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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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Henry Cavill in "Man of Steel."
Henry Cavill in "Man of Steel."


There’s nary a mention of kryptonite, the Fortress of Solitude is only an existential locale, and Clark Kent never earns so much as a single Daily Planet byline in “Man of Steel,” director Zack Snyder, writer David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan’s strenuously revisionist Superman origin story, which might more accurately have been titled “Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Spacemen,” given the amount of screen time devoted to exiled Kryptonians body-slamming each other into all manner of natural and manmade structures. Clearly designed to do for DC Comics’ other most venerable property what Nolan and Goyer’s “Batman Begins” did for the Caped Crusader, this heavily hyped, brilliantly marketed tentpole attraction seems destined to soar with worldwide audiences this summer, even if the humorless tone and relentlessly noisy (visually and sonically) aesthetics leave much to be desired — chiefly, a “Steel” sequel directed with less of an iron fist.

The Hollywood Reporter:

Visually and rhythmically, however, Snyder has gone his own way, summoning up memories of Dune in the sculpted architectural look of Krypton, echoing Jesus by underlining the sacrifice Clark Kent is called upon to make for the good of mankind, and simply by hardly letting five minutes go by without inventing some new excuse for a staggering action scene -- any one of which undoubtedly cost more than the combined budgets of all of this year’s Sundance competition lineup.


"I can't print this," Louis' trenchant editor (Laurence Fishburne) says after receiving her first draft of her unpublished Superman scoop. "You could have hallucinated half of it." When "Man of Steel" comes to a close, viewers can relate. And once they come back down to Earth, perhaps warmer memories of the Supermen no longer considered viable will come rushing back. In "Man of Steel," Superman never suffers from exposure to fragments of Kryptonite. His single weakness -- and the movie's, after promising earlier bits drop off to make room for the extravagant conclusion -- is depth.

There are remarkable visual coups every few minutes, courtesy of wizardly production designer Alex McDowell and a computer effects team stretched to the creative maximum. Downsides? It would cost the movie nothing to lighten up a little with its My Two Dads routine, or to inject some wit into its save-the-world-from-extremism routine. Then again, with Costner and Crowe in an adept growl-off as said dads, and Snyder and Nolan fathering the production, it was never going to be long on flippancy or showtunes. A Superman movie lacking Lex Luthor was always in danger of underperforming in the irony department, too. And this is fine. But it's not just that: all levity is more or less banished, and even romance, as if putting on a hairshirt for what fans didn't like about Superman Returns (2006). Amy Adams bears the brunt as Lois Lane, here a serious investigative journo. "I'm a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter!", she feels the need to remind her editor (Laurence Fishburne) while trying to get the scoop on this broodingly restrained alien do-gooder. Man of Steel is similarly keen to flaunt its credentials – it has heft, it looks amazing, and it's businesslike to a fault.

It has to be said that the failure to cook up much in the way of meaningful interaction for [Clark Kent and Lois Lane] throughout the film's midsection means that Man of Steel begins to labour even as the visual spectacle intensifies: no amount of whip-pans and crash-zooms, spaceship flameouts or collapsing edifices can compensate for an inert focal relationship. The whole film ends up feeling weighed down: though Man of Steel bounds from one epic setpiece to another, you're left with the nagging feeling that you just can't work out what the central twosome see in each other.


Snyder's film, written by David Goyer and starring an impeccably cast ensemble, is remarkable mythmaking, a canny spin on the oft-told details that have defined the character over time. While there is plenty about it that can be described as new, the bones of it are instantly familiar. Make no mistake; this is Superman. For my own personal sensibilities, this is the most interesting, emotionally-satisfying, richly imagined version of the story. Ever.

I could spend page after page talking about what I love about this film. First and foremost, I am blown away by the sheer scale of it. Marvel's biggest film so far, The Avengers, looks like a charming episode of the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk by comparison, and while size doesn't always make something better, if you want to sell the idea that these are godlike beings battling, then the only way to truly sell that idea is to show what they would do to our planet in the process. No one has ever staged superhero action like this. No one.


  • 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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