Man of Steel is a Serviceable Super Hero Movie
By midweek I was getting worried. Even though I’ve read dozens of glowing positive reviews of Man of Steel, there are also these annoying negative ones that had me doubting whether I’d love this movie or not. It reminds me of last year’s election. There was a point – a two or three day window in the waning weeks of the 2012 Presidential race – where I worried about the outcome. The constant media coverage of the Mitt Romney campaign’s confidence and their steady drumbeat about skewed polls had an affect on me. Each morning I’d check the news and the latest polls to see if there was really any movement Romney’s way. And all this week I’ve checked the latest Rotten Tomatoes score for Man of Steel that has hovered around 60% fresh and think to myself how ironic that Superman Returns finished with a score 16 percent higher than this. Man of Steel is supposed to be the movie we all wanted. It’s the Superman movie where he punches people and acts all manly – not the sensitive version in Superman Returns. Bryan Singer was dissed. People said his Superman tried to act too much like Christopher Reeve and the film paid too much attention to the Donnerverse. They said it wasn’t action-packed enough. People disparage that movie like it’s the worst thing ever filmed yet there it sits – 16% fresher than this new Superman film – the one we all really supposedly wanted seven years ago.
Singer must be smiling right now.
Yes, I enjoyed Superman Returns. Apparently more people liked it than will admit to it. It’s box office take was higher than Batman Begins yet the Dark Knight got sequels. The big blue boy scout didn’t. Why? Warners wanted more for Superman – more success, more money and more respect. Even though Batman is the more popular character of the two, Warners wants Superman to be their franchise quarterback. Superman Returns threw touchdowns and won the game but didn’t run up the score. For that, the character was benched for seven years.
Well, he’s been put back into the game and damn if he isn’t throwing touchdown bombs right and left. Reviews by the type of people I generally trust on these types of movies, people who live and breathe superhero, science fiction and action/adventure movies love this incarnation of the Last Son of Krypton. So why aren’t some other reviewers convinced? I told you at the beginning of this review that I was getting worried seeing the negative reviews come in on Rotten Tomatoes. Being that Superman is my favorite fictional character, I realize a poor showing at the box office might doom the Man of Steel to the Phantom Zone for Zod knows how long, so I examined the reviewers a little more closely. Like a political operative digging up dirt on a candidate, my opposition research skills kicked into overdrive and here’s what I found:
Many of these reviewers hate every movie they see unless it’s some obscure low budget film festival flick few others will ever even notice. Some of them despise reboots and big bold action movies. They’re nitpickers, focusing on some perceived minor weakness and basing their entire opinion of the movie on that. And one thing a lot of the negative reviews have in common are crushes on Christopher Reeve. They piss on that 1978 tree like a dog marking his territory and say, “how dare you try to take Christopher Reeve’s place!” One reviewer even faulted Henry Cavill for not having the same pretty smile as Reeve!
Come on, people. Reeve was a great actor and an even greater human being but we have to move on. Critics panned Superman Returns for paying too much homage to the Donnerverse and now they’re trashing Man of Steel for not giving enough props to the Reeve-era films.
All of this got me thinking – do we pay too much attention to what film critics think? If someone gets paid to spout their opinions, does that make their opinion more valid than yours or mine? How many movies that you thoroughly enjoyed were rated less than stellar by film critics? Michael Keaton’s Batman shattered box office records at the time yet only has a 70% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. One of the biggest freaking movies of all time, Avatar, finished up with just 83% freshness.
So as they say in politics, you should make your opinion known at the ballot box. And the world will. Just as I did last night. And I must say, Man of Steel isn’t Superman: The Movie. It isn’t even Superman Returns. But it is a fun and thought-provoking entry into the Superman movie franchise that’s at timed dark and political. Seriously.
There are no cartoonish caricatures, no wry Tony Stark-like scoundrel humor, no safe territory where you never lose sight of the fact you’re sitting in a theater watching a comic book movie. Man of Steel poses the very serious question “what if Superman was real in this post 9/11 world and the threats he’s facing in this film are just as real?” Scary thought. There are touching sensitive moments between father(s) and son. It explores questions of whether we should look to a savior for redemption. It’s a beacon for every kid who has ever felt odd or different.
I remember when the movie was announced and people groaned over yet another origin story. I did, too. But the Krypton we see in Man of Steel is unlike any alien world we’ve seen. There is a new twist on it as well.
Man of Steel explores Superman mythos only the most loyal readers of his comic adventures are aware of. It updates many of them. Often, we think we know what’s coming but instead are given a radical detour.
And even though the final destructive grudge match between him and General Zod might linger about 10 minutes longer than it should (a complaint many critics have), it in no way ruins the movie up to that point.
Henry Cavil, in my opinion, falls flat as Superman. Sure, he looks the part and he’s a fine actor but the script didn’t give him to much to work with.
I had reservations about Amy Adams (a redhead) playing Lois Lane but she channels the spirit of that intrepid reporter we all love and respect.
Russell Crowe’s Jor-el was injected with a little too much machismo for my taste. The rest of the cast is serviceable.
If you like Superhero movies, see this one. Don’t let the jaded critics who still carry a torch for Chris Reeve keep you away but also don’t expect an instant classic.
Note: Man of Steel’s current Rotten Tomatoes score is 55% rotten. Superman Returns is certified fresh with 76%.