June 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
Man of Steel is a pretty damn good film. Expectations were high, considering the film needed to reboot Superman, update the character, start a new “shared universe” DC series, and managed to be a great summer film all at the same time. Additionally, people wanted different things — including something in the spirit of the Christopher Reeve films — but the final result is remarkably successful. It’s a Superman for the 21st century, a very human, somewhat cautious character who grew up knowing he was different from everyone else, which wouldn’t always be a joy. Particularly for those expecting something in the spirit of a Christopher Reeve film, this would come as something of a surprise. But the studio had already made a film like that (called Superman Returns), and while a good film, it was time for an update.
Henry Cavill gives the role a certain nobility — lucky for them, since that quality isn’t always perfectly clear in the script. Add to that stunning special effects, a good supporting cast, a moving (for me, anyway) back history with his father (and his sudden loss), and you get an updated Superman, mildly cynical Superman film that still has heart. The film seems to have taken a lot of criticism for not being a laugh a minute, but I think his brief, joyous laugh (on discovering he can fly) is a small, human moment that’s more sincere and real than we get from any wise-cracking Marvel film (sorry, Marvel fans).
If I could change a couple of minor things: for goodness sakes, let Lois Lane say “Superman” instead of being too cool for that, and I think it was a mistake for Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent to say “maybe” young Clark should’ve let the kids on the bus die. What, seriously? I think that one moment is the reason people attack the morality of the Superman character, and the point of the scene is that he couldn’t let the kids die, and couldn’t reveal himself either. The Kents need to be the moral centre of old Supes, so that his immense powers are never running rampant. Instead, father Kent is loving but a little wishy-washy.
I’d also have arranged for Superman give a better speech to Zod at the end, instead of simply, “You’re a monster, and I’m going to stop you.” Zod desperately needs to be told at this point that if he cared about Krypton, it could’ve had a different legacy: helping the human race learn from Krypton’s mistakes. If that wasn’t enough for him, he only has his own ego and inflexibility to thank. At the heart of the film is an interesting story about accepting the reality of the world, or being willing to destroy it in order to reshape it, which has horrendous consequences. And, a much snappier comeback from the Man of Steel at that point would’ve helped ensure he’s something more than a dumb hunk, but thankfully Cavill does a lot to help this just with presence. Michael Shannon also deserves mention as a terrific villain. Man of Steel isn’t a perfect superhero film, and it can’t be all things to all people, but I think it does an excellent job of updating the legend, and providing a hell of a ride.