Man of Steel: Was it Really That Bad?
Written by Jacob Chimilar (@sweetlows)
The last time I watched Man of Steel was when it hit theatres in 2013. I remember not liking much about it. It was loud, explosive and only mildly interesting. The one shining beacon was Henry Cavill as Superman himself, I thought he did a great job portraying Superman and was well cast for the role. That was where the greatness ended. To that point the only movie I really enjoyed of Zack Snyder's was Watchmen, I saw it in theatres twice, including IMAX and really enjoyed the experience. I also Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole, based on the books which I had partially read previously. That too was a decent movie. Then came Man of Steel and I just didn't dig it.
However, this time around, with some time and fresh eyes and adjusted expectations, I more or less enjoyed it. The opening sequence was great. The introduction to all the characters in the midst of a battle was well done for the most part, if overly reliant on CGI. The characters were able to chew through a lot of exposition and plot in a short amount of time, keeping things brisk and entertaining. General Zod is livid that Jor-el is willing to let Krypton die and vows to hunt down his son Kal-el and the key that holds the information for creating Kryptonians. His mission was to keep Krypton and his people safe and collecting that information and insuring their race's survival. Now Zod is clearly cuckoo but at least what he is fighting for makes some sense and proves to be a worthy adversary to Superman, who has chosen Earth as his home, not Krypton.
The early days of Clark growing up and hiding his powers was handled well. Having his father scared of what others might think comes to a rather heartbreaking conclusion when Pa Kent is about to be swept away by a tornado (damn Kansas and their tornadoes) and Clark, fully capable of rushing in and saving him in the blink of an eye is silently given the hand by his father and disappears into the tornado. Even in the theatres I found that moment quite touching and said a lot about Pa Kent, his last act as a parent was to protect his son's secret even in the face of death.
Then comes the Lois Lane and Superman dynamic. Unfortunately for fans, that doesn't get explored a whole lot but the character of Lois Lane does get a fair bit of screen time and Amy Adams as an intrepid journalist, for the most part works. She is inquisitive, smart and can handle her own against the men that try to put her down. She is of course clearly enamoured with the god among men and wants to have his babies but it's not her sole purpose in life like some female characters can be boiled down to.
Now for that always "Snyder defended" ending. Having the context of what the new film claims to be tackling it makes more sense how it all went down at the end. That said, I still found my eyes glazing over at that drawn out overly bombastic ending. I get the conceit that the whole fight was to have Superman go up against a tough opponent and succeed through failure. It's very clear by his outburst after killing Zod that he was ashamed and upset with himself for doing it. He failed himself and his city and that was a tough pill to swallow. That in turn was also a tough pill for the rest of Metropolis and the world as they are divided on if he is a hero or a force to be feared. I'm totally on board with that. I thought it was an interesting first test for him but it was just so over the top, CGI blowing alien things up weird that it took away from an otherwise compelling sequence.
Overall, Man of Steel has its moments and some good character development here and there and is far from a bad movie. It's not a masterpiece by any stretch, and it's not up to the level of sheer fun and entertainment that something like Guardians of The Galaxy delivers on but it is a solid attempt at a more grounded superhero, not so much a perfect boy scout but more a super human who hasn't mastered his abilities against beings of equal or greater skill. That is something that hasn't really been explored in the films with the often complained about perfectness of Superman. So if you haven't seen Man of Steel recently, give it a go, it may not be as bad as you remember and truer to what an early days of Superman probably looked like than you may think.