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Review and Roundup: 'Man of Steel' Debate is Raging

by Anne Thompson
June 11, 2013 12:52 PM
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Michael Shannon as General Zod in 'Man of Steel'

Bryan Singer is smiling. The lag time on getting the Superman reboot up and running, after Warner Bros. decided that Singer took the wrong course with his 2006 Richard Donner-inflected "Superman Returns," has not been kind to "Man of Steel."

Since then we've seen the continued rise of the Marvel universe, with each successive movie delivering a coherent and satisfying superhero who makes sense; the Marvel Comics sensibility comes through in each picture: we know the rules, we believe. But now that we've seen Hulk smash and Captain America fight and Thor pound and Spider-Man swoosh and soar and bounce off skyscrapers, why would we want to see Superman do the same thing?

The debate has raged on about what Warner Bros. should do with the 75-year-old DC Comics superhero. The fanboys objected to the relatively smart and sophisticated Superman played by Brandon Routh, and so this iteration, written by David S. Goyer and supervised by Batman auteur Christopher Nolan, returns us to an action-packed comic book movie that is, unfortunately, all over the place and compares unfavorably to "Superman Returns," which actually earned upbeat reviews and delivered decent box office in its day-- $391 million worldwide. The problem was that it cost more than $232 million (probably closer to $300 million). Warners felt it could have performed better with more action and a powerful villain--and no Superman kid. So Singer was taken off the franchise.

'Man of Steel'

Warners motion picture chief Jeff Robinov struggled with what to do and finally went to the one guy that he could trust. Nolan, who was winding down from his Batman obsession, worked with Goyer on a new direction for "Man of Steel." He was very involved throughout the writing, planning and editing, while leaving visually gifted director Zack Snyder ("300," "The Watchmen") in charge during the actual filming. They went back to the earliest comics to rediscover the sci-fi origins of the visitor from another planet. "I realized that if the world became aware that Kal existed, it would be the first contact story, and in many ways, it would be the biggest thing that ever happened in human history," explained Goyer during our "Man of Steel" set visit. 

Going into my screening Monday night, the buzz on "Man of Steel" was strong. Warners and Legendary Pictures have fashioned a new model Superman for the fanboy demo, bringing us a stalwart American superhero (Brit actor Henry Cavill as Kal-El), two robust father figures (Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent), Laurence Fishburne as Perry White and a powerful villain in General Zod (Michael Shannon). These actors are all remarkable considering the reams of expositional, flat and lame dialogue they have to utter, along the lines of "initiate," "the fate of your planet rests in your hands," and "leave the building now!" 

But a return to form for the DC side of the comics universe this is not. This movie errs so far on the side of "Whiz!" "Bang!" "Pow!" that it makes me long for Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay, who would have done a far better job with the action pyrotechnics. Scene after scene devolves to soul-crushingly dull man on man combat.

Inevitably the women come up far short, as Diane Lane and Amy Adams try to somehow bring life to the sketchily written middle-aged farmwife Martha Kent and ace Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter Lois Lane, whose work for the Daily Planet and romance with Superman bring the movie to a thudding halt.

And so the debate continues. Early reviews are below:


  • Ameen | June 23, 2013 10:11 PMReply

    Well ive been reading all the comments and id like to add few pointers no doubt they did a good job with the graphics and all but this movie does lack the soul in it .It was completely pointless to make so much bang in the end and i was counting how many times did superman scream more than 5 times, why is he super then if he will keep screaming all the time anyways i guess this is the reboot and he was kinda getting the hang of things so i can give him benefit of doubt .But seriously Nolan are u literally pissing us off for what u have in store for us next just like a tv show 2 boring episodes then one mega thriller then 4 boring episodes then this or maybe The Dark Knight and inception were the only 2 master pieces you could come up with .I couldn't get over the disappointment of The dark knight Rises and especially the queer voice of Bane that you had to through this in on lap.Well one thing i should make it clear it is easy to critise rather than developing or making a movie no doubt but guys seriously more than 200 million to back u up and then the result is this so one does wonder why not .if i had 100 million ill make a superman reboot coz its not the fight we want to c or the graphics its the thrill of having the nemesis being more stronger aggressive and macho and the hero being a lil smart and down to earth this is what nolan has led us to believe in but maybe he has forgotten it himself .I wish there is a miracle again and Nolan stuns us again with something brand new .Why im focusing on Nolan coz i dunt like Zack so i dunt count him in an angle so anyways lets hope for the best !!!!!!! Wish i could direct it :)

  • Simon lomax | June 21, 2013 10:50 PMReply

    Kevin costner and diane lane are the only interesting characters in this bore of a film. The action felt more like a video game or even a micheal bay transformers movie than superman to me. What's with the flying pets on krypton? Stupid. Please keep goyer/nolan and especially michael bay prodigy snyder away from any further superman film. At least bryan singer understood the source material and in my view would have produced a very good sequel to superman returns. Which itself was never as boring as man of steel

  • Raphael Gouthier | June 21, 2013 1:50 PMReply

    To be honest here, I've never seen the movie and by the looks, criticisms(and by that i mean real criticisms), and story of it, I picture "man of steel" a smart, believable hence the name of one of the greatest director of our time!(Nolan) and of course, a(don't get me started with this one, Zack Snyder) strong way of explaining the superman's origins.

    Fingers crossed !!!!!!

  • Donella | June 16, 2013 12:32 AMReply

    Man of Steel is an endless night of 9/11 references--buildings falling, trucks and other large objects hurled into buildings, planes falling and blazing trails through buildings. Excessively violent with no acknowledgement of collateral damage to the hundreds or thousands of people who surely must have died while Superman wrestled Zod and Zod's friends. Not once, not twice, but full-on over and over noisy truck throwing battles. Richard Donner's Superman II at least acknowledged "the humanity" when Superman decided to fight another day, another way.

  • DaVinGee | June 12, 2013 3:21 AMReply

    How you can judge a movie before you see it on screen? Why so much prejudices?
    I've stopped to believe some critic to any movie, because no one can decide my opinion, i make my own.
    Maybe the movie it would be habe many pyrotechnics explosions with 3d dolbysourround thx blabla what? But is this so far from the comic? It's just a other, different maybe darker and seriously point of view, of the same story that we know since we were kids.

  • sergio | June 13, 2013 7:27 AM

    Hey Davingee I saw the film a week ago as no doubt Anne did too. Like DUH!

  • Brian | June 12, 2013 1:23 PM

    @Davingee: In case you hadn't noticed, both of the people you might be responding to (Sergio or Anne) have made it clear that they did indeed see the film. Read more carefully next time.

  • Sergio | June 11, 2013 6:17 PMReply

    Couldn't agree with you more. Man of Steel is a boring dud that becomes Transformers 3 at big climax. Didn't I see Chicago getting destroyed in exactly the same way year before last? And that film was a soulless monotonous chore to sit through like Man of Steel. Maybe if I was a 12 year old kid (or some geek with the same sensibility of one) with severe ADD I guess I would like the film...maybe. If you're not you've in for very long night. No warmth, no humanity. Makes me so badly want to see Mud and Place Beyond the Pines again

  • SYSCO | June 16, 2013 1:50 PM

    A place beyond the pines was awful. God awful. the films you referenced are complete kaka. ass dribble.
    What in your opinion would make a good superman film, how would you make it? do you even read comic books? maybe your parents have been together for all of their boring lives ? basically your being stupid. This article in its self is full of shit. offering up opinions instead of critical analysis of charcter , story and performance. yes the end was over the top but so was batman begins. everybody was meh about batman begins until the dark knight came out. then everybody was riding the batman d*&k. i think this film is about as good as batman begins. thats really all this article needed to say. dont worry, youll be able to watch captain plastic ryan gosling soon in only todd forgives

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