REVIEW: Man of Steel (2013)

Warner Bros. Pictures poster for ‘Man of Steel’.

The following is the 3rd and final edition of my review of Man of Steel, a Zack Snyder film.

This review and this film have been really tough experiences for me. If you look around the blog you’ll quickly notice how I’ve been very critical of my original review of the film. The fact of the matter was that I was too hyped up for the film when I first experienced it, and my review was going too easy on a problematic film.

The second edition of the review was a little bit more fair, but I didn’t love how it turned out. So, in anticipation for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which serves as the sequel to this film, I have decided to revisit the film, and review Man of Steel one last time. 

Man of Steel follows Kal-El (played by Henry Cavill), son of Jor-El (played by Russell Crowe), and shows us just how he ended up merging his alien origins with the American identity given to him by Jonathan and Martha Kent (played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, respectively), and became the world’s most famous superhero – Superman.

Eventually General Zod (played by Michael Shannon) tracks down Kal-El and demands that he be surrendered to Zod. Zod believes that Kal-El holds the key to rebuilding the Kryptonian race, and his intentions prove to be hostile. Suddenly, Kal-El is thrown into a battle between his home and the future of his race, and he must make the first powerful decision in his life as a superpowered being on Earth.

One of the things you have to appreciate about this film is that it really aimed for something big. It had the potential to be a masterpiece, but missed the goal by quite a bit. There are a lot of things I really like in this film, but you have to realize that this isn’t Christopher Reeve. But I will acknowledge that this version of Superman may be exactly what the world presented in the film would have.

Man of Steel presents a dark and gritty look at superheroes and villains on Earth. Some would probably just say realistic, but I’ll stick with dark and gritty. I’m not a huge fan of the tone of the film, and the look is a bit too bold for me as well. But this isn’t the Superman that I once loved, and it definitely isn’t most people’s vision of Kal-El.

There is an argument to be made, however, that the mistakes he makes in this film are made to signify that he hasn’t become Superman yet. And while it is true that he hasn’t got a lot of experience prior to meeting Zod in this film, I have to say that there were times when I thought the film didn’t always know how to handle its main character.

Henry Cavill is a very talented actor, and he will be Superman to a lot of people growing up today. I didn’t always like what his character was doing, but through it all I loved the performance that Cavill gave. I really feel that he is the right choice to champion the Warner Bros./ DC Universe as the stoic de facto leader of the future Justice League.

Amy Adams (who plays Lois Lane), on the other hand, I didn’t really love in this film. She is an amazing actress, but there was just something off about her. Maybe it was the fact that her character wasn’t as developed as I would’ve liked her to be. Michael Shannon is the antagonist of the film, and I thought he absolutely brought it. His demeanor is chilling at times, and this version of Zod may be my favorite seen in a live-action Superman-film.

When I first reviewed the film, I gleefully remarked that this was the Superman film you never knew you wanted. I remember why I felt that. I adored everything we saw on Krypton at the beginning of the film. The opening of Man of Steel left me breathless. I truly never knew that I had hungered for this very hands-on version of Jor-El and Krypton.

Later in the film, there are scenes that in retrospect seem a bit odd with Jor-El, but I really have to praise Russell Crowe. He has become the image in my head when I think of Jor-El, and that is largely due to not just the world-building at the beginning of Man of Steel, but also his performance.

Kevin Costner, on the other hand, I thought was wasted. There was a lot of potential here, and the trailers for this film were jawdropping in large part due to them showing you glimpses of Kal-El’s father(s). But I really hated what they did to Jonathan Kent – where his story ended up was my least favorite thing in the film.

And now we get to the controversial ending. A golden rule for Superman is broken here, and I really dislike that he broke it. I mean, it was a really smart way of forcing Kal-El’s hand, as it were, but I really think that was a huge mistake made by the filmmakers.

However, I really think they can make it work in the long run. Some people criticize the film for the fact that Kal-El doesn’t save that many people in this film. He doesn’t save people, and that should come back to haunt him in the future of this cinematic universe. Whether deliberate or not, the filmmakers have put the face of DC Comics in an interesting predicament.

Final Grade: 7.5 out of 10.

– I’m Jeffrey Rex.

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