With $125 million domestic and $196 million worldwide box office earnings its opening weekend, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel has set the bar for this summer’s box office.
In an effort to beat the crowds, my faithful sidekick and I bought our tickets for a 9:30 AM screening at New York City’s Ziegfeld Theater in midtown. I went into the theater feeling equal parts anticipation and trepidation considering my appreciation for Superman: The Movie and my disappointment with Superman Returns seven years ago.
It would be too easy to base my opinion of Man of Steel on how it compared to Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman: The Movie, so I pledged to go into the screening with an open mind and judge Zack Snyder’s film on its own merits. A year ago, my fear was that Man of Steel would be a slapdash production released by Warner Bros/DC prior to potentially losing their copyright case to the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. However the positive buzz leading up to June 14th got my hopes up that this wouldn’t be the case. The trailer was amazing, Zack Snyder and David Goyer are a powerhouse director/writer combination, and the film’s cast was top notch. At one point in the film, Superman tells Lois Lane the “S” on his chest is actually the Kryptonian symbol for “Hope,” and that is the word that best described what I was feeling as the lights dimmed and the film began.
So, wearing my Siegel and Shuster Society t-shirt and 3D glasses, I sat back and watched 2 hours and 23 minutes of the most anticipated movie of the summer.
Please note: Spoilers below.
Man of Steel has the villains and fight scenes Superman fans have been asking for in a film, and the action sequences give the audience a pretty good ride from the opening scene on Krypton to Superman’s final battle with General Zod.
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were inspired casting as Jonathan and Martha Kent. Costner’s performance made the film for me, and he truly delivered as the grounding force in Clark’s life. On that note, I liked how Goyer & Snyder took the time to establish the roots of Clark’s moral compass and his rationale for keeping his powers secret.
Positive portrayal of the U.S. Military. They mistrust Superman at first, but they are given an opportunity to explain their position, and a mutual respect is established.
But as I left the Ziegfeld after the closing credits, I couldn’t help feeling that there were several missed opportunities in the execution of the story and character development.
My main issues were:
Over use of the flashback sequences of Clark’s early years disrupted the flow of the first act. I also wasn’t completely sold on Clark Kent as a drifter working odd-jobs in anonymity, which resembled Bruce Banner/The Hulk more than Clark Kent.
Goyer and Snyder’s reliance on Jor-El’s hologram throughout the film. One of the things I looked forward to the most going into the film was Russell Crowe’s performance as Jor-El, and he owns every scene he’s in. From the first moment Kal-El is born the audience feels his urgency to protect his child and use him as a savior for the Kryptonian race. While the hologram was necessary for Clark to learn of his personal history (even with the underwhelming CGI during Jor-El’s monologue), it became overused by the end of the film and provides a too easy solution when Lois Lane is tasked with saving Clark from General Zod going into the third act.
Snyder and Goyer packed a lot into the film’s 2 hours and 23 minutes, and I appreciate the fact that so many characters from the Superman canon are featured in Man of Steel (Lois Lane, Perry White, Jonathan Kent, Martha Kent, Jor-El) and an amazing cast of actors has been assembled to play them (Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburn, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe). But unfortunately David Goyer’s script gives Amy Adams little to work with in the film as Lois Lane and barely scrapes the surface of the character. Unfortunately, Amy Adams’ Lois doesn’t have the toughness the Lois Lane of the comic books, TV shows and previous films.
Having seen Snyder’s slower paced action sequences in 300 and Watchmen, I went into the film expecting more of the same. At first I was pleasantly surprised by the faster pace, but there were moments when the fight sequences resembled a video game and by the third act I was begging for Snyder’s slo-mo camera work.
Lois Lane knowing Superman’s alter ego completely takes away one major element of the Superman canon. Sure, there are many people feel that the use of a simple pair of glasses to transform Superman to Clark Kent was dated, simplistic and silly, but at the end of the day half of any good performance as Superman is pretending to be the meek Clark Kent knowing full well you’re the most powerful person on the planet.
Superman killing General Zod with his bare hands, which in my opinion was completely unnecessary and added nothing more than shock value.
The big question for me going into the film was if Henry Cavill could make the role of Clark Kent/Superman his own. He certainly looks the part in Superman’s iconic blue costume and red cape, but brings little more than brooding and mystery to Clark Kent, save for the end of the film when he dons the “secret identity” glasses on his first day working for the Daily Planet. Hopefully the sequel will allow him to add another dimension to Clark Kent.
In spite of the issues listed above, it was a good summer movie experience and I’m looking forward to the sequel. The world definitely needs Superman.