Movie of Steel.
This film is in all ways a good, solid, and exciting flick. There are some definite issues (which I will delve into with a secret sense of petty glee shortly) but in general it is everything I could have hoped for in a Superman movie.
Of course that could be taken as relative praise. Superman is one of the comic book heroes I just don’t really dig that much. He is too powerful and too flawless. All great heroes are tragic heroes, and in order to be a tragic hero you have to start from tragedy. Everyone I bring this up with always says “His home planet blew up”. Sorry, but he was an infant at the time and even if he had memories of it he really didn’t have the time to bond with his parents or planet. He grew up in small down America with the Kents in a bucolic, Norman Rockwell-esque paradise. You can’t compare that to watching your parents get gunned down by a mugger right next to you at age 10, or having your uncle get killed by the very man you let escape earlier that evening.
This film manages to inject some tragedy into the Superman upbringing, which I appreciate. I’m going to avoid spoilers but there was something that makes Superman’s life decisions all that more weighty (although in truth he could have easily avoided the bad situation. After all, he is Superman). However, any connoisseur of comic books or comic book movies will tell you that the strength of a film always resides in the strength of the villain, and in this case the new General Zod hit it out of the park. He is in all ways cool and dedicated, and even more tragic in that he is not motivated by just being a power hungry dick but rather by a desire to save his people. Tragic heroes are great, but tragic villains are awesome. The also managed to avoid the issue most origin stories have where they spend half the movie giving the guy his powers and the rest fighting some bad guy excaped from the deep recesses of the writers ass that we don’t care about (cough cough Green Lantern cough cough). They accomplished this by integrating Zod into the story from the very beginning. Well done IMO.
The part I was looking forward to is while I am not really a Superman fan I am definitely a Zach Snyder fan. 300, Sucker Punch, and the Watchmen are among my personal favorites and I knew he wouldn’t let me down even given less than optimal source material.
However, the film is not flawless and it would not be one of my reviews if I did not find a few things to nit pick. First off how many freaking times to we need to see the Superman origin story? I understand that Hollywood is terrified of anything that remotely smacks or originality or creativity, but the first Superman comic book came out in 1938 and has been running monthly ever since. That’s 75 years of original story telling (over 900 issues) from which to derive something. You are telling me that there isn’t a single story in all those comics that is worthy of fleshing out into a movie script. I’m sure executives look at past movies and decide that if they can’t guarantee numbers close to the last movie they had better just regurjitate the same old song and dance. Chocolate cake is great, but you would be surprised how quickly you can get sick of it if that’s all you eat every meal (in my experience it’s 5 days and 17 hours). Origin stories redone are the chocolate cake every meal of movies.
There are of course the typical plot holes most mainstream movies seem obligated to insert under law. If the Kryptonians have a galaxy spanning star empire why did the not have a few ships lying around for at least some people to escape? What exactly killed all the off world Kryptonians? If they have the resources of the universe at their disposal why did they need to remove their planet’s core for energy? If the Kryptonians know that living on a planet with a yellow sun gives them super powers why didn’t they all move to one millenia ago? Apparenlty they were on Earth 20,000 years ago. How is it a random scout ship just happens to have a Superman costume on board featuring the family crest of the -el family?
These plot holes were weighty and distracting, and had the pace of the movie stayed the same in the last half as the first half they would have been the lighter fluid to ignite my barbeque briquettes of hate. Fortunately once the action started the movie went from a plodding 4.5 to a rock hard 9.8. It’s hard to find a movie slow when someone is throwing a freight train at another guys head.
The last thing I’m going to bitch about comes from our good friend science. I can’t believe I’m explaining this again (this is like the 5th movie that made this same mistake) but saying something is made up of an unknown element not found on this planet makes you sound like a moronic Neanderthal puzzled by the invention of fire. A high school chemistry class will tell you that elements are comprised of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Each element is assigned an atomic number that corresponds to the number protons in the atom. Thus Hydrogen has one proton, Helium 2, etc. Between 1 and 118 there are no unknown elements, and at the higher the number the more unstable and difficult to produce. Ununoctium, atomic number 118, has only had 3 atoms produced ever. The idea that a whole ship is created from an element that is unknown yet still functional (not super heavy, super unstable, super radioactive, or a gas) is laughable, and would have been easily avoided just by substituting “alloy” or “compound” in place of element (remember transparent aluminum?).
Electron image courtesy of the Funny T Shirt category.
All these aside, really good film. Let’s get into the story, shall we? There are some spoilers incoming, so skip ahead to the stars if you find them annoying.
The film starts off on Krypton, a harsh planet that looks suspiciously like the cities from John Carter of Mars. Jor-el (Russell Crowe-L.A. Confidential, Gladiator, Master and Commander) has figured out that the planet is going to blow up but can’t find a ship big enough for him and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer (why does that name sound more Kryptonian than Lara? I got rejected by a girl named Lara a few months ago right here on Earth)-Vantage Point, Munich, Angels & Demons) but hey happen to have a baby buggy sized ship perfect for young Kal-el, who just got born. Jor-el infuses Kal-el with some kind of genetic blueprint for the entire Kryptonian race (they are all cloned. Kal-el’s birth is the first natural child birth in centuries). Meanwhile General Zod (Michael Shannon-Take Shelter, Vanilla Sky, Pearl Harbor) is trying to lead a coup against the ruling council. He gets shut down and sentenced to the Phantom Zone.
Cut forward 33 years and Clark Kent (Henry Cavill-the Immortals, the Tudors, Stardust) is drifting across the world, helping people upon occasion but generally trying to stay out of trouble. His childhood is revealed in a series of flashbacks but if you really need me to tell you the Superman origin story let me know what Buddhist monastery you grew up in. He shows up at a ship stuck in a glacier from 20,000 years ago. Turns out to be a Kryptonian scout ship where he learns his origin from his holographic father. He also meets Lois Lane (Amy Adams-the Muppets, Catch Me if You Can, Enchanted), who later tracks him down at his family farm.
Meanwhile, Zod has escaped from the Phantom Zone and want’s Superman’s DNA literally. He also wants to xenoform (the term used in the movie was terraform, but that is completely incorrect. When we turn an alien planet into something resembling Earth it’s terraforming. When aliens turn Earth into an alien environment it’s xenoforming. I know. I’m a prickly hedgehog, but these things make me sad in the face) Earth into another Krypton, resulting in the death of all humans. Superman gets his ass kicked but later comes back and whales on some Kryptonian baddies. Really that’s it. The story is pretty linear.
Superhero action on par with the Avengers. Also during the course of the film the collateral damage is astronomical. More than once you see Superman or Zod get punted through three or four skyscrapers only to have them collapse completely. Awesome. Three stars. Henry Cavill did really well as Superman. One star. I liked all the stuff on Krypton, which kind of made up for the fact that they were forcing me to watch the Superman origin again. One star. General Zod was pretty amazing. Two stars. Looking at the broader cultural impact of an alien on Earth was pretty cool. One star. I was particularly pleased with the scene where the military is trying to attack the Kryptonians and gets their asses handed to them. One star. Actual excitement for a change. One star. The ending while was pretty cool, and it wasn’t all Superman. One star. Overall a great time watching. Two stars. Total: Thirteen stars.
The black holes.
Superman origin and General Zod again?? One black hole for blowing out their originality fuse. I know it’s petty, but that alien element thing really bugs. I will roll it together with the xenoforming issue and give one black hole for crappy science. I’ll throw in the other plot holes as well. One black hole. I really didn’t like Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She just didn’t have the grit I expect from Lois Lane. Sorry Amy. You are hot. One black hole. The PG-13 rating was an anchor around the neck of the action. The really went out of their way to hide the horrible things that were going on. There was no way Superman and Zod had the fight they did in Metropolis without killing a half million people. One black hole. Pacing dragged in the first half, and I was feeling every one of the 143 minutes on my bladder. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A grand total of eight stars, and my rousing endorsement of this film. If you can avoid all the petty issues that grind on me like a sandpaper jock strap you will enjoy the hell out of it. Date movie? Only if you have a cool girl who wants to see this. She will probably enjoy it, but this film will neither help nor hinder you getting her clothes off. Bathroom break? Any of the scenes involving Martha Kent in the last half of the film are pretty expendable. I liked her but she did not contribute much to the character development after the mid point.
Thanks for reading. Movies like this make me glad I got into doing reviews. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Post comments on this film or my review here, and if you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at email@example.com. Talk to you soon.