I’ve been awaiting Man of Steel for one very simple reason: I love Lois Lane. And I’ve been wanting a great Superman movie too.
This wasn’t it.
It was two-thirds a very good movie and one-third a very dumb movie.
Four of us in my family went to see it. We all enjoyed it to the end. The eldest son declared that World War Z was better, and the younger twins said Iron Man 3 was better. All agreed the big action sequences at the end weren’t good, that Superman needed to smile more, and the movie needed a better sense of fun.
But there were parts where the movie really worked. Unfortunately, those were negated by parts where it fell apart. Following are my top ten in each of those categories.
Warning: There are huge monster spoilers below.
What I loved:
1. Clark secretly being a hero even when roaming the Earth.
2. The military actually changing their minds. Hey! They’re not mindless dummies here! (Well, except for the part where they shoot down Main Street of Smallville with no regard for civilian life…)
3. Henry Cavill as Superman. Not perfect, but very good. And better as Clark. Probably even better as shirtless drifter dude but that may be the shallow part of me talking.
4. Jor-El. As is said about his son later in the movie, he’s kinda hot. I didn’t expect to love Russell Crowe as a Kryptonian, but, hey, he’s awesome, even as a computer simulation.
5. Zod is good. A little too over-the-top at times, but good.
6. Yay! I really liked Lois, a reporter who’s the best at what she does, but also has a conscience. And it’s amazing how fast she picked up on the “if I fall from a really high place, Superman will catch me,” routine. (I say that with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)
7. Ma Kent telling her unexpected visitors to “go to hell!”
8. The parallels of a child with ADD/autism or other mental conditions to Clark’s inability to process his super powers as a child. My youngest son, who is autistic knew just how young Clark felt.
9. The Kryptonian tech was dark, but quite cool.
10. Detective Stabler, er, military general guy played by Christopher Meloni, dying a warrior’s death to show that ordinary humans can save the world too.
What I hated:
1. “Wow, this movie has more screaming than Dragonball Z!” my youngest daughter said. I was annoyed at the movie having Lois screaming like a banshee, but then nearly everyone joined in. Lois screamed, Superman screamed, Zod screamed. Whew, as least Prof. Hamilton didn’t scream.
2. Speaking of the good professor, jeez, you get a great actor to play Emil and his death is a toss in? C’mon!
3. Smashy, smashy, smashy, crushed buildings! And not the kind of smashing that made me worried for people and root for the hero either. Just lots of smashed building that reminded me of 9/11 far more than the smashing in The Avengers.
4. Along those lines, the fight scenes were largely dull and uninventive, unlike the end of Iron Man 3, where I was invested and actually *surprised* by what happened next.
5. Pa Kent’s death. “Mom, if you told me not to save you because I’d expose who I was, I’d still totally save you,” said my eldest son who apparently doesn’t listen as well as Clark.
On the drive home, we talked about the ways Clark could have saved Pa without revealing himself, including running into the tornado and covering Pa with his own body. When they survive, well, tornadoes do weird stuff. Second possibility, claim to have been tossed a mile away together and landed softly in some hay. It’s very hard to see what’s going on during a tornado.
Or they could go with “it’s a miracle!”
6. Yes, I hated the stuff with Pa Kent so much I’m listing it twice. Pa gets a pass with that “maybe” because he’s out of arguments and terrified for his son at that point.
But, as my eldest son pointed out, “how is it *less* traumatic for Clark to watch his father die in front of him than reveal himself as someone with supernatural powers who still has his father around to help him deal with things?”
7. The end scene with Superman depositing a satellite and asking not to be watched by the military was cute. But really, how can Superman possibly keep the secret of who he is when the aliens land in his family’s FRONT YARD.
8. I totally buy Lois burying the super-alien story because she thinks the truth will harm more than help, but the romantic kiss was too much, too fast. Perhaps there’s a scene missing after the one where they first talk in the graveyard that would show their sexual tension better. Or maybe they thought the being rescued stuff was sexier than it actually looked on-screen.
9. The entire last battle with Zod felt so tacked on.
Like the horror-movie cliche of the evildoer coming back for one last strike. And I guess we should talk about Superman killing Zod. I should be more annoyed with it given Superman shouldn’t be killing people. But at that point, I was fairly bored, so I’ll direct everyone to Mark Waid’s impassioned critique of the movie instead. Waid also nails exactly why that ending fight was so wince-inducing rather than the wondrous battle of good versus evil it could have been.
10. Zod’s final appearance where he’s talking about being built to be a warrior and protect Krypton was a perfect opportunity for him to say “they’ll kneel before Zod!” or something. Alas, no. Bummer!
I wanted to love this movie so much and it has pieces I loved that much and yet what’s bad about it almost overshadows the good.
My recommendation: If you’re hankering for a good odds-against-me Superman vs. aliens movie, watch Superman: Unbound. It has action sequences that put this movie to shame, though it does have one too many robots being crunched.