(Two apologies before I begin today. First, this is gonna be a long one, so hold onto your butts. Second, no images today, as I was having a lot of issues getting screen shots.)
Greetings, citizens! Today it’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. a day where everyone is supposed to give thanks for the joys in their life. Well, today I’m thankful that I never have to watch this movie again.
I’ve been wanting to do a review of Man of Steel for awhile now. Hell, this was actually the first piece of non-comic media that I wanted to do a review for, back when I was deciding to do this blog. Why did I put it off for so long? Well, given that I have a strong negative opinion of this movie, and just about all the positive reviews for stuff I’ve done have been Marvel, I didn’t want it to seem like I just don’t like DC. While I still prefer Marvel, I do really like a lot of DC’s characters, and have been sampling a bunch of titles of theirs the past few weeks, with a lot of success. So, expect to see some DC positive attention paid to DC in the future. Until then though, let’s talk about the cinematic abomination that is Man of Steel.
Work on Man of Steel began in 2008, when Warner Bros. started looking into doing another Superman movie, the idea eventually turning into a reboot of the franchise. They took pitches from some of the biggest name writers that they had access to, including Geoff Johns, Mark Millar, and Grant Morrison. Eventually though, they decided on the story that we ended up with, created by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.
I’m not quite sure what went wrong with the film though. Nolan and Goyer did excellent work with the Dark Knight trilogy. Director Zack Snyder’s movies haven’t exactly been fantastic, but they were visually quite interesting. What happened? Did these guys just have their talent sucked from their bodies during production? Did someone at Marvel make a deal with Mephisto? I’ve got no idea. I was hoping to listen to commentary from the makers of the movie, but unfortunately the copy I rented had no special features on it.
But, enough background. May as well get this over with.
The movie begins with Kal El’s birth, followed by Jor El telling the ruling council of Krypton that the planet is going to be destroyed. Unlike in the comics where Krypton was destroyed by Brainiac, this Krypton is going to die because the Kryptonians harvested the planet’s core in order to solve their energy crisis. So, we’re not even 5 minutes into the movie, and I’m already baffled by utter stupidity. What sort of morons harvest a planet’s core for energy, especially when they are presented with alternatives? Jor El points out one during the scene, saying that there are habitable planets within reach. They’ve clearly known about the problem for awhile, since coring a planet must take some time, so why did they not try finding a new world to inhabit? Or harvest another planet’s core? Was there no oversight committee for this immensely stupid plan?
I am assuming that this is supposed to serve as an allegory for our own energy problems, and how we’re being short sighted and stuff. Except that we actually do have people trying to find other uses, and our planet won’t freaking implode if we don’t. So, it’s either heavy-handed and poorly executed allegory, or it’s intense levels of idiocy. Either way it makes for a bad plot point.
But before we can dwell too long on how Kryptonians have moroned themselves towards an apocalypse, we get introduced to our villain, general Zod. Zod rightfully thinks that the council have been nothing but a bunch of worthless morons and attempts a coup. He asks Jor El to help him save his people, but Jor El thinks that Zod would pick and choose which bloodlines live. Yeah, apparently Kryptonians in this version don’t birth children and just clone them, which is another stupid plot point. Doesn’t cloning take more energy than birthing children would? Doesn’t it also mean that as a species, they’re going to be stagnant?
Anyway, Jor El escapes and Zod’s forces give chase. Jor El manages to steal the codex, which contains the genetic makeup of every Kryptonian, and also drives the plot forward for the rest of the movie. He takes it back to his home, where he and his wife prep the ship to take Kal to Earth, but not before imbuing him with the codex, somehow. Here’s two more baffling plot points; why is the ship not big enough for Kal’s parents, and why did Jor El turn Kal into the codex? We never get any kind of explanation either of these. From my understanding of the comics, Krypton’s destruction came on much more suddenly, so Jor El only had enough time to construct a small vessel. But he clearly had a lot of time in this, so why not make it big enough for him and his wife?
Back with the “plot” Zod comes in, demands the codex, and he and Jor El fight. In spite of Zod being a highly trained and skilled warrior, he’s beaten pretty handily by a scientist. I’d complain more about the fight, but it’s probably the best one in the whole movie. However, Jor El gets distracted by the majesty of sending his son off to live by himself on a world where he’ll be an outsider, and Zod stabs him. For some reason, Jor El isn’t angry or upset by being stabbed, merely mildly surprised.
Zod orders his forces to shoot the ship down, but in an ironic twist, the council’s forces shoot down the ship that was to do the shooting. We see Zod and his lackeys get sentenced to spend some time in the Phantom Zone, and then Krypton explodes.
We briefly see Kal’s ship landing, but who cares about that? We need to see some Deadliest Catch! It’s now 33 years later, and Kal (henceforth referred to as either Clark or Supes) is working on a fishing boat. The boat gets contacted about an oil rig that’s going to explode and they head there. By the time they arrive though, the Coast Guard is telling them that the rig’s gonna blow and that the men still there are dead. Clark figures there’s still something he can do though, and goes off to save the day, which he does. However he gets blasted into the water, and we see our first Jesus shot, because who doesn’t love heavy-handed symbolism?
This is where the plot decides to slow way the hell down, and also stop progressing in a linear fashion. We start jumping back and forth between the present and Clark’s past. The only noteworthy thing about his past is in how his adoptive father tells him to use his power. Or rather, how he tells him to not use it. Yep, Jonathan Kent tells Clark to not help people, because that might bring attention to him. This is a change that I’ve heard a lot of people complain about, and rightfully so. Jonathan and Martha Kent are supposed to serve as the foundation upon which Clark built his morals, which is why he chooses to be Superman. In this though, he chooses to good because… it’s encoded in his DNA? We don’t know. I mean, yeah people can choose to do good for any number of reasons, but we never get any kind of inclination as to why Clark does. Hell, he got bullied a lot as a kid, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had become a villain.
Oh, also, Jonathan dies in a tornado. Clark could’ve helped, but Jon told him not to.
In the present time, Clark hears about some sort of weird investigation going on in the arctic, so he decides to see what that is. Of course a reporter from the Daily Planet is sent to do a story on this, even though it seems like the government is trying to keep it a secret. Who is this reporter? Why, none other than Lois Lane of course. At night, while she’s taking photos (in spite of the -40 degree temperature and lack of light), she spots Clark going for the site and follows him. Turns out that the thing that the government is investigating is a Kryptonian ship that’s twenty thousand years old. Clark finds his way onto the ship and inserts the AI thing from his ship into it. So wait, Kryptonian technology didn’t advance for twenty thousand years? Looks like I was right about their stagnation. A defense robot shoots Lois, but Clark destroys it and cauterizes her wound with his heat vision. The ship then activates, and we see Lois dropped off on a glacier or something. She then starts investigating who Clark is, while Clark talks to a hologram of Jor El.
So Clark learns about his heritage, and also gets his suit. Apparently, it’s not an S on his chest, but the Kryptonian symbol for hope, because that’s totally plausible and not contrived. Lois gets a bunch of accounts of Clark and goes to his dad’s grave. Conveniently, after getting his costume and learning about his heritage, he goes to his dad’s grave. They talk, and Lois decides to abandon the story she wrote accusing him of being an alien. Too bad she already had it published online though.
Anyway, Clark goes to see his mom and while there, Zod hacks into Earth’s communication systems and broadcasts a message, asking for Clark to be turned over to him. The military takes Lois into custody, in order to try and find Clark. Clark uses the power of plot convenience to know all of this, and also know exactly which military base to go to. He has a dull, meaningless conversation with Lois before agreeing to be turned over to Zod.
Zod sends a ship to pick up Clark, but they also demand Lois to be taken as well. Why? Well, you see, they uh… Obviously they uh… Why the hell do they want Lois? Do they know about her article? If they do, why do they care? Because she’s close to Clark? So is his mom, but they don’t bother to demand her either. Other than for the sake of the plot, what is the reason for grabbing Lois? Ugh, this movie makes my brain sad. So Clark and Lois are brought onto the ship, but not before Clark hands off the codex to Lois, because of course they won’t search her, since they’re not highly trained soldiers or anything. Clark meets Zod, but then collapses because he’s not accustomed to Kryptonian atmosphere. That would make sense, if he’d collapsed right after getting onto the ship, instead of having to wait to be brought to the bridge.
So while Clark’s unconscious, Zod and him have a conversation in Clark’s mindscape or something. How are they doing this? When we see Clark wake up, he’s not hooked up to anything, and we haven’t seen Kryptonians displaying any kind of psychic powers? Maybe it’s just part of Clark’s plot convenience related powers. We get a bunch of plot exposition about how Zod got here (which I’m skipping because it’s pointless). Anyway, Zod wants the codex so they can start cloning Kryptonians, and he’s going to use a terraforming thing called a world engine to turn Earth into a new Krypton, wiping out all life on Earth in the process.
So Supes is captured, and they throw Lois into a holding cell. Conveniently though, the cell has a port for her to stick the codex in, and she does so despite not knowing what the hell the thing is. Hologram Jor El appears and seems to know exactly where he is and what’s going on. Oh, and he can control the ship’s systems, because why would the ship have any sort of safety protocols for preventing unauthorized AI’s access to vital systems? That’d be intelligent, and Kryptonians have failed to demonstrate basic common sense. Holo Jor El brings the ship back into Earth’s atmosphere, thus re-energizing Supes, and allowing him and Lois to affect an escape. And here we have Jesus imagery #2, because subtlety is lame.
Lois and Supes get back to Earth okay, but Zod’s gone to the Kent farm to find the codex. He doesn’t find it, and is about to do some terrible stuff to Clark’s mom, but Clark flies in and saves the day, pummeling Zod into town. However, Zod’s flunkies grab him before Supes can beat on him some more, so instead we have a fight scene between Zod’s two lieutenants. I’m sure they have names, but considering that’s about all they have, I’m not bothering to try and find out what they are.
And here we have one of my major complaints. At it’s heart, this is supposed to be an actiony movie. I can forgive plot holes and bad acting if I just want a dumb action movie (I usually don’t, but that’s not the point). The problem is that I expect the action to be good, and this shit is… well, shit. The effects have a unique visual style, and by unique I mean bad. The movements all look like they’d be more at home in a fighting game, than as the focal piece of a summer blockbuster by a huge film studio about one of the most iconic characters in the world. I don’t quite know how to describe it, it’s like none of the textures quite match up to the ones of the actual things we see on screen. The movements also feel just too fluid. I’ve not seen effects so bad that they took me out of an action scene like this since Blade 2.
They fight, the military gets involved but accomplish nothing, more fighting, dear lord this is tedious. The Kryptonians retreat, because one of them gets knocked unconscious by a missile, and the military commander guy declares that Clark’s not a bad guy. Clark goes back to check on his mom, but we’re saved from actually having an emotional moment by Lois advancing the plot some more. She says she knows how to beat them, because apparently Holo Jor El told her how to.
Before we can find out though, we cut back to Zod and his people, who have learned that the codex is in fact within Clark all along. The genetic code of a billion Kryptonians is within Clark’s cells. I’m not a biologist, but I don’t think that DNA works that way. I could be wrong, but considering all of the other bullshit that this movie includes, I’m willing to trust my knowledge of biology over the filmmakers. So, since they don’t need Supes alive, they launch the world engine and start terraforming the planet. One part of it goes to the Indian Ocean, the other goes to Metropolis for the sake of plot convenience.
Conveniently, Lois and Clark arrive at the military base right after this and cobble together a plan to use Clark’s old ship to send Zod and his people back to the Phantom Zone. While they begin enacting the plan, Zod goes to get that old scout ship that was found in the artic, since that has the cloning chamber that they’ll need. Supes goes after the part of the world engine in the ocean, and has to fight a bunch of microbots in a much less believable fashion than Big Hero 6. He manages to blow it up though, which means that Lois and the military can blow up the other part. Um, why did Supes have to do his one first? And why is Lois there? She’s a freaking civilian! It’s not like she has some kind of expertise that’s required for this mission, her job is to put the damn command key or whatever it’s called into the ship! And she screws it up! One of the other “characters” ends up doing it, and the plane carrying the ship crashes into the other part of the world engine. But not before Lois conveniently falls off of the plane to her safety. And somehow she’s managing to fall even though the wormhole to the Phantom Zone is sucking up debris from the ground.
Zod showed up in the scout ship during that scene, not that it amounted to anything. Supes just knocked the ship to the ground, destroying the cloning chambers. Supes saves Lois, they almost celebrate, and then we see Zod’s still alive. Now it’s time for the great big superhero/supervillain battle! I’d be excited, if it weren’t as horribly disappointing as the last Kryptonian fight. Skipping to the end, Zod and Supes are in a train station or something, and Zod decides to try and heat vision some civilians to death. Why there are still people around, even though Metropolis has been getting obliterated for what must have been at least an hour, I have no idea, but they’re there. Supes is of course grappling with Zod, trying to save the people, but he can’t quite keep Zod’s death gaze from them. So he snaps Zod’s neck.
Eyup. Superman kills Zod.
This was another major complaint about the movie I heard, and I am in full agreement. This is a betrayal of the character’s core. Superman does not kill people. Especially not when there are simple alternatives! Fly upwards you idiot! Cover Zod’s eyes with your hand! Punch him in the dick! Any of those would’ve been better than snapping his neck! I don’t know what the hell they would do with him after, but I’m sure they could pull something out of their asses. Why not, they already pulled more than two hours worth of shitty film out, why stop there?
After that, we see Supes bring down a drone and tell one of the military guys to stop trying to find out who he is. Even though it should be really freaking easy to do so. Lois managed it without much difficulty, and she didn’t have half the resources that the government does. The film ends with Clark starting his job at the Daily Planet.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again; this film is drivel. The plot has more holes than a sieve, and suffers from the random ass flashbacks peppered throughout the middle. I didn’t even get into half of the ones I spotted, because I didn’t want this review to be ten thousand words long. The acting is almost non-existent, and most of the characters exist solely to deliver plot exposition. The visuals are just god-awful, with effects that are less believable than any I’ve seen in a comic film within the last decade. When a giant, green rage monster looks more believable than two human looking people fighting, you’re doing something terribly wrong. Beyond that though, the film suffers from a serious lack of color. It’s not as bad as I remembered it, but it’s still bad, with the only bright patches being natural elements, and Superman himself. All of these visual problems are accentuated by the lousy cinematography at play. It feels so inconsistent, one moment it’s going for shakey-cam style crap, the next a more traditional sort of style. The film tries to convey a sense of allegory, but the lack of subtlety or finesse with the execution just makes it come off as dumb and preachy, telling the audience what we should think, instead of letting us think for ourselves. Ironic considering how that was one of the reasons Jor El wanted to have an actual son. Finally, as an adaptation, this is just pure crap. It is completely devoid of the spirit of the character, instead focusing on trying to make things “realistic.” There is no sense of fun or hope to be found within, and I find it laughable that they wanted to make it seem as if there was. This film has squashed any enthusiasm I may have had for the planned DC cinematic universe. Unless I hear overwhelmingly positive reviews of Dawn of Justice, I have no intention of seeing that.
Next week, I’ll be looking at another adaptation, though a far better one than this. Until then, take care! And for those celebrating it, have a happy Thanksgiving!