Man of Steel is a good film. Which isn’t exactly high praise, I’ll give you that – but it’s the most fitting praise I can heap on it. While it’s an enjoyable enough movie, the unfortunate thing about Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s big relaunch of Big Blue is that it could’ve been a really fantastic one.
Nevertheless, I’ll start on a positive note. This film does a remarkable job of re-establishing the legendary Lois Lane, a character that’s not just integral to the Superman mythos, but to women in pop culture on a whole. Amy Adams’ Lois is wicked smart and takes no crap, but at her core, is also a beacon of humanity’s brilliance.
Kevin Costner, likewise, also brings real warmth to the role of Jonathan Kent, who’s portrayed here as uncertain and protective, yet also quietly optimistic. In other words, wonderfully human.
That remarkable character development extends (though sometimes to a slightly lesser extent) to the rest of the key characters like Russell Crowe’s Jor-El, Michael Shannon’s Zod, and Clark Kent. Well… the younger Clark Kent, at least. As great as Lois is, the best thing about this movie is its focus on Clark’s formative years, his struggle with his heritage and his attempts at forging his own identity.
Deliciously heady stuff, but the moment Clark puts on his familiar red-and-blue digs, all that seems to be mostly tossed out the window. Sure, Henry Cavill did a great job with what he had, but you can’t help but feel like he would’ve done better if he were just given a little more to work with.
That sudden abandonment of Clark’s character development also extends to one of the film’s somewhat muddled core messages: the ideal of hope. For all of Jor-El’s talk about inspiring the best in humanity, you rarely get the sense that Superman’s a particularly inspirational figure.
And frankly, aside from Clark’s initial flight, most of the film lacks any real sense of awe. In fact, at times, it felt like it was being forcefully dragged into that realm of ‘realism’ that Christopher Nolan’s Batman films inhabit so firmly. Granted, while Man of Steel is nowhere near as ‘grim’ or ‘gritty’, I certainly felt like it could’ve done with a touch more wonder.
My chief problem, however, is with the film’s pacing. David S. Goyer’s biggest weakness, which was made glaringly apparent in Nolan’s later two Batman flicks, is that he can pen some brilliant scenes – but just can’t put them together into an equally brilliant script. While the phenomenal cast in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy offsets that issue somewhat, this film doesn’t have that luxury.
Don’t get me wrong – like I mentioned before, Man of Steel’s cast did a great job, but we need actors of Gary Oldman and Heath Ledger’s calibre to pull us through Goyer’s uneven pacing.
The last third of the film is the best example of those issues. All that super-fighting felt like it was tacked on, instead of built up to – almost as if someone at Warner Bros. had read all the criticism of Superman Returns (2006) and insisted that the filmmakers overcompensate with an overdose of destruction porn.
Now granted, it was gorgeous destruction porn, to be sure. Say what you will of Zack Snyder, but you can always count on his movies to look absolutely beautiful. And this film certainly looks fantastic – from the end of Krypton to Superman’s aforementioned first flight.
On a whole, the scales are tipped slightly in the movie’s favour. I toyed with the idea of giving this Man of Steel review two and a half stars out of five, but that seemed a little harsh, now that I’ve had some time to digest it a little more. Still, while I wouldn’t call it underwhelming or even outright terrible, it certainly didn’t live up to its potential to truly soar as high as it could have.
Man of Steel is showing in Singapore now. Leave a comment and tell me what you think of it!