Brutally Honest Review #1: Man of Steel sucks
I’ve finally got around to reviewing the movie Man of Steel starring Henry Cavity. To begin, 2013 gave us a lot of CGI action extravaganzas masquerading as bad movies. Just because it has action, good special effects, and a bunch of mind-numbing explosions doesn’t mean the movie is good. So what makes a movie good? A good movie has good characters, an interesting plot, character development, and a good pace to give us a fun experience. Wait, doesn’t Man of Steel have these things? NO, IT DOESN’T.
I’ve read many Man of Steel apologists argue that this new Superman movie gives us really what we’ve been missing from a Superman movie for many years and that’s action. WHATEVER. Punch all you want, but there’s still plenty of things that make it garbage. Apologists go on to say that Man of Steel balances action with interesting plot elements and character moments to bring us everything good that was missing from Superman Returns, the earlier Superman remake, reboot thing. WHATEVER. All I have to say to that is: NO IT DOESN’T, Superman Returns is a crap movie too! There’s no good characters or any balance in either one! I’d at least say that Man of Steel tries to stand on its own instead of imitating the Richard Donner movies, where Superman Returns tries to feed us a Superman performance that is simply an IMITATION of Christopher Reeve. But that’s a whole other topic.
Man of Steel doesn’t imitate anything, but it adds a lot of garbage to an already simple story. I don’t see how you can screw up Superman’s origin so badly. It’s a SIMPLE STORY. It’s EASY to tell. What I know about Superman’s origin is this: Krypton is a dying planet and Jor-El discovers that Krypton will soon explode, but a council of Krypton’s greatest scientific leaders dismiss all his findings. So on the eve of the apocalypse, Jor-el sends his only son on a rocket ship to Earth, where he will be able to survive. THAT’S IT. THAT’S ALL THERE IS. Even Richard Donner adding the Kryptonian criminals is superfluous, but I don’t really even care about that minor point.
Zack Snydo not only adds Zod and the Kryptonian criminals to the Superman origin, he adds other complicated things that I don’t even understand. AND THEY DON’T MAKE SENSE. I will say that Krypton looks amazing and reminds me of the Krypton shown in the comic books. Russell Crow is alright, but he is not just in the first GOD-AWFUL 20 minutes on Krypton: NO, he’s in the rest of the movie too!
Yes, the first 20 minutes are the most embarrassing and stupid introductory minutes EVER in a superhero movie. Awful dialog and stupid plot-points. And plot holes you could drive a truck through. In the beginning, Russell Crow as Jor-El does exactly the same thing as in the Superman origin: he warns a council of elders that Krypton is doomed. But instead of tossing him out like an idiot, they say: you know what, you’re right, Jor-El BUT OH WELL. That’s seriously what they say to Jor-El. They believe him whole-heartedly, but they don’t care. They’re not going to evacuate, alert people to leave the planet, or anything. They just question Jor-El as to why. Why should we leave the planet? Are you serious? Why any character would ask Jor-El this is really beyond me. They have spaceships for one, and the movie tells us that Krypton has other colonies and outposts, so yes, they should leave. Immediately. But they don’t. They don’t leave. They argue about it and stay around to die. I DON’T GET IT. The movie doesn’t explain why they stayed or why pretty much everything else about this opening sucked.
Zod then busts in and we get the second stupid thing about the opening to Man of Steel. Why General Zod would want to take over a dying planet is never explained. He wants something called the codex, a complicated McGuffin plot device that has been stupidly added in here to move the plot later on. It complicates the movie. Screw the codex.
Next we get some stupid special effects ripped off from Avatar and then the stupidest plot point of the entire opening: General Zod is sentenced to survive in a prison called the Phantom Zone. WHAT? Why don’t they just keep him around to die with everyone else? I don’t get it. Not only do they know the planet is going to die, they stand around waiting for it to die, and send their greatest criminal off to a prison only to be freed minutes later when the planet explodes. I didn’t understand why Zod gets a vacation from Krypton’s doom. Lucky him, I guess.
Before being shuffled off to vacation world, Zod learns that Jor-El has had a natural-born child. How does Zod learn this, you ask? JOR-EL SIMPLY TELLS HIM. He simply comes out and tells Zod that his only son is in a rocket going off-world, which angers Zod, causing him to murder Jor-El. Or something. Anyway, the point is, I don’t get why Jor-El says anything. He certainly doesn’t protect Kal-El, his son, and dooms the Earth to be attacked later by Zod. Maybe Jor-El thought Zod would still be on vacation.
Then we get the story of Clark. It suffers from all action and no development, which is a big problem in this movie. NOTHING HAPPENS. There’s no development. Actually, we do actually learn one thing: Clark likes to save people. Yes, that’s it. And he likes to walk down the street in a Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk rip-off type way. I couldn’t believe it. They ripped off a TV show from like 30 years ago and didn’t give us anything else. And they flashback, flashforward, or whatever, so many times that we don’t get ANY time to learn what kind of person Clark really is. Why does he like to save people? What makes him into that helpful person? How does he feel about other people he has worked with? What does any of the Clark story have to do with his development? NONE OF THESE QUESTIONS ARE ANSWERED.
His Earth-dad tells him he has to hide his powers and his true identity because the planet would go nuts at learning about aliens. WHAT? This is a stupid thing to say because its THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF WHAT HAPPENS. His Earth-dad suicide-dies in fact to protect this stupid idea of a motivation. It’s not even a motivation, because Clark still saves people in full view of others, like people on an oil rig. He either doesn’t believe his Earth-dad or his Earth-dad is completely stupid. We see later that even when General Zod and his buddies invade Earth, it’s business as usual. The Earth doesn’t go nuts like Earth-dad thought it would. NOTHING HAPPENS. People don’t riot, there’s no reaction, and people go on doing whatever it is they were doing. Nothing happens, Earth-dad. YOU DIED FOR NOTHING. That is the stupidest non-setup ever.
Also, Clark’s Earth-dad is no influence on him whatsoever, which is a shame. In fact, NO ONE is an influence on Clark. No one at all. He still goes on to save more people like he’s always been doing. Does he learn this from his father? His mother? His pals? NO! The only thing he learns is to not draw attention to himself, which leads to the Bill Bixby imitations later on, I suppose. Of course, he can’t keep a low profile if he’s saving people on a burning oil rig in full view of 20 oil workers and a rescue crew. But that’s never even touched on. The oil rig workers must have been all blind or something, because Clark goes on being Bill Bixby for another 30 or 40 minutes. Screw this movie.
In the 1978 Superman, Clark is actually developed. And his Earth-dad makes sense, giving Clark some advice on how to use his powers for good, not personal gain. Clark is bullied and has the same problems as Clark in Man of Steel, but his Earth-dad in Superman 1978 is actually some help. In the original movie, Clark claims that he could win every football game if he wanted to and score every single time. We can see that it really burns Clark not to do what he wants. Earth-dad advises him: Yes, he could do all those things, and beat up every bully on the planet, but what kind of man would he be??? Earth-dad is played perfectly by Glenn Ford: He shapes Clark. LIKE A FATHER. Kevin Coster’s Earth-dad looks like an idiot and ACTS LIKE ONE. But Clark in Man of Steel ALREADY wants to save people, so there’s no need for Earth-dad to help him develop anyway. What is being developed instead? Hell if I know. Screw Man of Steel.
The action in Man of Steel doesn’t bother me as much as other points I’ve already mentioned. The complete destruction of Metropolis reinforces the threat of Zod, but also shows us how fragile Earth is compared to Superman’s foes. This could be an interesting point for a sequel to make in order to develop Superman into becoming a more careful protector for the Earth. This will never happen though. I’ll bet twenty bucks that it will never even be touched on.
In the last part of the movie, the action ramps up and we’re given a back-and-forth between Superman and the villains. Except it makes no sense. They seem to know all about Clark/Superman and exactly how he’s feeling or whatever. They call him unsure of himself and WEAK. WHAT? As the movie tells us, Superman’s cells drink the radiation from the sun, but the Kryptonian villains haven’t done this for as long as Superman has and they still kick him around like he’s nothing. They beat Superman up like he’s not even on their level. I don’t get this. And how do they know Superman’s even weak to begin with? It is never explained. How do they know he’s unsure of himself? It is never explained. Superman doesn’t defeat ANYBODY at this point and the villains don’t defeat him. NOTHING HAPPENS. They just all fly off and the next stupid plot-point is introduced. I guess the point was to set them all up as adversaries. I don’t know. I thought that was done already. Screw this movie.
Just one point about the mind-numbing destruction though. JUST ONE. I promise. After the defeat of the World Engine thingies, Nameless Girl #1 walks out of the rubble of the destruction of the ENTIRE CITY and says, “Yay! He saved us!”. SAY WHAT? How did he save you lady? The city is destroyed. That’s the problem with mind-numbing destruction for destruction’s sake. There’s never any consequences for any of it. NOTHING. NOT ONE WORD. That’s the only thing that bothers me about the destruction. That stupid reaction from Nameless Girl #1 and the no-consequences garbage that is everywhere in this movie.
At one point, we are supposed to think killing Zod is a tough decision for Superman and he languishes over it. That’s his consequence, I guess. Superman has learned to hone his powers on HIS HOME ON EARTH, which Zod has only been on for ONE HOUR, and somehow Zod forces Superman to kill. That’s the only option Superman has left. He can’t lock up Zod and I don’t think Superman can put him somewhere isolated. Superman can’t even hold the guy still. So that’s why I don’t really have a problem with the death of Zod, except the setup for it. And the dialogue. Whatever.
All in all, there’s very little redeeming about Man of Steel. The performances are good, I guess. The characters have no development and the action has no consequences. Worst of all, Clark is the least developed of any superhero character EVER and his Earth-dad looks like he gives the stupidest advice of all time. He doesn’t help him. He doesn’t make him question how to use his powers. He just tells him to hide, but Clark ignores his idiot dad, which good for us because we need Superman to punch stuff over and over later on in the movie. That’s what this movie is. All action. Everything else makes no sense, is contrived, or is added for no good reason other than to complicate matters or make it different for the sake of being different. Hopefully, the sequel to Man of Steel will be an improvement because they can’t get much worse.