Superman is my favourite superhero, bar none. The last Superman movie, 2006’s Superman Returns, blew me away. I was so looking forward to another blow-me-away Superman movie in Man of Steel. Instead, I left the theatre entertained, but somewhat disappointed.
Man of Steel was an okay movie. The special effects were spectacular. Henry Cavill is an attractive choice to play Kal-El/Clark—he certainly has the looks and body-type for the role. Michael Shannon, he of Boardwalk Empire fame, plays General Zod with stoic menace. Kevin Costner is perfect as Jonathan Kent. But for me, that is where the praise ends.
Part of Superman’s attraction is his humility, his relationship with his earth parents, and his internal struggle to be a normal human which will never be realized. Man of Steel’s Superman never fits in. He spends his entire life hiding the fact that he’s different. He saves strangers because he feels guilty seeing people come to harm. He feels responsible for Jonathan Kent’s death because he allowed him to die rather than expose his powers to save him. When Zod and his minions break free of the Phantom Zone, they want Kal to join them. The rest of the movie (which is most of it) devolves into a rehash of ET when Clark gives himself up to the authorities and then a good alien vs. bad alien scenario—similar to Transformers 3—once Zod tracks him down. The climax (if it can be called that) is Kal vs. Zod. At stake is the DNA of every future Kryptonian vs. the fate of humans on earth, a high stakes battle, to be sure, but one lacking the high emotional stakes an audience should have vested in the characters at this point in the plot.
In a break from the battle, Lois kisses Kal and says something like, “They say it’s all downhill after the first kiss.” This is also true of the movie. Sadly, the second half of the climax is anti-climactic at best. After they kiss, more fighting ensues. Metropolis is destroyed. Jenny (in lieu of a Jimmy?) is almost killed. The story ends with Kal-El assuming his position as Clark Kent, reporter at The Daily Planet. Lois is the only one who knows of his secret identity.
For a franchise re-boot, I expected more plot and better character development. While Clark’s youth is told with charm, the rest of his story is one-dimensional. I will, in all probability, see subsequent films in the franchise. Perhaps, like the Sherlock Holmes re-boot starting Robert Downey Jr. in which the second movie was much better than the first, I will be pleasantly surprised. If I could give one piece of advice to director Zack Snyder, producer Christopher Nolan, and scriptwriter David S. Goyer, it would be that instead of special effects for special effects’ sake, plot and character development must always be of paramount importance.
About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.
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