Revisiting Man of Steel

A good death is its own award.

That line…no bueno.

Over the past weekend, I decided to re-watch Man of Steel before the new Batman V Superman blockbuster opens this coming weekend. When I first saw Man of Steel, I feel like I viewed it incorrectly. I saw a crappy digital version and I pressed play well past midnight.  After an hour into the movie I fell asleep and finished it feeling groggy the next morning. To say I wasn’t paying attention is an understatement. That was two and a half years ago, shortly after the film was released for rental. I wasn’t the biggest fan of it on that first viewing and had many of the same complaints many people voiced, bad writing, uneven pacing, Superman caused way too much damage, etc. I was bored by it, which should be the last thing you want to be when watching a film with this many talented people behind and in front of the camera.

But I felt I judged it unfairly because of my cognitive state. I wanted to give the movie to win me over, to give it a second chance because I am genuinely excited to see the sequel, even despite the horrendous doomsday trailer reveal and the terrible Rotten Tomatoes score. So I found a copy  of Man of Steel and hit play.

And I watched it. All of it. And … I don’t know if I liked it. I didn’t dislike it as much as the first. I was awake and gave it my full attention. I loved particular moments and scenes (Jor El aiding Louis on the ship was a lot of fun), and groaned at David S. Goyer’s stilted dialogue (“I’m a pulitzer prize winning reporter” ugh).  The performances were fine, the ideas of an alien savior and first contact were great, Hans Zimmer score is breathtaking ( I find myself listening to it often at work, so beautiful). Snyder cements himself as a great visual director when he thankfully doesn’t rely on glossy images and frame speed ramping. But the story just isn’t there.  There are some interesting ideas followed by boring execution.

The execution of the plot, the pacing, the dialogue, the motivations of the characters just aren’t developed enough or make little sense.  Would Jonathan Kent really be cool with having kids die to protect his sons identity? His self sacrifice makes sense, but dead Lana Lang on a bus?!?! Why is the military the go to government representatives?  Why is Lois lane on the ship at the end? Noone else is qualified to insert an alien thumb drive?  Why do the Kryptonians constantly fall back to Smallville or Metropolis from space?!?

man of steel skulls

The movie had many moments that took me out of the story, for every scene where Zod perfectly explains his motivations, there is an IHOP scene or Perry Wtrying to save a reporter we know nothing about.  It is jumbled and messy with little supporting character set up and pay off. Even when Lois lane proves herself to be a great journalist and takes the story about a mysterious hero in her own hands and leaks it online (on a side note, I really enjoy how they bring her and Clark Kent together, the use of her investigating him and following her leads is really clever and well done).  But then she succumbs to cliched damsel in distress bullshit and superman slowly drifts into space unsubtly posed like Christ and floats into space,  instead of immediately bursting off to save her.

The movie has too many script contrivances and left me wanting more and wishing it was better. I understand writing big movies like this is hard,  that you must appease many people, but when the action lasts too long and you have a journalist on a military aircraft for no reason other than to have her do something (maybe she could have been the one on the ground saving other civilians instead of Doug from House of Cards), I would have cared more.

This movie has great ideas and individual scenes and performances (Amy Adams is great as Louis Lane and I loved what Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner brought), but not enough linked thoughtfully together for me to truly enjoy the movie overall. I don’t hate it like I once did, even I don’t mind the final moment between Superman and Zod at the end. I just wish the film was better written and paced. That there was a better screenplay. That Snyder had a better handle on character development and thematic consistency. There is a lot of potential in the story the filmmakers told, but the execution was just too lacking.  And that ultimately makes me worried about Batman V Superman. That (as of writing this post) 31% RT score has me worried that BvS will be more of the same. A weak script with great ideas and an OK director but an amazing cast and scenes make you hoping and wanting better. I am always saddened when a film that has such great potential to be something truly special squanders the talent on and off screen for something mediocre because of a few people just don’t have the capacity or talent to elevate material. Man of Steel is one of those films. An OK movie that could be worse, but should be better.  At least we got this fantastic uplifting theme though:


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