Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Man of Steel

The following review, while containing no major spoilers, may reveal some plot details. If you’ve yet to see the movie, read at your own risk. 

Man of Steel has been a divisive movie. A quick look at the movie's Rotten Tomatoes scores reveals a pretty big gap between critics' (56% fresh) and the general audience's (82% fresh) scores. Even within the two groups, reactions range from awesome to awful. But I think we can all agree on one thing: Henry Cavill is a very attractive man.

There’s some enjoyment in just watching an attractive man on the big screen, and Henry Cavill certainly provides that. With a dashing performance and good looks, Cavill is the perfect Superman, and that’s a pretty big part of the puzzle when you’re making a superhero movie. However, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle, and Man of Steel falters when it came to some of the other pieces.

One aspect that Man of Steel struggles with was tone. With its muted, gritty color scheme and somber atmosphere, it seems that director Zack Snyder intended to bring the gravity to Superman that Christopher Nolan brought to Batman (interestingly, Nolan is given story credit for Man of Steel). That’s no easy task, particularly when you consider the sci-fi alien campiness of Superman, and Man of Steel doesn’t quite pull it off. For example, it’s hard to take Cavill’s faces of joy during Clark Kent’s first flight as Superman or Superman’s signature suit seriously. With a lighter tone, I could just laugh with the movie’s campiness, but with its attempt at being serious, I more often felt like I was laughing at it. Even the somber dialogue often sounds unnatural and stilted coming out of the actors’ mouths. There are a handful of jokes in the movie, but they feel out-of-place, as if they were cobbled in from another movie.

In fact, the movie as a whole feels like several stitched together, and the result lacks cohesiveness. The opening to the movie that reveals Clark’s origins is an apocalyptic, sci-fi tale. Flashbacks to his childhood are a somber reflection on the past of an outcast. The main plot is often stodgy, with suppressed campiness lurking beneath the surface. One moment, in which Zod hacks into televisions across the world, is like something from a genuinely scary thriller. The end of the movie could have easily come out of a Michael Bay film.

Some of these parts are more interesting than others. The movie shines in the flashbacks to Clark’s childhood and the television-hacking scene (if the rest of the movie had managed to capture the terror of the television-hacking scene, the darker tone might have actually worked). However, even if each portion had been executed flawlessly, they would still feel disjointed from each other.

While romance wasn’t a particularly large part of Man of Steel, it does have a presence in the movie. While not necessarily a traditional choice, Amy Adams was a decent Lois Lane. However, she was horribly cast as Superman’s love interest simply because she and Cavill have zero chemistry. There couldn’t have been less of a connection between the two if one was replaced with a cardboard cutout. Funnily enough, Cavill actually has more of a spark with Zod’s lieutenant Faora (who, by the way, is kind of awesome).

With a lengthy run-time of 143 minutes, Man of Steel is somewhat bloated, at times veering towards boring. A good chunk of that time could have probably been cut out with tighter editing.

Despite my laundry list of complaints, I still enjoyed Man of Steel. It was an okay movie. I even though it had a decent plot. I just feel there was a great movie in there somewhere that didn't quite shine through. It needed a more consistent focus, a less problematic tone and some serious paring down. Still, Henry Cavill was fun to look at, and that might be enough to draw me to the sequel when it eventually comes out.


  1. Good review Julie. It’s a solid superhero movie, but could have been so much more.

    1. Thanks, Dan! It was just so disappointing that Man of Steel didn't live up to the early hype.