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Man of Steel Review

WARNING: Spoilers for Man of Steel

Well the time is nearly upon us! A time many nerdy comic book fans feared would never come. Yes, that’s right, the Snyder Cut of Justice League is nearly here!

Less than two months remain until the world will finally be able to see what Zach Snyder’s original vision for that film was supposed to be. Three years ago we were treated to the theatrical cut of Justice League, and ohhhh boy did it have a rough reception upon arrival. I for one, am extremely excited to see this new version, as I found the theatrical cut of Justice League to be an absolute mess of both story and tone. It was very clear what scenes were reshot by Joss Whedon, presenting a film that did not fit at all with the aesthetic that came before. So, in preparation for the release of Snyder’s original vision, I decided to go back through the DC film leading up to Justice League to see if it all fits together nicely with this new incarnation of the classic team-up.

The DCEU proper started with Man of Steel back in 2013. The film received mixed reviews to its interpretation of Clark Kent. I was one of the folks that enjoyed the film back when it came out, and upon rewatch, I am happy to state that my opinion still stands that Man of Steel is one of the best films in the DCEU. It’s certainly got some faults, but I still really like this sleeker and more intense take on the man of steel.

The opening sequence in Krypton is a triumph and is quite possibly the best and most thrilling scene in the entire DCEU.

It started so SO damn good! And now they’re playing clean-up hahaha. Russell Crowe is commanding and noble as Jor-El and Michael Shannon brings a ruthless regal-ness to Zod, making him oddly charming and even sympathetic, even when he’s at he most villainous. Zod is probably the best written villain in the entire DCEU as well. He feels more like a real person than many of the other villains we’ll get later. He genuinely has a good point and his goals are extremely noble. He just doesn’t care about anything else and is ruthless in his attempts to get what hen wants. Zod is truly dignified in his own way, until the end when he loses everything. That is where he and Kal differ. He is a dark mirror to Superman. A reflection of what Clark could be if he cared less about humanity and embraced his cold Kryptonian roots.

Whoever said this film doesn’t have a heart forgot about the scene with young Clark scared in the school closet. His connection to his mother is beautiful and that scene exemplifies their connection. A true and real connection. One that will be exploited by a certain tech genius in the sequel. I really wish we had more scenes with Martha and her boy. Her scenes with him are so sweet, I think the film could have benefited from a little more Martha screen time. There is also a lot of hope in this film. It may be slightly hidden behind Zach Snyder’s desaturated filter, but it is there. And ohhhh boy, that flying scene really captures it! Hans Zimmer’s score does an incredible job of manifesting feelings of hope and making you feel like you yourself are lifting off the ground and taking off into the sky. Clark zooming around the world, seeing the beauty and majesty of it all, is pure cinematic wonder. In fact, Hans’ score is one of the best things about the film, elevating every scene into an operatic theatrical presentation. This is mythic, epic, legendary stuff on screen and the music represents that.

I really wish we had more scenes with Martha and her boy. Her scenes with him are so sweet, I think the film could have benefited from a little more Martha screen time.

Now, I can understand people’s frustration with the depiction of Johnathan Kent in the film. Kevin Costner is wonderful and he plays Kent with a realism we haven’t gotten form the character before. I truly believe he is a man who wants what is best for his son and believes in his son. He believes Clark will someday be the hope the world needs. But he also knows the world is terrible and wants his son to be prepared for it BEFORE he makes his true nature known. That is wonderful, and is a very realistic depiction of a loving father who simply fears for his son. But the problem is that we only get to see John giving stern warnings to his son.

I think they were trying to make both John and Jor-El feel like two halves of a whole father figure for Clark. But what this does is make Jor-El the inspiring father figure, with John seen more as the stern father figure. We don’t get a scene where Clark and Johnathan are doing father-son things. So we don’t get to see his warmer and softer side, even though we can surely assume that it’s there. We only see the dramatic moments. This is a serious mis-step in my opinion. John’s sacrifice because of his belief that the world is not ready for the truth about his son also means that his last moments are driven by fear which is, again, realistic, but not exactly a noble end. It can leave a sour taste in your mouth after that scene. And jumping back to a scene where John tells Clark he can grow up to be amazing right after he died to keep Clark a secret is just awkward. So I do think that the Jonathan stuff is one of the weaker elements of the film. In fact, that’s really my main complaint in the film.

I know a lot of people complained about the collateral damage, but to me, that only adds to the direness of the situation. It truly is the end of the world and only Superman can save us.

The first act may be a little slow, but the second and third acts of this film are certainly epic. In fact, once Zod arrives on Earth at the one hour mark, the film kicks it into high gear and barely slows down. Zod’s message to the world is terrifying and the terraforming machine is spectacular. Here we see Krpytonians cutting loose in some of the grandest action ever put in a Superman film. I know a lot of people complained about the collateral damage, but to me, that only adds to the direness of the situation. It truly is the end of the world and only Superman can save us. (Although I bet Wonder Woman could have certainly helped! But I guess we're to assume that she was helping the civilians, I don’t know.) And that moment when Clark is forced to kill Zod is palpable. Small complaints: I think the audio when Zod says “never” is a bit too loud, and I also wish they had kept Clark’s scream as a single scream instead of fading it into two.

I keep using the term “realistic” in this review, and it’s funny to throw that term around in a superhero movie. But this film certainly does feel the most grounded and realistic of all of the DCEU films. Here we are given stark examples of what Superman can do when unrestrained and untrained. Collateral damage is aplenty, and although many had a problem with that, I think it was a great way of showing Clark learn how to control his abilities and the consequences of not controlling himself (also, Zod is like 85% to blame). The entire story of Batman v Superman is in response to the action in his film, with Clark learning true heroism by the end of it. Which I thought was genius.

It’s interesting watching this film in preparation for Snyder’s cut of Justice League. If Snyder is to be believed - that Justice League serves as the third part in a three part character arc showing Superman learn to become the classic symbol of hope we all know him to be, then the title of this film rings all the more true. This film is about a Man of Steel. This is before he truly embodies all that we know and love about Superman. The very beginnings of an icon. It works well as a film about Supes just starting out. A Batman Begins type film if you will. He’s a Proto-Superman here; we’re seeing the seeds of hope planted here. Batman v Superman would then count as his darkest moment, almost snuffing that hope out, before he is reborn as a true hero and that hope blossoms in Justice League. We’ll see if it works out the way Snyder wanted.

So although the movie has a few weird and awkward moments like the double yell and the “I just think he’s hot” moment (groan), my only major complaint is the muddled message of Johnathan Kent. I really think a moment of tenderness would have really helped things there. Other than that, Man of Steel is a thrilling introduction to the, well, man of steel.




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