Friday, June 28, 2013

Spoiler-tastic Man of Steel Review

Henry Cavill as Superman
A little background info on myself, just so you know where I'm coming from with this article.  I'm a life-long Superman fan.  I was born in the spring of 1978, and Superman: The Movie was released in the winter of the same year.  My introduction to the character of Superman was Christopher Reeve's portrayal, which is the same for most people of my generation.  I have idolized Superman for as long as I can remember.  In 1986, my grandmother bought me a comic book.  It was Man of Steel #1 by John Byrne, the first issue in a miniseries that relaunched the Superman mythos in the comic books after DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths event, which was made to streamline the decades of convoluted storylines.  It was this version of Superman, created by Byrne and later led by Dan Jurgens, to which I became a loyal fan.  I love most incarnations of Superman, but the Byrne/Jurgens era is the one I followed the most closely throughout my teens and early 20s.

Why do I feel the need to fill in that background?  Man of Steel has been getting mixed reviews.  People either love it or hate it.  There aren't a lot of people with mediocre opinions on the film.  I'm in the camp of people who love it, and one of the reasons I love it is because of my background as a Superman fan.  As much as I loved the Donner Superman movies, I have never considered them canon.  I'm a lot more open to other interpretations of Superman.  People going into this movie expecting something like the Donner films or like the golden and silver age comic book Superman are going to be disappointed.  This is Zac Snyder's Superman, with some influence from producer Christopher Nolan of the Dark Knight fame.

Now, on with the review.  It's more of my thoughts on the film than a technical review.  I already said that I love the film.  On Facebook, right after watching it I said that it's the Superman movie I've been waiting for since I was a teenager.  To elaborate on that, I've wanted a Superman movie with a lot of action.  Like Death of Superman levels of action.  The special effects in the late '70s and early '80s weren't at a level that could handle an action-packed Superman.  Watching the action in Man of Steel was like seeing scenes I wrote in my Stormy Logan stories acted out the way I saw them in my head, and it was a very exhilarating moment for me.  Even the scene of Superman learning to fly for the first time reminded me of a Stormy Logan moment.


Some of my thoughts

1. Superman killed Zod.  Most of the major superheroes have a strict no-killing policy.  Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the like.  And yet here is Superman snapping General Zods neck at the climax of Man of Steel.  What is this, a Wolverine movie?  Well, I have some news for you:
Superman #22 (October 1988)
That's Superman killing General Zod, Quex-Ul, and Zaora.  The three of of them had devasted the Earth of an alternate universe (which is why the kryptonite isn't affecting Superman), and Superman determined that the only way to stop them was to kill them.  The act almost broke him mentally and emotionally, and it haunted him for years.  I found it to be one of the more interesting aspects of Superman's character.  So when Superman snapped Zod's neck in this new movie, I was fine with it.  This was the Superman I was familiar with, and I hope the subsequent movies deal with the emotional pain of having taken a life.

2. Too much action.  Yeah, I didn't have a problem with this like some other people do.  Like I said, it's what I've been wanting for decades.

3. Flashbacks.  I've heard some people complain about young Clark's life in Smallville being shown in flashbacks.  Personally, I found it to be a very effective story-telling technique.  With the first Superman movie back in '78, Richard Donner masterfully told the origin story in chronological order, and it worked great for that film.  But Superman: The Movie wasn't an action film.  To have that much of a slow pace for so long at the beginning of Man of Steel, modern film audiences would have grown bored.  People weren't complaining when Christopher Nolan did this with Batman Begins, so I don't know why they're complaining about it with Man of Steel.  We didn't need a long drawn-out portion of the movie dedicated to Clark's childhood and adolescence.  We had ten seasons of Smallville on TV.

4. Act I on Krypton.  The opening segment of the movie taking place on Krpyton was awesome.  I could have watched an entire movie about that.  (There's actually a novel by Kevin J. Anderson called The Last Days of Krypton that I recommend to any hardcore Superman fans.)  Russell Crowe did a great job as Jor-El, and it was a refreshingly different take on the look of Krypton.  I appreciated the fact that Kryptonians didn't naturally give birth to their children.  This was a nice nod to John Byrne's version of Krypton.

5. Johnathon Kent.  I've heard some people mention how wooden Kevin Costner was as Clark's adopted father, but I'm pretty sure he did that on purpose.  He perfectly nailed the conservative, old-fashioned, quiet farmer.  I wasn't crazy about how he died, though.

6. Lois knows Superman is Clark from the beginning.  I like that Lois finds out who Superman is before Superman even goes public.  For one thing, she's a smart investigative reporter.  The fact that she took so long to figure out who he is in other incarnations isn't believable.  The playfulness of Clark's double life in relation to Lois has also been done to death.  We don't need to see more of it.  My Superman has been married to Lois since the '90s, so let's just go ahead and move that relationship along.  I just wish she didn't run around calling Superman "Clark" in front of the Smallville police.

And that's how I felt about Man of Steel.  Is it a Superman movie for everyone?  No.  Is it a Superman movie for me?  Yes.  I can't wait for a sequel.

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