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Movie Review | Man of Steel

Superman (Henry Cavill) faces his nightmare in Man of Steel

Countdown to Justice League - where were the other heroes during this? With later films, including yesterday's Wonder Woman, showing that other super-powered heroes were active at this time, you have to ask where they were during the battles in Smallville and Metropolis.

Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice answers that question for Batman, but the simple answer is that the actual major conflict in the climax takes place in a very short amount of time and even if someone like Diana headed to the scene immediately, it would've been over well before she ever got there.


Movie Summary: Clark Kent, one of the last of an extinguished race disguised as an unremarkable human, is forced to reveal his identity when Earth is invaded by an army of survivors who threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction. (IMDb)

There has been a lot said about this particular version of Superman over the years since Man of Steel was released, mostly negative. The thing is though, I think this is later entries in DC’s connected cinematic endeavour colouring the past - namely, the backlash against the DC movies caused by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad (both reviews coming later this week).

Now, I’m not about to turn around and declare Man of Steel to be a masterpiece, but it also isn’t anything close to being a bad film either. It looks absolutely incredible, if lacking a little in colour, and the score by Hans Zimmer is fantastic, especially the main theme heard at the end.

I don’t think there’s any real fault to be found with the performances either, with everyone doing their best with the material they’ve been given. It’s that material which is the main issue with Man of Steel, and its contradictory view of how the audience should watch the film.

This Superman isn’t the one from the comics, or any animated series, and Henry Cavill’s Kal-El definitely isn’t Christopher Reeve’s. But you know what? That’s okay. Different is just different. And for the most part, the film sets out on its own path, hoping you don’t compare it to earlier versions.

The problem with the script really comes in when it wants to show Superman as being extremely caring and very much like previous interpretations, despite spending the rest of the running time setting up a different version of the character.

Take the very ending of the film: why is he so concerned about having to kill one person when countless others died during the battles in Smallville and Metropolis? He’s far more concerned with attacking, rather than defending, leaving regular civilians to run for their lives in terror.

There’s even one point when General Zod, his adversary, launches a petrol tanker at him and he simply moves out of the way, letting it blow up another building, rather than making any effort to stop the explosion and save people. It looks cool, but how many more died because of him prioritising self-preservation so he could keep fighting over protecting others?

General Zod (Michael Shannon) is Superman's enemy in Man of Steel

There are plenty of moments in the film where Clark/Superman makes it clear that he wants to help others, but these brief instances ultimately end up feeling a little hollow based on his actions. In fact, it can be seen as a little disturbing that he’s more distraught over having to kill a genocidal maniac than any other nameless others who will have lost their lives in the carnage.

As you can hopefully tell from how much I’ve written about it, it’s a real problem for the film and one that could have been avoided with just minor tweaks and touches here and there, starting with Superman’s adoptive parents, the Kents.

Wow, are these people the worst! They feel incredibly selfish from their portrayal in the film, with some of their reasoning and decision-making being completely ridiculous about how much they want to protect their invulnerable adopted son.

It almost does explain why Clark turns out the way he does, with these people bringing him up – look out for number one first, don’t be selfless or try and help others, don’t make the most of your talents. How is someone who has these life lessons drummed into them from an early age possibly going to grow up to be a symbol of hope?

Man of Steel is a decent film, but nothing more in the end. The action sequences are amazing to look at, although the whole film looks and sounds incredible – but it’s the weakness in the script that brings Superman back down to Earth with a bump, rather than Kryptonite.




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