Man of Steel is the Superman movie we deserve … but I’m not sure we should love it

Man of Steel Henry Cavill

‘Man of Steel’ is easily one of the best screen version of Superman I’ve ever seen. Despite that quality, I’m not sure I liked it as much as everyone else will.


Hollywood has been trying to properly portray Superman on-screen since the early 1950s. From The Adventures of Superman to Richard Donner’s big-screen version to The Adventures of Lois and Clark, each attempt has had varying degrees of success. The latest effort, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, is easily the best of the bunch, but falls short of being the near-perfect film every one else is telling you it is.

Man of Steel, is easily the best in the Superman pantheon
of flicks.

While my list of problems with the flick is substantial, I don’t want to start with the impression that this isn’t a great flick. Henry Cavill is great in the duel roles of Clark Kent and Superman. Some actors have really hit all of the notes of one side of the last son of Krypton, but Cavill does a great job differentiating one from the other without sacrificing either. Before walking into the theatre, I never quite got the casting of Amy Adams as Lois Lane, but she made me a believer (naturally). I’m not sure why I had any doubts, as the actress has proven time and time again she’s got the chops to pull off just about anything. Even Michael Shannon excels as General Zod.

Man of Steel also excels in one area, besting my still-favorite superhero flick The Avengers. For years, as special effects technology has grown by leaps and bounds, comic book fans have been waiting to see a superhero and villain to rival what we read in the comic books. While not every scene delivers – I was particularly bored by a fight on Krypton early on – there was one in particular that is everything geeks across the world have been waiting for for years. Superman fights several other Kyptonians in a battle that destroys everything in their way, fulfilling a promise made the first time special effect artists found a way to make George Reeves leap tall buildings in a single bound.

The Superman as Jesus analogies found a way to be both subtle and over-the-top simultaneously

But I did have problems with the film, large and small. Everything from a series of unnecessarily confusing flashbacks that peppered the first half of the film to the Superman as Jesus analogies that found a way to be both subtle and over-the-top simultaneously. I also found the sequence on Krypton off-putting; it was a bit weird, rooting the story in space opera roots nearly as much as a superhero story (I didn’t particularly like the sequence on Krypton in Donner’s version either).

I was not a fan of what happened in the final moments of Man of Steel.

Most of all though, I was not a fan of what happened in the final moments of Man of Steel. The climax of the film clearly reflected the more emotionally mature feeling that producer Christopher Nolan brought from The Dark Knight trilogy. The story has a “Really Big Moment™” – one I think you could make an argument it only barely earned – but then completely ignores its magnitude as the story comes to a close. For the story to include that moment – earned or not – and then not deal with the aftermath was almost unforgivable.

At the end of the day however, it is just one moment in a sea of mostly-awesome. Man of Steel is going to make a metric-crap-ton of money at the box office, and will be lauded as one of the best movies of the year. Despite my reservations, the superhero film market needs stories like this. As much as I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and as long as Joss Whedon is in charge it will likely be my first love – we are lucky to have superhero stories with the emotional maturity of Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Returns.


Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

One Comment on “Man of Steel is the Superman movie we deserve … but I’m not sure we should love it

  1. **Might consider spoilers** Man, you highlight as problems the best parts. The first 20 mins on Krypton were one of the most complete retellings of the origin done combining a lot of differing histories together into one almost short film. I don’t believe it gave enough “why” as answers to the choices made, but it set up everything extremely well. It told you everything about what a legacy Kal-El has to live up to from his Kryptonian heritage.
    The ending with Zod is powerful for a lot of reasons. It is the death of Krypton, the death of his people. In that moment he becomes the last of his kind. There are no more gates out of the Phantom Zone or engines to explode to pull them out. He is effectively choosing to be the last Kryptonian. Beyond that the entire movie he is choosing to save people who didn’t have to die. He is putting a tremendous amount of effort into not hurting people, never fighting, but still doing good and the right thing. Then in the end, he is forced to kill. Being the executioner of his race. Becoming the Last Son of Krypton(betting on that title for the sequel).

    To me, a lot of the problems in this film come from it’s pacing. It’s either sprinting or jogging constantly. Many of the fight scenes take either too long or kinda feel unneeded. AI Jor-El is too much of a assistant. I still don’t get how Jor-El got that second ship under the Arctic ice.

    Comparing this movie to Avengers is just folly. Saying it has better special effects is just poking a stick at it for no reason. This movie should have better special effects. It came out later and Avengers is a lot more bright primary color movie. You are essentially trying to get a low blow in without looking like it. You are saying “Heh, the only thing this movie has better than The Avengers is Special Effects.” Even though it would be mostly true, they are vastly different films. The Avengers is excellent, but it also has 4-5 movies of backstory to prop itself up on. Man of Steel would be better compared to Iron Man because both are giving us a first glimpse of a universe. Where the Marvel universe is more pop action and an entertaining roller coaster with Black and white morality, DC’s Man of Steel looks like it wants to be the more thought provoking drama where hard and difficult choices are made between different shades of grey.
    DC definitely has a harder part to pull off, it was not executed perfectly or really great in Man of Steel, but it was done well. I still think that the style and cinematography is going to have to change a lot as we go on because it’s just going to make it hard to watch as we get into DC’s 4th and 5th movies.

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