As a little girl, I watched George Reeves “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” mesmerized in front of my family’s first black-and-white television. I faithfully read Superman comics and followed most of the Christopher Reeve movies in the 1970s and 80s, though I have not kept up with the recent Superman Returns or other television adaptations. Prior to buying my ticket for Man of Steel, I hadn’t read any press releases and entered the theater with no preconceived ideas. I came away with mixed feelings, including great disappointment. (Click on the movie poster for a closer look.)
What did I like most about Man of Steel: Henry Cavill in his tight-fitting suit. Oh my, he’s great eye-candy and his physique did allow me to appreciate the new texture and deeper hues of his Superman’s outerwear. But I also liked the back-and-forth rhythm of the story, telling the audience how past mistakes or misunderstandings led to present-day dilemmas.
Watching a very young Clark Kent struggle to understand his powers, when asked a question by his teacher, is priceless. We see, from Clark’s perspective, the skeletons of his teacher and classmates as his x-ray vision penetrates their clothes. We watch Clark react violently to the cacophony sounds we take for granted and ‘hear’ the horrible screeching and high-pitched noise his super hearing sends along his auditory nerves. I had never before given much thought to Clark’s early struggles and lack of control of his earthbound powers, and these scenes are very powerful.
I thoroughly enjoyed several of the later scenes where the writers had some fun with the dialogue and play on words. When Clark meets everyone at the Daily Planet, Lois Lane’s glib comment, “Welcome to the Planet,” got me smiling. Unfortunately I had to wait more than two hours for this type of scene.
Man of Steel could have been broken down into several movies. It wasn’t that the film is too long to sit through; there’s just a plethora of information I was forced to absorb as the movie moved back and forth along the timeline. I found this format enjoyable at the start of the film but, after 90 minutes, found myself tired and overloaded with background information.
There were several things I just didn’t get. I wasn’t sure who was responsible for an action against Smallville; he obviously was part of General Zod’s crew but he just appears on the street with Zod’s faithful female trooper—then, he disappears. There was so much devastation and ear-splitting noise, I must have missed his demise while either closing my eyes from strain or covering my ears to stop eardrum damage.
I can appreciate the writers feeling a final face-to-face showdown is necessary but it was way overdone. As the foes slammed through buildings, smashed each others bodies, destroyed property and threatened citizens, I just wanted it to end. Enough is enough.
The depiction of the planet Krypton is very disturbing; it’s a dark place with strange, oddly shaped buildings and moving vehicles, where scientists control DNA, children are born in labs, and leaders have an overabundance of arrogance with no vision. I’m also tired of Superman stories having only several characters on Krypton, in this case Superman’s parents, Jor-El and Lara. They’re the only people on an entire planet who know the counsel/governing body is making unwise decisions and yet have no power to stop them.
More: I’m tired of the bad guys wearing black. I can figure out the evil characters by their actions and language. (I wonder if these characters would be just as effective in brown outfits. Would navy blue or a forest green have patrons running from theaters?) I can also determine which characters are good characters just as easily.
Obviously, I wouldn’t tamper with Superman’s general outfit—that would be sacrilegious—but I don’t need Christ-like imagery to help me conclude he’s the good guy.
I’m also tiring of what appears to be an excessive amount of violence in film today. The fist-fighting, the bombs, and the senseless destruction might make good visuals (especially if there’s a 3D option) but for me it’s overkill. Sorry for the pun.
From my early exposure to Superman, I know his ethics and I realize when he betrays them in Man of Steel. Perhaps this is a reflection of our society’s recent struggles with right and wrong, and our growing acceptance of “people getting what they deserve.”
I was disenchanted by Man of Steel. I did not look at my watch once… but, then again, I must confess I left it home.