Musings on Man of Steel: What works and what doesn’t in the latest Superman reboot

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Oh boy, where do I begin… Some films are tough to review and I find this one to be particularly so because I feel like I’ve invested myself in this movie even long before I saw it. It’s strange I know, and perhaps I shouldn’t have been sooo incredibly pumped but if you’ve read my ‘history‘ if you will, with this character, I can’t help myself. And really, Warner Bros have done a tremendous job building the marketing for this movie and pacing the trailers to get fan boys/girls like me to wait with baited breath.

Well, at 7:30 pm last Tuesday night — after two and a half years wait, and numerous countdown posts — my hubby and I finally sat down and watch this film. I’m glad there were only two trailers before this film came out, though I wish one of them had been for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, as I didn’t want to wait a moment sooner for this film to start. Now, here’s my thoughts after a few days processing it… pardon the long post, but you know I’m rather indulgent when it comes to Superman 😀

What Works

An absorbing backstory of the hero and his planet

When the filmmakers said this is going to be an origin story, they REALLY meant it. The film opens with our hero still in his mother’s womb and his father, the brilliant scientist Jor-El, helping her deliver him. We know he’s a special ‘man’ on earth, but he’s also a special baby in his native planet, as Kal-El is the first baby born of natural conception in thousands of years. We get a glimpse of a more organic version of Krypton than I’ve ever seen. The landscape and creatures from the alien planet reminds me a bit of Avatar, brushed with much more warm color scheme than the icy, futuristic look of the Richard Donner version. We see the ‘S’ symbol as a prominent element of his family, and I like that this film gives that iconic emblem a bit more background than in previous movies as it’s such an integral part of the character.

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The send-off is an emotional one, giving us a picture of the kind of people brought Kal-El into the world, and the grim circumstances of the world he was born into. The extended history scenes was explored pretty well here, which certainly makes me think of Krypton in a different light, that’s it’s a world that’s not so entirely different from our own. It’s definitely a thought-provoking Superman film that lingers with me for days after I saw it.

Exploring the sci-fi aspect

It’s interesting that I never regarded the previous Superman as a science-fiction movie, but this time you could say that Man of Steel is a sci-fi action/drama as it really tackles the ‘science’ of the two worlds of Superman. Words like terraforming, codex, world engines, etc. are terms I never associate with Superman, and we also get vibes of The Matrix or Gattaca in earlier scenes.

There’s a scene that touches upon the fact that Superman’s no longer used to his native Kryptonian atmosphere, as his body’s adapted to earth’s oxygen after living here for three decades. It seems to have a similar weakening power the way Kryptonite does, though there’s no mention of that in the film. It’s fascinating stuff and adds a different layer to the Superman story that’s overlooked in the past.

The non-linear storyline

This is sort of a Christopher Nolan‘s trademark if you will, and I’m glad David S. Goyer decided to interweave the Clark Kent’s upbringing in flashback mode as the adult Clark is grappling with the notion of ‘Where do I come from?’ and ‘Why am I here?’ This narrative style isn’t confusing to me because well, I (as well as most people) already know the story, but it’s still good to see it being played out in a whole different way. I think it helps pace the story as well, because let’s face it, when you’re in the theater watching a Superman movie, you yearn to see Supes in THAT suit. The buildup makes the moment when he comes out of what we’ve come to know as Fortress of Solitude, with his cape billowing in the wind, all the more sweeter. Not a moment too soon, I’d say, and though I’ve seen that clip a bazillion times in the trailer, I’m still getting goosebumps watching it.

Supes ‘super’ Dads

It’s perfect timing that Man of Steel is released on Father’s Day weekend, as both of his fathers in the film are so awesome they’re even worthy of their own ‘My Two Dads’ spinoff, ahah. The reviewer at HitFix.com astutely pointed out one of the most fundamental difference between DC’s two flagship heroes “…Batman is defined by his missing parents, while Superman is defined by his surplus of parents.” That’s so true! And it’s nice to see the excellent casting for both roles. I really enjoy watching Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Supes’ Kryptonian and earth-bound father, respectively. It’s interesting that both Oscar winners have played Robin Hood and Cavill was quite the masterful archer in Immortals, I guess it runs in the family 😀

I appreciate seeing Jor-El’s character being covered in more depth, with Crowe is in top form here, as valiant and heroic as he was in Gladiator (the ‘This is madness’ line cracks me up a bit though, an homage to Snyder’s previous hit film perhaps?) Thankfully, he’s not relegated to just a talking head like Brando and he appears throughout the film in a hologram, traveling with his son in ‘spirit’ if you were, just like God the Father is in Christ the son. The Judeo-Christian theme in Superman films are always palpable, and here Clark becomes the earthly savior at the exact age of 33. Thus the father/son scenes are easily the highlights of the film for me, and Crowe’s Jor-El is perhaps my favorite character in the film next to the title role.

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Costner hits all the right notes as as the humble and wise farmer from Smallville who loves his adopted son so much he’s willing to lay down his life. I’m glad we get to see Jonathan Kent interacting with the adult Clark in one scene, which happens to be one of the most emotionally-charged moment that no doubt shapes the rest of Clark’s life. The strong moral compass in the hero’s early life is covered in great depth, which made the first half of the film the more compelling part of the movie.

Henry Cavill as Superman

Naturally, to portray someone as iconic and beloved as Superman, in the year of its 75th anniversary no less, it’s crucial that we get an actor who could bring that character justice. Let’s face it though, Christopher Reeve was a tough act to follow in the role, and the comparison is inevitable. Truth be told, Reeve’s Superman will always have a very special place in my heart, I don’t think anyone could ever take his place.

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That said, I’ve been a fan of Cavill’s casting from the get-go, obviously he looks every inch the part both in chiseled physique and down-to-earth mannerism. But the true test is really seeing him on screen, BEING Superman and interacting with the people in the story. Well, I can say with confidence and positive giddy-ness that Cavill did the character justice. Sure we didn’t get the bumbling Clark trying to get Lois’ attention, but that doesn’t mean this version is one dimensional at all. In fact, Cavill believably portrays a more layered persona, showing the vulnerable side of such a larger-than-life character. Not quite the tortured soul the way Bruce Wayne was, but appropriately solemn as a conflicted man haunted by the past dealing with a constant internal struggles within him. Seems like some critics are expecting a wisecracking character with a slew of one liners at the ready, but you know what, I’m not expecting that from Cavill. I’m glad he made the character his own instead of simply channeling Reeve. I like that he’s a man of a few words, someone who wisely prefers to listen than being heard.

Michael Shannon as Zod

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I was glad when it was announced that General Zod was going to be the main villain, and boy, did they get an excellent actor to play the part. In some interviews, Michael Shannon said that he never thought of playing a comic-book character and that he found something sympathetic about his character. I appreciate his take on the role as a staunch military leader who’s loyal to a fault. So he’s not simply a megalomaniac who enjoy making people suffer, though of course his mission to save his own kind is basically genocide, something that neither Jor-El nor his son would ever condone. Ok so his bowl cut and goatee is not exactly an attractive look on Shannon, but it’s nice to see a villain who also looks physically menacing. Shannon’s athleticism makes him a formidable foe even for the mighty buff Cavill.

The chemistry of the Cast

The fantastic ensemble cast would be for naught if they don’t have chemistry with each other. But there’s none of that issue in this film, all the performances are strong here and they play off each other well. Despite being the youngest and least experienced actor amongst the key players, Cavill’s able to hold his own effortlessly. I love all his scenes with Crowe and especially this one with Diane Lane as his earth-bound mother. It’s one of the cheeriest moments in the movie where Clark came home after being away from Smallville for some time. The mother & son moment is poignant and sweet.

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The visual imagination of the film

As I’ve mentioned above, the long opening sequence of life in Krypton shows the vast planet where Superman came from. The scene is beautifully realized, with lush valleys, caverns and water mass, with what looks like a primeval animals and wing-like creatures that serve as means of transport.

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The look of Smallville captures the picturesque small town sensibilities and the iconic Kent farm that’s apparently built from scratch looks appropriately earthy next to the massive corn fields (Kevin Costner must’ve felt a sense of déjà vu from filming Fields of Dreams, ahah). Contrast that to the design of the baby Kal-El’s rocket ship that launched him from Krypton. The key word here once again is organic, with its clean lines and a more rounded shape that forms the S-shield. Oh, and if you look closely, seems like Pa Kent’s been collecting all kinds of books about aliens, UFOs, etc. which of course leads to him saying “Youre the answer to ‘Are we alone in the universe?'” when the time comes that he can’t hide it from his adopted son anymore.

I LOVE, LOVE the costume design of this film! The texture and ornate design is just fantastic, and the armor that Jor-El wore has an interesting dichotomy of being ancient looking as well as futuristic at the same time. The iconic Superman suit is re-imagined with a darker, more monochromatic hue. Again, the sleek texture beautifully accentuate the perfectly-sculpted physique of Cavill, and certainly a heck of a lot more bad ass without the red underwear on the outside. I’d love to see Man of Steel being considered for Best Costume Design come Oscar time.

Lois Lane’s larger involvement in the story

I never thought that Lois is merely a damsel in distress in the Superman movies, I mean she’s always been a shrewd career woman. But here, the stellar reporter actually gets more to do in the story and actually gets to be a part of Superman’s mission in saving humanity. No doubt Amy Adams is perhaps the best and most ‘decorated’ actress (with her four Oscar nominations under her belt) to play that character. Though I think Margot Kidder’s spunk in the role remains unmatched, Adams is quite believable and more importantly likable, as Supes’ love interest. Despite the relatively brief screen time between them (less than what I’d have liked to see anyway), Cavill and Adams have a nice chemistry together. But seriously, what girl wouldn’t have a good chemistry with Henry Cavill! I’ve got to admit the scene of them locking lips gets me green with envy! 😉

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It’s no surprise that Snyder likes a strong female character in his films and in this one, we’ve got one on both sides of good and evil, as Zod’s right hand woman Faora (Antje Traue) is a force to be reckoned with!

Last but certainly NOT least…

The flying sequences

Flying is the quintessential powers that makes Superman different from other superheroes. So I’m glad that Snyder put a lot of effort into it and truly makes the whole flying thing SUPER cool! There’s a scene where Jor-El tells his son to ‘keep testing his limits’ as neither of them knows just how powerful the earth’s sun would fuel him. There’s even a sequence of Superman learning how to fly properly, and the scene of him flying all over the globe seemingly faster than a speeding bullet is awesome!

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At the same time, though Supes’ super strength here is magnificent, I’m glad the suspension of disbelief required of us doesn’t go beyond risible grandiosity such as turning back earth axis and turning back time. I mean, I love Superman: The Movie as you all know, but that’s just stretching the preposterous meter way too far even for a superhero movie.

What Doesn’t 

Ok, now you all know how much I want to LOVE this movie. I want to clap and cheer when the end credits roll and shout out ‘awesooooooooome!!’ at top of my lungs. Well, it didn’t quite happen at first viewing, and here’s why…

The fight scenes go on way too long

Yes I know that from the trailers and featurettes that there are going to be some significant butt-kicking sequences in this one. I mean, after such a lengthy battle-free exposition if you will, naturally people are expecting more robust stuff, but I think it ends up being a bit of an overkill as the fight scenes grows increasingly relentless. As soon as Zod descend on earth with his small band of Kryptonian army, all hell breaks lose!

The destruction in Metropolis would make Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich green with envy. It’s as if Zack Snyder is over-compensating for some people’s complaints that the previous Superman movie didn’t have ‘enough’ action. Seriously, by the time Superman fights Zod & co. for the fifth or sixth times, and it just gets tedious. There’s also an overlong scene of Superman fighting these weird alien creatures with long tentacles towards the end, it’s really hard to see what the heck is going on. It’s a case of CGI-overload, which is never a good thing.

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Seeing Supes and his nemesis going through building after building, leaving heaps of destruction in its wake, it quickly becomes pointless as we all know these Kryptonians are all indestructible. Plus, their fights actually cause more human casualties as skyscrapers are collapsing all around them.

Lacking one stand-out scene that exemplifies Superman as the ‘savior of humanity’

Ironically, with sooo many battle scenes and so much time devoted to Supes kicking all kinds of butt, there is not a single defining moment, if you will, that makes me want to get up and cheer. Superman: The Movie has that iconic chopper-rescue scene with Lois, Superman II has the battle at the end with Zod & co. that leads to the finale at the Fortress of Solitude, and even Superman Returns has that rousing plane rescue scene that earns Supes a thunderous heroes’ welcome! (Btw you can watch all of those scenes here).

The most memorable part for me is the scene where Supes first tackles Zod, destroying his helmet that protects him from being overwhelmed by his heightened senses. I think it’s brilliant that they show an insight to just how crucial Clark’s parents teaching was in getting him to control his powers. But it falls short from being a truly glorious scene, and most importantly, we never quite see Superman as being welcomed by the people of earth as their alien hero, even though the stake in this film is even greater than anything Lex Luthor ever posed to humanity. There’s only acknowledgement from a few military people and some Daily Planet employees, but most earthlings pretty much are still in the dark as who Superman is.

Hans Zimmer’s score didn’t quite hit an emotional high for me

This is really a bummer as I’ve grown to enjoy this soundtrack, and accept the fact no score is going to be as iconic as what John Williams’ has done (even Zimmer himself realized this). I’ve actually been listening to the score on its own and really enjoyed it. But somehow, I don’t really remember the music being all that memorable in the film. Perhaps it’s intentional to make the score to sort of blend in with the story, but I expected it to give me this emotional rush like it did in the previous film, but it wasn’t quite there. Perhaps on second viewing I might have a different opinion on it, but as it is now, it’s a bit underwhelming.

The Verdict?

Despite the flaws I’ve pointed out, there are still a LOT to love in this film. So yeah, I still LOVE Superman and Man of Steel certainly did not dampen my love for the character. The bold new interpretation certainly didn’t frustrate me the way Superman Returns did with the ‘Supes boy’ twist, though it could’ve been more engaging all the way through. The first half of the film before we even see Kal-El donning the suit is definitely more compelling to me than the later when Superman perform all kinds of impressive heroic stunts. I think Richard Corliss in his TIME review sums it up nicely: “The super part of Man of Steel is just O.K.; but the man part is super.”

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I do want to point out that there IS a beating heart amidst all the booming spectacle and I do think the filmmakers deliver on the promise of a ‘first contact’ story. In addition, just because it’s a darker and grittier interpretation, it doesn’t mean it’s gloom and doom. The message about hope is not lost on me here,  I think Christopher Nolan + David Goyer + Zack Snyder‘s vision certainly has the potential to launch a lucrative franchise for DC. I for one wants to see more of THIS version of Superman, surely with Henry Cavill in the title role!

So no, I’m NOT disappointed in this one. In fact, the longer it sits with me the more I appreciate it and I’m still eager to see it again (in fact I’ve already got my tickets for an encore later tonight) 😀 Well, after a second viewing, I’ve now settled with the higher score than what I’ve originally intended…

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What are YOUR thoughts on this film? Let’s compare notes on this one, folks!

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117 thoughts on “Musings on Man of Steel: What works and what doesn’t in the latest Superman reboot

    1. Hi Michael! You’re seeing this on Father’s Day right? How perfect, since the father/son story is so compelling in this one! 😀

      1. Okay, here we go…

        Excellent look at this event film, Ruth. I agree with much you have to say.
        • it is an interesting backstory; made for an intriguing reboot of the franchise
        • Russel Crowe did remind me of Maximus, too, with his performance and presence
        • Michael Shannon made for a stellar villain and keeps getting better and better in the films I’ve screen
        • the Nolan/Goyer influence a very good one on this franchise
        • I see why a number of folk are talking Costner up for Supporting Actor nom
        • Cavill as Superman was a solid win for casting
        • Diane Lane as the Earth-bound mom another, too
        • a more than solid Lois Lane is critical for any great Supes flick (animated or live action) and Amy Adams, and the writing of the character, in the plus column (and a prime reason ‘Superman Returns’ suffered)
        • Chris Meloni’s small character arc was a wonderful touch, and he had the best line reversal in the entire movie

        But what knocks it from a great film, as compared with the 1978 original for its time…

        • blunt force trauma of action sequences – way, way too much. As Hannibal Lector once said,

        “Tedious, very tedious.”

        • my wife complained of too many ‘climaxes’ and I’d have to agree; what, MoS tried to top LOTR: Return of the King for number of false endings?
        • yeah, a lack of ‘savior of humanity’ scene was lacking
        • Zimmer’s score of the quiet scenes was kinda good, but overall it disappeared among all those explosions and sound effects
        • and why, oh why, deploy shaky cam at the start…though I’m quietly thankful they only it there
        • the Zack Snyder excesses (especially in making almost two different films in one with the heavy-handed action sequences in the third-act) make me want to campaign for his removal from future sequels. There, I said it. Keep Nolan & Goyer, though.

        I gave it 3.5 reels (per your scale), a trend I’m afraid. I reappraised Iron Man 3 and ST Into Darkness to this same rating after giving them better, too. Good, solid entertainment, but didn’t live up to the hype. It’s been a summer of disappointment in expectations for me with the big tentpole season films, I’m afraid. Belief it or not, the only film that hasn’t disappoint was Fast & Furious 6. And I pretty much expected what I gave it. Again, another 3.5.

        Thanks.

        1. Hi Michael!! WOW, THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts on this movie as promised. I certainly don’t mind if Crowe or Costner is up for Supporting Actor nom, though I doubt that’d happen. I should’ve mentioned Christopher Meloni, he was indeed memorable in his brief scenes.

          Y’know, because of the CGI overload, I feel the same way about Snyder and perhaps have another director who’s more story-driven for the sequels. I mean they can always have a second unit director who can handle the action stuff, but I really want to see a good, compelling story to carry this franchise through. I agree Nolan/Goyer should stay, and of course Henry Cavill is crucial here as to me, he’s able to carry the film in his mighty buff shoulders 😀

          Yeah, the lack of ‘savior of humanity’ scene was perhaps my main beef. I’d even tolerate all the CGI-action fest a bit more if that one glorious scene were there.

          Thanks Michael, let’s hope better things are in store for Superman franchise. There’s already talks that we may get Man of Steel 2 even next year!! 😛

    1. Woo hoo! I’m seeing it again too, already got my tickets 😀 Yes, let’s compare notes, I’m prepared for some folks to disagree w/ me on this one.

        1. I don’t agree with some of the critics’ assessment. Yes it’s not as spectacular as I’d have liked it, but still there are a lot to love here. Still worth an encore 😀

          1. Okay…so I loved the film but it had so many problems. I did not like the way they handled the back story with the use of flashbacks, it made the films story a little choppy. Other than Cavill & Lane, the characters didn’t interact with each other very well, didn’t have any emotion, almost robotic. I’m still not convinced Cavill is the right man as Supes…not sure why…too handsome? lol

            LOVED Kevin Costner & Diane Lane. That tornado scene was sad.

            Despite all its flaws, I really enjoyed the action and I couldn’t help but give it an 80%.

    1. Ahah why thank you sir! That’s why I waited to post my review until today as I figure some UK folks might’ve seen it by now, but yeah let’s compare notes once you see it.

    1. Hi Rob!! Thanks for reading my crazy long post, ahah, I just have so much to say and I had to refute those dour critics!! Hope you get to see it on the big screen soon 😀

  1. Diane Lane looks awesome as the mom. I wonder how Costner will do as Mr. Kent? I bet great. He’s back in the corn fields and no doubt the setting will seem similar to Field of Dreams.
    I hope the wait has been worth it!

    1. He’s wonderful as Pa Kent, Cindy! In fact, both Kent parents are awesome. I LOVE the scenes of Cavill w/ Lane particularly, and boy, when he smiled I felt like the whole world around me disappeared 😉

      Yes the wait is worth it… all things considered.

  2. Ted S.

    I won’t see it till some time next week, I’m avoiding the crowded theater this weekend. Glad it lived up to your expectations.

    1. Well I have mixed feelings about it, it didn’t blow me away as much as I wish it did. That said, I wasn’t exactly disappointed, and I still want to see it again 😀

      1. Ted S.

        Let’s hope he’ll get back on my good grace again. 🙂 I was actually a huge fan of Snyder after his first film, the remake of Dawn of the Dead. I thought for sure he’d churn out some awesome flicks for years. Well I didn’t care for 300, Watchmen and I skipped Sucker Punch. As long as there aren’t too many slow-mo sequences in Man of Steel, I’ll be happy.

        1. I hope so too Ted 😀 There’s actually NO slo-mo at all in the film, it’s got a very different visual style than in 300 and Watchmen.

  3. Hmmmm, very interesting. Now to be honest I didn’t read your musings thoroughly. Ill be back after our Sunday viewing. Really interesting to see the debate raging about this film. Hopefully I will jump in in a day or two.

  4. Outstanding post Ruth. I Iove the depth and detail you’ve put into this and I’m eager to hear what you say after a second veiwing. Going by this post alone, though, it sounds very appealing to me. As you know, I’m not big on superhero stuff but I’ve always enjoyed the origin stories and this sounds like it captures that. Great to hear that the actors are all suitable as well. Great post Ruth and thanks for your honesty here.

    1. Hello Mark! I really appreciate the kind words man, coming from you it means so much! It took me a while to write this as I let it simmer, I tend to do that with reviews as if I write it right away I don’t want to give it a knee-jerk reaction. At the same time, I also want to be as objective as I could, even though naturally I have an inherent love for the character. I do think as far as the origin story is concerned, it’s a solid one. They really got the right actors for the job which is always a plus, and Cavill nailed it as Superman… I knew he’s not going to be the cheerful Superman like Reeve and he’s eons more confident than Routh. I wish the latter half is as strong as the first, but all in all, NOT disappointing 😀

  5. More works in this movie than it doesn’t, but I will admit that this is a pretty disappointing flick, considering what easily could have been. Great post Ruth.

    1. Sorry to hear you feel that way. To me I think they delivered on what they set out to do w/ the reboot and the positives still outweigh the negatives for me.

  6. GaryLee828

    Ruth, a few things here:

    1. The first time I went to watch “The Dark Knight Rises” last summer I watched it on a regular theater screen, and was very underwhelmed; then I went back and watched it in IMAX and the score POPPED and totally amplified the film and I came out hyped-up.

    I went and saw the first showing for Man of Steel at 9:45 this morning in IMAX and this score was awesome! I strongly suggest you check it out in IMAX and I guarantee you that the score will connect!

    2. If you recall I wrote a few months back about how the trailer didn’t excite me, and they needed a trailer with the villain, etc. – and then a few weeks later they released a new trailer that featured much more of Zod and the plot details, and after seeing that I finally was excited about it…

    3. Now that I saw it I thought it was awesome – and the action sequences were fun to watch; I also prefer the drama aspects of the film, but I did enjoy the fights and the effects…

    And the way this story parallels the Bible, and the story of The Father and The Son makes it even better; I didn’t even make the connection about Superman revealing himself to the world at age 33, the same age as Jesus when He went to the cross; and I guess General Zod represents the fallen angel…

    Good write-up.

      1. As you know, T, I have no problems with the Biblical allegory at all. I was a bit surprised they amp it up even more in this version, even with that scene of Clark consulting with a priest 😀

    1. Hi Gary, sorry haven’t got around to my laptop all morning. Yeah now that I’ve seen it a second time I notice the music more and loved it, but still not as fantastic as Williams’ score. I just have to accept that I guess.

      Yeah, glad that they made the villain far more compelling than in Superman Returns. I mean essentially it is a ‘real estate’ issue but it’s so much more than that as it’s not just about humanly greed. I REALLY like Shannon as Zod.

      I actually enjoyed the fight sequences a bit more the second time around but I still think that it could’ve been toned down. Yes the Biblical symbolism isn’t exactly subtle but I have no problem with that. The scene at the church is interesting, so are we supposed to think the Kents are a church-going family? 😀

    1. Hi Erik! Yay, glad to hear. The fact that I’ve seen it twice in a week (never done that with any film in ages, maybe ever), I obviously like it 😀 I don’t really care about critics’ reviews, some of them seem to have been predisposed to disliking it.

  7. I just got back from this one! I liked it overall but the endless fight scenes in the second half were really trying my patience. I really loved the beginning though and the scenes with his parents (for the most part). Glad to hear you enjoyed this one though, considering how excited you were for it!

    1. Hi Hunter, yep exactly! It seemed rather indulgent, as if making up for the practically action-free first hour. I LOVE the scenes with Jor-El and the Kents, I think Henry has such a great chemistry with the actors playing his parents that made it work for me.

  8. So interesting. I read yours after posting mine and wow we are on the same page and mention so many of the same things. Even Robin Hood. Hahaha. You have written a very good summary. I understand the time you took to do so. I had the hardest time all day finalizing my thoughts into words. Wonderful review, Ruth!

    1. Hi T!! I’m gonna read yours tonight, sorry I usually take a computer break on Friday night/Saturday. Ahah, glad we touch on the same points. I purposely sit on this movie more before I started writing it, but once I did I just kept on going, ahah.

  9. Hi Ruth…wow I see we are definitely on the same wavelength here! Now that you mention it, I agree about the score…to be honest, I can’t really remember it. That’s probably not a good sign. And definitely, the whole back story of Krypton and the civilization was fascinating, particularly when Jor-El recounted it to Clark. Diane Lane really was awesome, her scenes with Cavill were so natural. I think I need to see this again now.

    1. Hello Paula!! Glad to hear doll. Yeah, the first time I saw it I barely remember the score, but the second viewing is a bit better but nowhere near as spectacular as Williams’ which I still listen to often. My love for Cavill just went up tenfold now, he really embodied the role, more than just the physicality but mentally. Plus he really is mesmerizing to look at 😛 That kissing scene… [sigh] So jealous of Lois Lane!!

    1. I’m glad they didn’t go w/ the Kryptonite route, but the effects of the Krypton atmosphere has a weakening effect on Supes too, I like that they explore the sci-fi aspect more in this film.

  10. Pingback: Tempering the Man of Steel | Casting Shadows

  11. I’m not fond of the 2nd half of the movie (those overly-long fight scenes). The Avengers had a long action-packed ending too, but Joss Whedon made it work. Just goes to show even action sequences need good storytelling.

    I know this goes against the comic books and history of the character, but I was kind of disappointed that in the end they still had Clark Kent working at the Daily Planet and disguising himself with glasses. In this modern-era, there’s two major things about Superman that is out of place. One, that red underwear (already dispoesed of), and two, those glasses…. worst disguise ever!

    The film is still entertaining though!

    1. Hi Asrap, yeah the first half is definitely far more compelling. I think w/ Avengers, there are more characters involved so it’s not exactly apples and oranges, but yeah, I totally agree that even action sequences need to still be good storytelling, great point there.

      Yeah, I didn’t know why they still go w/ the glasses thing. But sounds like Lois recognizes him so he’s not in disguise w/ her.

  12. Almost entirely agree with this. Interesting that you’ve not decided between 3.5 and 4. I struggled with this when writing my review but came done on the side of 4, if only because of the very final scene. I found the film lacking in humour and heart but the very final scene hinted that both could come in the next installment. The fabulous acting also helped to tip it over into a 4, Cavill is great but I thought Crowe stole the film. His best performance since Gladiator.

    1. Hi Louise! Well, I’ve now settled on a 4/5 after seeing it a second time. I realize it’s lacking humor but I feel that there’s a lot of heart in the interaction between Clark and his real & adoptive parents. Yep, great acting all around, Cavill holds his own against the more experienced actors.

  13. Great, detailed stuff, Ruth! I must confess I didn’t read TOO closely, for fear of spoilers (MAN OF STEEL doesn’t open here in Japan until August, grrr…) but am glad to see that you were generally pleased with the film. This one, along with the new STAR TREK, has been my most anticipated movie of summer 2013. Once I see it, I hope to return to your post and respond in more detail.

    1. Hi Jeff! Aaaah, August?!! That’s way too long. I don’t get it as it’s already opened in many countries in South East Asia, including Indonesia. I’d love to hear what you think after you’ve seen it!

      Did you like Star Trek Into Darkness?

  14. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    An intriguing, well detailed, heart felt critique!

    I’m glad that you are pleased overall with ‘Man of Steel’! Fights between super heroes and villains of Superman’s caliber and strengths have been a conundrum for me as to where to end. And this film seems to have an abundance of them after strongly establishing the major and secondary characters so well.

    Though I do have a very serious question. Does Henry Cavill possess that errant curl of hair that droops across his forehead after flying or fighting as Superman? It seems to be close to a trademark since the days of Christopher Reeve. 😉

    1. Hi Jack! Yeah I think it lives up to my expectations apart from the overlong fight scenes. But the character development and performances are great, which somewhat makes up for it.

      Ahah, well Cavill’s real hair actually has that natural curl, at least from the photos when he was at comic-con, but they didn’t have that in the film. I still think they should’ve messed up his hair more as he’s fighting, but no, apparently his mane is made of steel as well, ahah.

      1. jackdeth72

        Hi, Ruth:

        I saw ‘Premium Rush’ last night and made a connection. Michael Shannon, the guy who played the sadistic, scenery chewing, borderline psycho detective, Bobby Monday is playing Zod in ‘Man of Steel’?

        Interseting. A few of Zod’s strong suits, when required have been finnesse and style when not laying waste to all he sees. Now I’m curious to see if Shannon can pull it off.

        We’ve also obliquely stumbled on to one of the great conundrums in comics: If Superman’s hair is “made of steel”. How does he cut it? And, if his costume is supposed to have been made from a Kryptonian blanket. How did Ma Kent go about making it?

        1. Hello again Jack! Yes, that’s the same Michael Shannon 😀 He’s got a knack for playing a baddie, but his character arch is well-explored in Man of Steel. It’s not just simply being bad for its own sake. He certainly pull it off in my book, and physically menacing as well.

          Ahah well in the comics he seems to be using his laser vision to shave his beard, but not sure about the hair 😀 Well in this version, ma Kent has nothing to do with his suit, as you’ll see for yourself when you see this!

  15. Hi Ruth! I couldn’t agree with you more about the flaws you saw in the film. I think that Zack Snyder could have used the running time much more effectively if he had shortened the length of most of the action scenes, and kept the best for last in a heart-stopping finale. I think that Henry Cavill filled in the shoes of this iconic character very well. His on screen-chemistry with Amy Adams was very nice to see. I tip my hat off to Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner for their amazing father figure roles. Michael Shannon did an incredible job as a villain. I’m really looking forward to what the sequel will have in store for us!

    1. Hi Raul! Always great to hear your opinion. Yeah, I’d think even shortening the film by 10 min by reducing the action scenes would’ve helped keeping it from being tedious. Glad to hear you approve of Cavill as well, I was even more convinced even more that he’s perfect for the role after seeing the film. Yeah, can’t wait for the sequels!!

  16. 4, use the 4 Ruth! Haha 😀

    I just saw the film and it was really excellent, as a fan for the comics I can’t believe its taken 75 years to see Superman punch something in the face on the big screen. But we do now and I loved it 😀

    1. Well Tim, as you can see I end up giving it a 4. I wish I could give it a 5/5 but I really found the action stuff to be too much towards the end. Ahahaha, well that’s great to see Supes being so bad ass, and definitely the moment of him punching Zod in flight is pretty cool.

      1. That’s fair and I understand but from my point of view I wanted a no hold bar explosive action film with Superman in and that’s exactly what I got 😀

        I hope the sequel will have more for everyone 😀

  17. Great review, Ruth. I’m glad you liked the film, since you were anticipating it so much. I agree with a lot of your calls on what worked and what didn’t, though I didn’t mind the long action sequences and I thought the flashbacks broke up the flow of the story too much. I feel pretty much the same way as you do, if for different reasons, that it’s a good film with some flaws that keep it from being truly great.

    1. Hi Morgan! Yeah it’s nice NOT to be disappointed, but I really didn’t think I would. I was hoping I’d LOVE it more but it’s actually growing on me and I definitely anticipate what else WB has in store for the sequels.

  18. Wow. Epic post, Ruth, nicely done. I’m not as high on Shannon as Zod, nor the Kryptonian costume designs – I thought they were Hellraiser cenobites at one point, LOL 😀 I agree with just about everything else though. Zimmer’s score WAS underwhelming. I SO wish they could have kept John Williams themesong. 😦 I agree the flying scenes were awesome but the fights DID rage a little too long. LOL.

    The one thing I’d put in the “What Doesn’t” group is Superman’s new method of vanquishing his foes. 😦

    1. Hi ya Fogs, thanks! Epic movie demands an epic post 😀 Too bad you’re not too keen on Zod and Kryptonian costumes, ahah well I haven’t seen Hellraiser movies (though one of them has Cavill in it, he..he..) Too bad about the score, I mean I wish there were ONE truly glorious theme to go with the flying scenes. I do enjoy the score on its own, though nowhere near as much as I enjoy Williams’ iconic music.

  19. Pingback: Man of Steel Review: Strong as Steel, Cold as Ice | Rorschach Reviews

  20. I have top admit to only skim-reading this review, Ruth, mainly because this film is a fortnight from opening here in Australia, and I want to remain relatively spoiler free for my virgin viewing. That said, I’m pleased you liked it as much as you did, because I know how much you were anticipating it – so to see you enjoy it (but not love it) was pleasing.

    As a long time Superman fan myself, the anticipation (and frustration with Warner Brother’s ridiculous release schedule) is killing me.

    1. Hi Rodney! No problem man, though I don’t really have spoilers here. Boy that is way too long to wait, I don’t get it why because it’s opened in so many other countries. My family in Indonesia actually saw this before the film opens in the US. I’m sorry to hear you have to wait so long but I think it’ll be worth it!!

  21. Great write-up! 😀 I agree with much of your view–but I was a bit more torn. My post title is I want to love it more than I do AND I want to hate it more than I do…LOL! And that is the truth.

    Some things work and others not so much. I especially missed the “human factor”–for a film about an Alien that becomes the protector and savior of earth–humans were glaringly absent. Not a single “OMG!! That dude is flying!! With a cape!” Nothing. It was weird.

    But, I do have hope for the future–hopefully the things that are lacking will be remedied and maybe a Justice League can finally happen?? Fingers crossed!

    Later! 😀

    1. Hi Nedi! I was a bit more torn the first time I saw this but I actually enjoyed it more on second viewing. I hear ya about the lack of the public’s reactions about Superman, that’s what I meant about the lack of one glorious ‘saving’ scene that’d earn him a triumphant welcome from the people of earth.

      But yeah hopefully the sequels would be even better, not sure about JL yet though.

    1. Hi Fernando! I saw your comment at another blog stating you like the movie, so I was quite happy to read that 😀 Ha..ha.. yeah, few people anticipated this more than me so I’m glad it did not disappoint, esp. about Henry in the role of Superman!

    1. Hi Chris, that’s totally ok man. I still appreciate you stopping by. Hope you’ll review it after you see it and we’ll compare notes 😀

  22. Pingback: Things I thought while watching Man of Steel | Miss Four Eyes

  23. I reread your review again because I wanted to watch it first before thinking too hard about it. Your review is outstanding and I couldn’t agree with you more! Especially your final criticism that it lacked that lift, that resolution, that Superman is the human hero. Still, too many great things to say about it. Awesome post!

    1. Hello Cindy!! Thanks very much girl, that is very kind of you. Yeah, I think that’s perhaps my biggest beef about the film. Given that it’s an origins story, it needed that one GLORIOUS scene that captures Superman’s heroism.

  24. Very nice post Ruth, I love how your love of the character really shines through! I think we’re mostly in agreement too, although I for one loved the action scenes, if for anything because they’re finally in a Superman movie.

    I think Supes defining moment, for me anyway, would be him in handcuffs. It’s definitely not as momentous as I would’ve liked, but still exemplifies the character really well.

    Glad you enjoyed the film though, especially with so many mixed reviews. I plan on seeing it again this week, as the more I think about it, the more I like it. 😀

    1. Hi William! He..he.. well I’m glad Man of Steel did not dampen my love for Supes. Oh I’m glad too that Superman got to kick some serious butt here, but I think some restraints would’ve served the film well. Ah yeah, the scene of him being handcuffed is indeed a defining moment that we’ve never seen before in any Superman movie. I love the line he said, ‘It wouldn’t have been a surrender if I resisted.’ I thought Cavill nailed that scene and it was quite humorous.

      Curious to hear if your second viewing change your opinion on it. But yeah, the more I think about it, the more I like it too 😀

      1. He did nail that scene, one of the highlights for me. 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing if it changes my opinion too. If anything, I suspect it’ll just make me enjoy it more. haha! 🙂

  25. Very detailed thoughts Ruth. And it is interesting reading this from a Superman fan like you. I think the dreaded expectation bug has affected us all but we were right to think this writer-director-producer team would create something special. At least that’s what I thought.

    I still haven’t seen the film myself so can’t comment on my thoughts. However, it is interesting that you highlight issues such as the fight scenes dragging on and Lois Lane’s role which I’ve seen others talk about as well. What I do find especially interesting is that even the most positive reviews are finding distinct problems with the film that tells me this is no Batman Begins.

    1. Hi Dan! I should’ve mentioned about the expectations thing here but y’know, I think it’s quite a feat that the movie still manages to meet my lofty expectations. I really think THIS is the movie event of the year, no matter what critics say, and those who like it are likely to want to see it more than once (like me!) 😀

      I think what separates this from Batman Begins is the action stuff in that film aren’t soo dizzying-ly bombastic, which made it ueven considering how well-staged the first part of the film is.

  26. I have the same score as you, though I can’t really compare to the best Superman adaptations before. But I really loved the story what made Superman be the man he is. I always thought that this superhero was too perfect, but I’m glad this movie can explain how he grew his character. I agree what you love about Cavill’s character in the movie (someone who wisely prefers to listen than being heard).

    I agree with the long fighting scenes, it was tiring to see. Yes, the chemistry of the cast was great. Actually, the look of Krypton, its costumes and others reminded me of Alien/Prometheus.

    Now that you mentioned it, yeah I guess there’s a missing point about Superman as the saviour of the humanity. Perhaps they keep it for the sequels?

    1. Hi Andina! Yeah I read your review and I’m thrilled you enjoyed this too! They definitely went with a more realistic approach in terms of the main character and that makes the story more interesting for me. Ah yes, I think it does have the look of Prometheus, and it makes sense for an alien planet. Someone else mentioned they might keep that Superman the Savior scene for the follow-up movie. I guess that adds one more thing to look forward to then 😀

    1. I hope you’d give this one a shot Eric. I know you’re not as enthused about a Superman flick like me but who knows, you might find yourself liking it more than you think 😉

  27. Such a great post, Ruth. 🙂 And I agree with you on the majority of it. I overall liked the film, though it is not close to perfect by any stretch.

    The score, the effects, the cast, the non-linear storytelling, and the father-son conversations made it worthwhile for me. I liked how they involved Lois more as well. However, I was a little disappointed in the villain. Shannon was ok, but for some reason I thought the character was missing something.

    If they make a sequel, I’ll definitely by seeing it. I think there’s a lot more potential for even better characterization, a more menacing villain, and a better paced mix of action and story now that the characters have been introduced and the stage has been set.

    1. Ah perfection is overrated, ahah. I think some of the films I REALLY love are not flawless, but if it hits mostly the right notes, especially the emotional connection w/ the character is there, then it’s a pretty successful film I think. Bummer you didn’t like Shannon, I thought he was terrific, menacing but with a purpose and not corny at all.

      Yes I can’t wait to see what the sequels are in store for us and I think we can expect Nolan/Goyer’s involvement in those as well.

      1. Ha ha! Perfection IS overrated! 🙂 And as you point out, it certainly isn’t everything. I mean, if it was, Star Wars wouldn’t be one of my favorite movies!

  28. Pingback: Man of Steel Review | The Filmster

  29. My goodness Ruth! I could have just copied and pasted your review and put it on my site; your observations mirrored mine to a tee (although i decided not to mention a few in my post – it was getting WAY too long). But I totally thought of Avatar too when we were on Krypton and yes his being 33 did not go amiss either. Amy Adams did not work as well for me but I like her so I went with it. And don’t get me started on Mr. Cavill – actually get me started. He was a really good Superman. Me and my friend burst out laughing during one scene when it was nothing but closeups. We could hardly contain ourselves. It was a little distracting all that pretty. But I digress. Like I also posted, this is basically Superman 101 and the meat and potatoes will be coming in the subsequent films which I am almost certain there will be because let’s face it, Warner Brothers has given Nolan the keys to the kingdom.

    Wonderful piece Ruth!

    1. Glad we’re in agreement with a lot of the points here Iba, esp about Henry! Yes I feel the same way as you & your friend during the close-up shots, esp when he’s dressed like in disheveled clothes as Clark Kent visiting his mom, I tell you how many Kansas farm boy looks like THAT?! 😛

      Yep, Superman 101 is a good way of putting it, I think Goyer envisioned this to be the Superman for this generation so kids who’ve never seen any Superman movie before will see this as *their* Superman. It’s funny how the baby boomer critics are the ones who have the hard time adjusting to this reboot, ahah. I for one can’t wait to see more from Nolan/Goyer and of course Henry Cavill! 😀

  30. Hey Ruth,
    Long time reader, first time commenter here.

    I love what you say about Cavill’s Clark being somber and solemn. Not something I thought about. But you’re right. It works. I just wish Cavill was given more opportunities at some articulate dialogue heavy scenes. The two emotional outbursts he has in the whole movie are so gut wrenchingly awesome… that I wish we got more of those.

    I love that scene with Cavill and Lane too. It’s one of the moments that I mention in my Review where Cavill’s charm and home grown farm boy comes out. He doesn’t smile as fully blown in the rest of the movie.

    I don’t disagree that the fight scenes went on too long. But I think they show the evolution of Superman’s skill with fighting. Against Fiora & the big guy, he was just reacting, and getting his ass kicked. There’s a scene where Fiora mentions this too, in the iHop. Where as by the end, Superman is a bit more experienced, confident of his skills to take on Zod.

    I think holding back on the iconic, saviour of Earth moments, was more for possible sequels. I know I would have rolled my eyes if out of no whwere he was heralded as a champion amidst a crowd of people. It wasn’t fitting with the tone of the movie. While there was a scene with the Planet Intern who gets saved by Fishburne from being trapped in the rubble, who sees Superman after it’s all over and says “He saved us.” That could be taken as a reaction that most may mirror once the smoke clears.

    My rating was exactly like yours, so despite different points of agreement, it’s nice to see out consensus is the same.

    By the way, I hope you don’t think by replying point by point, I was trying to rip your Review apart. I was just inspired to say a lot by what you had to say, so much so that I had to separate my thoughts. 😛 Awesome work as always Ruth.

    1. Hello Shah! I really appreciate your long comment! No I didn’t think you rip my review apart by going point by point, even if you disagree I definitely welcome the discussion 😀 I really like what you said about Kal-El still discovering his powers and how to use ’em, you’re right he becomes a more ‘mature’ Superman if you will, by the end of the film. And yeah, I guess it’s possible that the producers are saving that big ‘savior of humanity’ moment for the sequel (which I think will happen soon).

      1. I had a problem with the long fight scenes too. But it’s only after I realized ‘why’ that it made sense. It’s easy to write off Snyder as having unnecessarily long fight scenes given… his… track record. *rewatches SUCKER PUNCH*

  31. Whoops, sorry about the above screw up. I had saved the comment on my notepad a few days ago when my internet wasn’t working, along with other stuff. Today after getting net back, I just copied all and pasted without realizing. My bad.

    Feel free to delete both these comments. 😛

  32. Excellent write up. I still haven’t seen the film (*kicks a rock*). I’m hoping to get away this week sometime. Loved reading through this, and hope I have more to add once I see it.

  33. You do a nice job detailing what you loved. I just didn’t get any of that from this film. The chronology was all over the place, haphazard and hard to follow. It’s a good thing I know the story because I wouldn’t have understood a thing. The special effects dominated the final third. All of those buildings disintegrating just had my eyes glazing over. It was so uninspiring

    Glad you enjoyed though and I enjoyed your review.

    1. Thanks Mark. It’s ok that we disagree on this one, I guess to each their own as they say. I still appreciate you reading and commenting 😀

  34. Excellent review, Ruth! I loved many of the things you mentioned, especially the cast and the visual style. Though Lois Lane is a strong female character, I think Amy Adams is underused, which is one of my biggest problems with the film. Initially, I’d give it 3.5/5, but your review makes me want to revisit it soon. 🙂

    1. Y’know, the second time I saw the film, the more I like the film overall but I actually like Adams as Lois Lane a bit less. I think they should cast someone closer in age to Cavill, esp if they want to continue this franchise for years to come. I don’t know if I want to see Lois played by an actress in her 40s to be honest, even if she’s young-looking.

  35. Pingback: » Movie Review – Man Of Steel Fernby Films

  36. Very comprehensive and well written review Ruth. I agree with several things you mentioned, but not all. As my own review should show, I wasn’t a fan of Amy Adams in the role of Lois. I also thought the sci-fi aspect wasn’t particularly imaginative. I actually found the post-apocaliptic world of Oblivion a lot more appealing despite being in a far lesser film.
    I had no problems with Henry Cavill, and I am curious to see where his career goes next. He is evidently not at the level of Reeves, but I think trying to outperform the classic would be anyone’s undoing. I look forward to the sequels, but with a little less excitement.

  37. I agree that Crowe and Coster were very good in their roles, but I definitely don’t agree about Shannon and the score. For me Shannon was quite laughable, he yelled way too much and he wasn’t that menacing, that chick that was his captain would have been a better villain, I think.

    As for the score apart from Cavill it was my favorite part of the movie. I wish the film was like original Superman with Clark Kent and Lois at Daily Planet etc. it’s good they tried the new approach here but it didn’t work for me 😦

    1. I think I read Fogs also has some issues w/ Shannon’s performance. I hear ya about the yelling. It made me think what’s Snyder’s obsession w/ actors screaming in his films, I mean it may work in 300 but Zod should have a more quiet menacing presence. That said, the more understated performance of Shannon, like the part when he was on his knees (glad they forgo the ‘kneel before Zod’ line though) after the alien drilling machine thing was destroyed. I kinda feel for him a bit there, that Zod wasn’t just evil for the sake of it but he was on a mission.

      I didn’t hate the score, but it just wasn’t compelling enough. I mean, as you’ve read my tweet about Djawadi’s score for Pac Rim, it’s way more memorable than this one.

      I think we’ll see more Clark & Lois in the sequels. Which makes me wish that they held out on the kiss scene now that I think about it, they should’ve just gone with an ‘almost kiss’ instead, it’s far more tantalizing! 😉

      1. Oh I was thinking several times during watching this one “If he doesn’t kiss her I’m taking away a whole point away from this!” so I’m glad he did. I think if they had those Kent/Lane scenes in the office the chemistry thing would be much better, it just works better when she doesn’t know who he is, like here in the cave scene where the chemistry between them was the only time I thought that pairing worked. I mean he said he can do things other people can’t, that was just….awesome 🙂

        1. I’ve got to admit I was so very jealous of Amy Adams in that scene!! I wonder how many takes it took her during filming 😉 Oh man, the moment Clark said that line in the cave I wasn’t thinking about any healing procedure, ahah. Even as she screamed in pain it was quite erotic. I seriously don’t know if I could handle seeing Idris and Henry in the same movie… I mean, he’s gonna be co-starring w/ Armie Hammer which I can handle, but Idris, that’d just be WAY TOO MUCH of a good thing!

  38. Ted S.

    Forgot to comment about my thoughts on the film since I didn’t see it a few weeks after it opened in theater, damn IMAX took them forever to give out free passes, ha ha. Here are my thoughts:

    The good:
    -Cinematography was excellent, usually are in Snyder’s films.
    -Cavill and Fisher have some good chemistry and I like Cavill as Superman. But I hope they focus more on him in the next film, that might not happen since they’re bringing in Batman too.
    -I actually dug Zimmer’s score, I still misses Williams’ great theme but Zimmer’s version fit this film better
    -Costner and Crowe were great
    -I really like structure of the plot, it wasn’t something I expected

    The not so good:
    -Snyder’s over indulgent, I’m still not a fan of his after this film.
    -The action scenes needed to be edited down, they should’ve edited down the first big fight scene between Superman and Faora and that big guy. That action sequence went way too long. Then there’s the showdown between Zod and Supe, by then I just wish they finish up the action and this coming from a guy who loves action movies. I’m sure the studio folks told Snyder to include as much action as possible since Superman Returns didn’t have a lot of action, but Snyder should know better.
    -I didn’t think Michael Shannon was intimating as Zod, I still can see him as the goofy guy from his earlier films and he wasn’t scary to me at all.
    -The constant speeches by the two fathers got way too preachy, I lost count of how many times the young Clark’s been told by both of his fathers that he’s going to be great someday blah blah blah. Some of those scenes should’ve been left in the cutting room floor.
    -The shouldn’t have gone with another origin story, I still wish they went back and make Tim Burton’s version.

    Despite those flaws, I still enjoyed it and let’s hope Batman vs. Superman/Superman vs. Batman or whatever they’re going to call it will be an improvement.

  39. Pingback: Pacific Rim – A Fabulous Trip Back to My Childhood | Polychrome Interest

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