Editor’s note: Be sure to check out the rest of our #TBT reviews on the DCEU here.
While distant to many, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe took control of the superhero genre, there was nothing hotter than DC films, especially Batman. After 1997’s Batman and Robin, comic book films became a thing of the past as studios failed to see the financial gain from promoting and releasing these films. Then 2005 came and director Christopher Nolan not only resurrected the comic book film, but in the span of 6 years, created one of the greatest trilogies of all time, directed the greatest comic book film of all time, and directed quite possibly the greatest supporting actor win in the history of the Academy Award. In 2012, prior to The Dark Knight Rises, fans were first exposed to the trailer to the follow-up to the Nolanverse, Man of Steel.
While Nolan’s production team, Syncopy was at the helm, Nolan would no longer be directing superhero films and the director’s chair was handed to Zack Snyder. At the time, Snyder was best known for directing the remake of Dawn Of The Dead and Watchman. While neither of those films was great, there was excitement for the release. However, that excitement turned to despair for the unblinded DC fans as the downfall of DC and the takeover of Marvel began with 2013’s Man of Steel.
While an unapologetic hater of Superman, as I find him to be the blandest mainstream superhero of the bunch, it was difficult not to be excited after what DC had been producing over the past 6 years. Outside of Green Lantern, it was hard to imagine a dud from DC. As the film opened on Krypton, I started to have a sinking feeling that we were in for a rough ride.
While the origin myth is perhaps the most interesting part of any superheroes story, Snyder created a colossal, random creature filled work in Man of Steel. In 1978, cinephiles were shown that man could fly, and with that came a subtle Krypton that provided a stronger origin of Kal-El. Man of Steel‘s Krypton overextended its welcome and was nothing short of distracting. When watching these films, It is always great to suspend disbelief, however, Snyder’s vision of Krypton brought back green screen memories of the Star Wars prequels.
One of Man of Steel’s glaring issues is the break from a linear timeline to jump ahead 33 years after the demise of Krypton. While attempting to be hip, It comes off unfocused as we find the adult Clark randomly working on a fishing trawler, with no reason as to why. In its attempt to replicate the origin story told in Batman Begins, Man of Steel’s origin story comes off nothing short than unoriginal.
The frequent cutbacks to Clark’s present and days as a child fail to work in developing a clear narrative for the film. The ironic thing is despite that, it still does a better job than Snyder’s follow up, Batman V Superman. An impressive feat for a director that is rightfully critiqued by everyone except the blind followers of his work that seem to see nothing wrong in his filmmaking.
The finale of Man of Steel brings to light my biggest gripe with most of the superhero films – the catastrophic destruction. The film makes no bones about it. Superman and Zod are going to destroy any and every building in site and take every human causality with them. From Smallville to Metropolis, the destruction in this film and no consequences for them continue one of the biggest issues within the comic book film genre.
While this may come off as a bashing of this film, not everything in Man of Steel is awful. Hans Zimmer continues to show his brilliance with a score on the level of his now iconic Dark Knight trilogy score. Superman’s theme sprinkled throughout is an effective use in preparing the audience for Kal-Els arrival. Along with Zimmer’s score comes Superman himself, Henry Cavill. As I sit back and watch the film, its hard not to feel bad for Cavill who is sensational as Clark Kent. Despite Brandon Routh’s attempts in 2006’s Superman Returns, he failed to channel the endearing qualities the late great Christopher Reeve did almost 40 years ago. Cavill owns the role and the character; He will be forever known as this generations Superman.
If there is one word to describe Man of Steel, it would be a disappointment. The groundwork was laid as to what worked for a superhero film by Christopher Nolan. Instead of taking cues from the film and making it its own entity, Snyder took it in a direction that left much longing for a continuation of the franchise. What we didn’t know in 2013 is that Man of Steel was the beginning of what could be considered the most disappointing runs in DC’s film history.
Reel Talk gives Man of Steel 2 Reels