Ever since I first saw it after release I’ve always had strange feelings in regards to Man of Steel. For a time I’ve never been able to fully articulate them but with Batman v Superman upon us I felt it was time to go back and take another look and reassert myself on this matter.
To begin I don’t know that I can bring myself to call this any sort of bad movie. It’s watchable but definitely a slog at near two and a half hours long. The biggest gripes I have overall is with Superman’s origins (The creation of the Superman persona in this continuity, not where he came from.) and the general tone of the film itself.
The movie barely gives us a half hour with Clark before he straps on the famous tights (In fairness that doesn’t happen until about forty nine minutes into the film, but it takes about twenty before we get to any scenes with Clark on Earth.). Although he’s always been compelled to help people all his life it’s difficult to tell why he suddenly decides to be more open about it. A major sticking point with some fans is that in this movie Jonathon Kent continually attempts to dissuade his adopted son from using his powers even though at the same time he like to extol that Clark will change the world when he comes out.
Jor-El, or rather Jor-El’s hologram clone, also believes that his son will help the people of Earth to a brighter future. It conflicts with Jor-El’s message of Choice that he intended for his son (Kryptons are chamber grown and pre-assigned roles from birth. Kal-El/Clark was naturally conceived so he could avoid this) because nowhere does the film make it feel like that Clark ever chooses to really become Superman. Both his fathers seem to instill in him that he must only do great things and it doesn’t help matter when General Zod enters the scene and essentially forces him to fight back.
It runs contradictory to something Martha Kent mentions in Batman v Superman where Clark isn’t obligated to be Superman and should only do it because he wants to. It’s a nice message considering the morals of Superman but it gets tainted when you look back to Man of Steel.
As I said another issue I have is with the general tone of the film. Gritty realism helped The Dark Knight Saga rise to fame and despite a different flavor of gritty there’s nothing to to alleviate that until the movie is nearly over. Granted that I’m sure the Superman comics have had their share of destruction and darkness but I’m not exactly looking for this kind of grim realism when watching a Superman film.
Other than that I don’t have a lot of major issues. The movie definitely runs too long when it has about three separate climaxes. Henry Cavill is actually pretty good as Superman, but I feel the film does his portrayal an injustice by not letting him come into the role a different way. The characters are generally solid and even though it goes on forever the action spectacle can be pretty spectacular. It’s just a shame we don’t get to have more human scenes as such when Perry holds the hand of his trapped intern, Jenny, as they believe themselves about to be crushed by a wave of gravity.
So overall not a bad movie, but definitely some wasted potential here.