DCEU Film Retrospective | Man of Steel (2013) by Zack Snyder

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  • Directed by: Zack Snyder
  • Starring:
    • Henry Cavill as Kal-El | Superman | Clark Kent
    • Amy Adams as Lois Lane
    • Michael Shannon as General Zod
    • Diane Lane as Martha Kent
    • Russell Crowe as Jor-El

Synopsis: Clark Kent, one of the last of an extinguished race disguised as an unremarkable human, is forced to reveal his identity when Earth is invaded by an army of survivors who threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction. (IMDB)

The Good:

  • Score: Whatever my complaints about the DCEU and it’s dark, broody, dreary tone, I think they have more memorable, epic scores to accompany their films. Granted, this is partially because you can’t stick a Redbone or Jackson 5 tune underneath the neck snapping and building trashing but I appreciate Hans Zimmer all the same. Man of Steel has a fantastic score and I actually enjoy the credits.
  • Cinematography: I may not be a fan of Snyder’s films (any of them, including Watchmen) but they are visually beautiful. This film is gorgeous! There are so many memorable shots and when not weighed down with the dark filters, this film is lovely to look at.
  • Amy Adams: She is a delight in any film she’s in, to be honest. She’s pretty much 1/2 of this film, along with Henry Cavill. Her role isn’t perfect; it’s a hell of a lot of her just being the damsel in distress. I would say “Maybe BVS will change this” but I know it doesn’t. It’s strange that they tried to update every other aspect but left this female character in the 50s. That being said, I like Lois okay. My affection for Amy Adams makes it impossible for me to hate her.
  • Henry Cavill: He is fine as Superman. My only frames of reference are the bits I remember of Christopher Reeves (my dad was a huge fan), animated cartoons, and Tom Welling in Smallville. I feel terrible for the guy and I’ll get to that in a minute. Anyway, this guy is adorable! He’s incredibly attractive, he’s got a great smile, he looks the part and (when given the right type of scene) he does just fine as Superman. The scene where he loses his father took some acting chops and I think Cavill delivered.

The Bad: (unfortunately, there is so much bad)

  • Darkness: I know, I know, call me a butthurt Marvel fan girl but this was not an enjoyable watch. There’s no hope. There’s not a lot of heroism. None of the goofy, cheesy, fun stuff we associate with Superman made it into this film. I hear a lot of trash talked about Supergirl season 1 but I feel like that show gets what this type of character is supposed to be. A beacon of hope and optimism in the face of impossible obstacles. A story about an outsider who lives among us and teaches us while we teach them. Superman is all of the cheesy stuff we associate with superhero stories and this film stripped all of that away and gave us darkness. It’s just not any fun.
  • Where in the world is Clark Kent?: There’s 20 minutes straight of Krypton before we are really introduced to Clark. Isn’t he supposed to star of this film? We get a bunch of Zod threatening the council and fighting Jor-El as an explanation for his vendetta when I think we really only needed 5 minutes. Or they could have inter-spliced it with Clark’s childhood. Something to let us get to know our hero in the first twenty damn minutes. Instead, I get to see way too much of Krypton than I cared to see. Add to that, we get a lot of the army and the stuff with Lois to the extent that I feel like I know way more about Lois and her background than Clark.
  • Dark and broody Superman: I mention this separately because Superman gets compared to Captain America a lot. I know it’s because they’re both considered beacons of American-ness (hilariously so for an alien) and they’re the bright, sunshine-y heroes to the darker ones like Batman and Daredevil. This film made me think about that first MCU Captain America film and why that one worked a lot better than this movie. Clark Kent is a happy character. He’s been through so much but he still has hope for the world he lives in. He’s also sarcastic, witty, and compelling… when you allow him to be. I would say Chris Evans and Henry Cavill are about equal in acting talents so, to me, it’s not skill that makes Steve Rogers a much more appealing character; it’s their scripts. Evans was given witty, sarcastic lines and he was allowed to smile. Cavill’s Superman gets to brood, cry, watch his father die, snap a guy’s neck and then he gets to die. He rarely gets to have a good time with his mother and spend quality time with Lois Lane in this film. It’s upsetting because when he does get those few moments of levity (his first flying scene, a few moments with Lois and his mother) Cavill really is quite charming. With better material, he could have been a great Superman.
  • Pa Kent’s death: this is one of the dumbest moments in this film. I know, it serves the purpose of showing that Pa Kent would rather die than allow people to come after his son. It’s not shocking considering he tells Clark he should’ve let a bus full of children die to keep himself in the shadows. This is the least inspiring version of Pa Kent I’ve ever seen and it was hard for me to sit there and feel bad with Clark when Pa Kent dies because it was so incredibly avoidable.
  • Zod’s final fight: Currently thought of as the DCEU’s best villain, I wasn’t super impressed with Zod. Shannon did well enough; he was only over the top a few times and the scene where he tells Clark off for killing his people was actually very well done. His henchwoman was pretty cool – even cooler than him, in my opinion. Surprisingly, I won’t rag too hard on this film for the fact that Metropolis was destroyed because pretty much all superhero movies do this. Yes, at points the destruction seemed gratuitous and I’m not sure if that’s because there was so much of it or because Supes wasn’t doing anything to get civilians out of the way. Anyway, I have a bigger problem with the neck snapping. Aside from my own thoughts about why that family didn’t try to move or whether or not Clark could have stopped Zod in another way, I question what the point of it was? Was it to show Clark that sometimes he would have to be okay with death? His father already taught him that and I’m sure countless people died during this battle. Was it to make Clark kill the last of his kind to save earth? That’s even more depressing than the rest of this movie was. Overall, I think I had such a big problem with it because:
  • This movie is hopeless: This film doesn’t end on a note that fills anyone with hope. Sure, we get confirmation that we are indeed going to get the clumsy reporter, Clark Kent. However, Metropolis was destroyed, the army doesn’t trust him and will most likely come up with strategies to take him down if need be, and then BvS happens. Not all superhero movies end happily and they don’t have to in order to be good: Civil War didn’t, The Amazing Spider-Man didn’t, Logan sure as hell didn’t. You can have a sad ending and still be a good film but Man of Steel is bleak throughout pretty much 99% of the runtime and then it ends the same way. Again, not a Superman story I want to invest more of my time in.

Is it a recommend?

No. I can definitely say I would not recommend watching this. I thought maybe I was remembering it in a harsher light because it’d been a while since I watched it but nothing really changed. I give Henry Cavill more credit for the scenes where he was actually given something to work with. He was charming and adorable when needed and he was emotional and distraught when the script called for it. More than anything, the rewatch left me feeling sympathy for the guy. With a lighter touch, maybe a Matthew Vaughn or Brad Bird, Cavill could really shine as Superman.

Score: 4.5/10

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3 thoughts on “DCEU Film Retrospective | Man of Steel (2013) by Zack Snyder”

  1. As a Superman fan, I really, really wanted to be able to say that I enjoyed Man of Steel. I apologize to the fans of this film but, for me, there are just too many points working against it. You covered many of them and my addition would be how dysfunctional the Kents are in both this film and BvS. With Jonathan saying, “maybe” to the thought of letting kids die on the bus when young Clark was trying to do the right thing, and Martha in BvS saying, “you don’t owe this world a thing.” With foster parents like these, it’s no wonder this Clark is so messed up.

    After the film’s release, I read and heard so many people say, “I’m glad this Superman isn’t wasting time saving cats from trees.” Sigh… completely missing the point of what makes the character of Superman so special.

    Just my five cents. Great review as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!

      Yeah, Martha’s line in BvS was literally “Be their hero or don’t” which is a far cry from what I’ve seen and read of the Kents in Superman comics. It’s such a weird take on them and I don’t understand why they went this route? I always saw the Kents as a big part of why Clark protects humanity. Sure, it’s also because it’s the noble thing to do but his love for his parents and Smallville was a big part of his reasons for being a hero and in this film… I don’t know why he decides to be a hero.

      While I think there was some parts of the BvS Ultimate Edition that gave Cavill more to do… I’m praying they give us a lighter take if Man of Steel 2 is still happening. I think there’s great casting in this film but the script is pretty awful.

      Liked by 1 person

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