“The Symbol Of The House Of El Means Hope. Embodied Within That Hope Is The Fundamental Belief In The Potential For Every Person To Be A Force For Good.”Russell Crowe, Man of Steel
Man of Steel starts off on a planet called Krypton. Krypton is in complete disarray, constantly being torn apart by politicians with differing ideals. The difference between those on Krypton and those on Earth is that those on Krypton are vastly superior to those on Earth in many ways. After a civil war, a baby is sent to Earth. This baby is taken in by two kindly humans who raise him as their own. His name is Clark Kent. This is a Superman origin story.
This is not a Superman origin story. Or at least, I would argue that it’s not. The problem with Man of Steel is ultimately we don’t know much about Clark Kent or Superman as a character. I know Superman’s backstory; I know Clark Kent’s backstory, but what does that ultimately say about him? All I was able to gather from the movie was that Clark Kent was raised by humans so he feels protective over them, but I don’t necessarily understand what it was about humanity that made him feel so connected to them. Was it just that he grew up with them? If so, he wasn’t really treated very well and I could see this being a villain origin story. What makes Superman good? This is a question that plagues me throughout the movie. I don’t necessarily oppose Superman because the audience sees that he is attempting to help people, despite the destruction that follows. But I almost felt as though I didn’t really get a true understanding of his character. There were no little scenes that helped bring forth the real Clark Kent or the real Superman. I believe that this movie only was as successful as it was because of the comic book fans. This movie doesn’t really hold on its own for a few reasons.
The first is the structure of the movie. The first thirty minutes of the movie doesn’t even really focus on Superman; instead, it focuses on how he ended up on Earth. I will state that the beginning does a solid job of setting up the villain in this movie, which I did find to be extremely compelling and contribute to this narrative that humans fear the unknown because they ultimately fear extinction. Then, we get scenes with Clark Kent, but no true understanding of who he is. The audience is just made aware that he doesn’t speak much and is traveling in search of something. When the audience finally sees what Kent is searching for, it’s almost confusing (I don’t want to spoil it so you’ll just have to watch).
The second reason that this movie fails is the action scenes. While Marvel’s action scenes are full of cuts and angle changes, DC movies are filled with long takes with minimal cuts and tedious amounts of carnage. I almost was bored looking at the amount of damage that takes place within this movie because it feels overexaggerated (I feel that Marvel under-exaggerates damage, there’s not a very good happy medium). The action scenes were so drawn out that I was waiting for the movie to end while checking the run time, which is never a good sign.
The final reason that the movie fails is ultimately the acting. This isn’t to state that Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon act poorly. This is to state that with the material they were given, there was no room for phenomenal acting. Henry Cavill tried to make
Superman his own and truly become the character but there was no space for him to develop. Without good character development, the movie is ultimately going to fail because the audience isn’t connected to its characters. The only reason that fans root for Superman is because they know how powerful he is in the comics and that he can truly overcome anything ( I assume). Amy Adams and Henry Cavill have great chemistry but again, I don’t know that much about Lois Lane. She feels like she fits the cookie-cutter mold of what a heroine should be. I don’t see anything truly extraordinary about any of the characters. The movie itself fits into this mold of mundaneness. It tries too hard to be a superhero movie when it really feels like that summer blockbuster that was hyped up until everyone realized that it was awful. That is Man of Steel.
I wrote earlier that this was and wasn’t a Superman origin story. The movie should have started the way it should have, then followed Superman as he grows up on Earth, finding little moments to build up his character. Then, when he was ready, he should’ve found the spaceship and met his biological father. This should’ve been shown with his parents helping him, not him galavanting on his own. If Clark and his family were that close, they would’ve helped. Then the events of the movie would be more compelling because we see the true relationship between Clark and his family as well as the real differences that he faced. In terms of what I liked about this movie, there’s honestly very little that sat well with me. I really only watched it because I’m attempting to get into Zach Snyder’s DC universe, but I’m honestly not all that impressed. Stick to comics, kids, you’ll have way more fun.