This past weekend, one of the most awaited films of the year hit theaters—Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel. Yes, many were looking forward to this new vision of a more modern Superman, and many fans felt that the film indeed delivered. But many more believe the film disappointed on a varitety of levels, and that Superman on film is just as troubled as he has been in the past few years. Personally? I’m very mixed. There’s things I indeed loved about Man of Steel—but there’s also things I hated. Like, a lot. Today, I’ll focus on those things.
But don’t worry—I don’t want to appear to be TOO much of a negative nancy. Tomorrow I’ll be back with 5 things I loved about Man of Steel. See, everyone wins. But first…well, here’s the negative stuff. And be warned—THIS POST WILL DELVE INTO SOME VERY LIGHT SPOILERS FOR MAN OF STEEL. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
The Goyer Dialogue
To be fair, I shouldn’t have had such inflated hopes for Man of Steel…not with David Goyer single handedly penning the script. Yes, he’s a credited screenwriter for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but it’s pretty clear that those film’s worst elements are courtesy of Goyer (lines like this come to mind.) Left to his own devices, Goyer gives us stuff like Jumper, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and Blade: Trinity. And though the script to Man of Steel isn’t bad per se (actually it’s one of Goyer’s better solo efforts), it does have dialogue that is occasionally cringe worthy. Sometimes the words that come out of Pa Kent or Jor El’s mouth are beautiful…but sometimes, they are just really cheesy and trying way too hard to elicit emotion. The script relies way too often on these speeches about heroics and what it means to be human that, at a certain point, they begin to lose their meaning and become drivel. Also, there are dialogue nuggets like “The world’s too big, Mom” followed by “Then make it smaller.” Yes Goyer, I get what you’re trying to say…but do you have to say it so badly?
The Boring-Ness of Zod
Seriously, what the hell happened here? Making a good bad guy isn’t that difficult, especially when you’re given an amazing talent like Michael Shannon to work with. But Shannon is wasted in this role, as Zod is given very little to do in the film. He’s given no moments to shine, and when his second in command is outshining him at practically every turn, you know something is wrong. Terrance Stamp was fantastic as Zod in Superman II, but there’s simply nothing about the character here that makes him interesting. There’s no qualities here that makes General Zod stand out from the rest of the villain world, and Michael Shannon’s performance is surprisingly bland from such a great actor. Basically anyone could have played this character, and nothing would have changed in the slightest. Zod’s a great basis for a villain, and Michael Shannon is a fantastic actor. So once again, I must asked—what the hell happened here?
The Weakness of the Lois Lane Romance
Don’t get me wrong; I think both Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were pretty great in their roles, and will be more than happy to delve into that later tomorrow. But the romance itself feels incredibly shoe horned and out of place in this film. We have no reason to think these two belong together at all, other than the fact that they are one of the most famous couples of American entertainment. The romance doesn’t take any focus at all in Man of Steel—there’s no romantic flight scene here, and nothing comes in vaguely close to it. Lois Lane and Superman do indeed share a kiss in the film, but it’s awkward as hell and had no build up what so ever. It happened because—well, it just NEEDED to happen. Honestly, I think the film would have been better off ignoring the romance aspect of Lois Lane and Clark Kent entirely, saving it until the next film where it can be properly built up and used well. Man of Steel just had too many other things going on that the romance angle had to be pushed to the side, and the film would have been better off if it just left it out entirely. But alas, that’s not the case.
The First Two Acts Are Kind of A Slog
To put it bluntly, Man of Steel takes FOREVER to get into gear. A lot of the first two acts are spent with Clark Kent just walking around, reflecting on his life in the most meaningless way possible. During theses moments the film also flashes back and forth from present Clark to past Clark, for no reason at all really (this film could have easily been told in linear order and not missed anything in the slightest). Even the action was pretty light in the first hour and a half, as nothing really occurs until Zod reappears and truly kicks off the main plot of the film. And once that happened, I was completely with this film—to the point that I constantly had to remind myself how much I was bored throughout the first half of it. And honestly, I think the reason why I cared little about what was going on in the first 90 minutes is due to the failings of the characterization of Clark Kent. Which I guess leads me to my next point…
At The End of the Day, I Still Had No Idea Why Clark Kent Chose To Become Superman
This is the most damning aspect of Man of Steel in my mind. This whole time, we’ve been lead to believe that Man of Steel would be a deeper, more introspective look at the man who is Clark Kent. In the same ways that Batman Begins delivered a more character based look at the Batman character, Man of Steel was meant to do the same thing for that of Superman. But at the end of the day, I think the film failed at its goal. Yes, it has a lot of dialogue about why Clark Kent SHOULD be Superman…but never about why he CHOSE to become Superman. At the end of the day, it boils down to two things: he’s a good person, and his Dad told him to. And if these are the only two reasons, what was the whole point of the first hour and a half where Clark Kent “finds out” the man he was meant to be? Unlike Bruce Wayne in Begins, nothing particularly changes about Clark Kent throughout Man of Steel. Nothing happens that makes him embrace his destiny as a superpowered hero to the people, as a symbol of hope for humanity. He just dons the cape because his father had it stored away in a ship for him. Honestly, I would have had no problem if Man of Steel kept it simple, ala Spider-Man. In that story, we have a clear cut answer for why Peter Parker became a superhero—he had great powers, and chose to use it to help people because he was a good person. In my mind, that’s enough for characters like Superman or Spider-Man. But the problem here is that Man of Steel insists that there’s something more about Clark Kent, and spends quite a bit of its running time arguing this idea. Like I’ve said many times in the past, I’m not against a more character driven Superman. And I do believe that, under the right circumstance, exploring why Clark Kent is the man he is can be interesting. I just don’t think Man of Steel handled that idea particularly well, and because of it suffers as a whole.
Trust me—I know I’m going to catch a lot of heat for this article. There’s some people out there who absolutely loved this film, and simply can’t see the negative points I bring up (hell, both Jake and Kristina are very positive to the film in there reviews). But there’s equal number of people who would agree whole heartedly with me. There’s a reason this film has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes—it’s very divisive, and it’s clear others see something in this film that I personally can’t. And I think that’s wonderful—there’s nothing more I could have wanted than to love Man of Steel. But unfortunately, things didn’t exactly pan out that way in my department.
Still, there are plenty of good things I have to say about Man of Steel, which I shall discuss tomorrow in another, probably less controversial article. Until then, have fun tearing me a new one.