Man of Steel (2013) Review

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The following review contains spoilers.


Krypton is doomed to explode. Scientist Jor-El steals the plans for the DNA of all future generations, injects it into his infant son, and shoots him into space, while all around him General Zod is leading a military coup.

When the baby arrives on Earth, he’s adopted by a kindly couple, who teach him to blend in and hide his incredible alien powers. After he comes of age, Clark Kent wanders the Earth for years until he finds a Kryptonian spaceship and learns who he really is. Shortly thereafter, Zod arrives on Earth looking to recover the lost DNA from Clark’s body and terraform Earth to make it a new Krypton, killing all the humans.

Clark takes on the role of Superman to stop Zod, but at a terrible cost, both in human lives and in the loss of all the other Kryptonians, making Clark truly the last of his kind.

Best Parts:

A lot of action films have strong beginnings and endings but drag in the middle, but with Man of Steel it’s the opposite. I found the Krypton sequences dull and the climax is very problematic, but most of the middle was quite enjoyable.

Of all the feature-film Lois Lanes, Amy Adams is the best. I loved how quickly she tracked down Clark Kent and figured out he was Superman. If we take it as a given that most people can’t figure it out, this shows us just how smart and resourceful Lois is, and how skilled an investigator.

I don’t really like the Jor-El stuff, but Russell Crowe is great. He has such presence that it’s fun to watch him regardless.

Superman learning to fly works well. The costume looks good. His scenes at the military base, allowing himself to be in their custody, are really good.

The fight between Superman and the other Kryptonians in Smallville looks great, and the action choreography is very exciting. It’s a thrilling enough scene that it doesn’t become disturbing until you have time for later reflection. The way Faora zips around in super-speed punching out soldiers looks really cool.

Worst Parts:

This movie always puts style over substance, caring more about how cool something looks than whether it makes sense for plot or character.

A big deal is made about how Kryptonians are bred for a certain purpose, and have no choice in what they become. Zod taunts Superman, telling him about Zod’s combat training and how Superman was never trained to fight. But Jor-El, in the opening sequence, a man bred to be a scientist, beats up several of Zod’s soldiers, and decisively defeats Zod in hand-to-hand combat. Like, it’s not even close. He destroys Zod.

A big deal is made about how Superman loses his powers on Zod’s ship because it has Krypton’s atmosphere, how Superman will be weaker against the terraforming machine because it’s making Earth more like Krypton, and how Zod is overwhelmed by the sudden emergence of Superman-like abilities (particularly his super-senses) when he first loses his breathing mask on Earth. But all of the Kryptonians have incredible super-strength, speed, and invulnerability immediately, going toe-to-toe with Superman himself without flinching, even though they’re in containment suits.

Superman not only fails to move any of his battles away from civilians, he regularly moves the battle from less-populated to more-populated areas. On a personal level, I just don’t have the stomach for all of the death and destruction in this movie. They don’t even pause for a minute at the end to reflect on all of the death with a memorial or anything like that. As soon as it’s over, everyone is super happy and ready to move forward. I could accept on some level that two people who barely make it through a catastrophic event might embrace and kiss when reunited, but Superman and Lois Lane don’t even seem the least bit harried. They are totally composed and even make little jokes while making out on the ashes of thousands of dead people. Imagine seeing two people behaving like this at a memorial, much less at an actual tragedy. I don’t want to pull too much from outside sources, but it’s clear from interviews that Snyder cannot comprehend why anyone would be disturbed by the massive amount of death and destruction we see in Man of Steel and thus the characters aren’t bothered by it either. It just doesn’t occur to them to care.

The emotional core of this movie seems to be Superman learning to reject Pa Kent’s teachings. He’s struggled his entire life with an urge to help people, pushing it away because his father advised against it. In a vacuum it actually kind of works, but as a Superman fan, I have a real issue with putting Pa Kent in this role. He’s always been Clark’s moral compass, so having him be basically the opposite is really off-putting to me. Also, that tornado scene is absurd.

Henry Cavill’s concentrating so hard on that American accent that he sounds a little robotic in some scenes.

How could a drifter in his 30s with no relevant experience get a job as a reporter at a major city newspaper? There was a perfect opportunity here to handwave this away by saying that Lois Lane pulled a lot of strings and got him the gig, but they didn’t bother.

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