured out VERY quickly), and that’s it.  In three hours worth of movie, they should have found SOME reason to make us laugh–at least once.

Iron Man 3 wasn’t perfect, but it did entertain (and it made the audience smile and laugh).

There were a few things I did like.  They went to greater lengths to explain how Superman gets his powers on Earth, and Supes weakness around Kryptonian things makes a LITTLE more sense.  Also, the scenes on Krypton in the beginning are both awesome and cheesy (and easily the best part of the movie in my book).

The kid that played young Clark Kent was fantastic, and hell, the adult actor that played Superman was pretty good too (he just didn’t have a lot to work with).

The special effects were great too–if a little fast paced.  Oh, and Superman’s uniform (though it’s origin seems a little weird) looks a whole lot better than any I think I’ve seen in either the comics or movies.

Here’s what it all boils down to: it’s damned hard to make a good Superman movie.  Why?  Because you’re making a movie about a character that is, essentially, flawless.  I’m not just talking about physically, either.  Clark Kent is the quintessential nice guy.  He never does anything wrong, never abuses his power, and always helps when he can.  Hell, he doesn’t even lose his temper (often).  That’s what makes hims so darn likable (lovable, even), but those traits make it hard to write a decent story about him.

He has one, very artificial, weakness when confronted with Kryptonite, and that’s it.  So, you tend not to care when he gets hit unless there are some glowing green rocks nearby.  40 tons of flaming train lands on his head?  No big deal.  Hit by a missile?  No problem.  He was on a nuclear bomb test site when one when off?  He’s finebut someone should de-radiate him before he walks around in public.

I think you get the idea.  My advice on this movie?  If you like visual spectacle and don’t care so much about plot and in-depth character development, go see it–you’ll probably enjoy the heck out of the thing.  I’d wait for a rental though.  Don’t go see it in 3D (not at all worth the extra cash).

It’s worth noting that my wife and I saw it with her family, and we were the only two people there who really didn’t like it.  In fact, I liked it more than she did.  As soon as the credits started to roll, Amanda looked at me and said, “I can’t believe we just paid over $18 for that.”

QMovie Review: Man of Steel (I really WANT to like a Superman movie)

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