Breathtaking cinematography, pure science-fiction, thematically-advanced exposition on 21st-century immigrant experiences, epic action scenes, & a sophisticated complete-restylization of the first & greatest superhero for a new era, MOS is a work of art. 9.5/10.
Plot Synopsis: Krypton is on the brink of imminent planetary destruction, so Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife make plans to save their race by sending their infant son to Earth. Kal-El’s spacecraft lands in Kansas at the farm of the Kent’s, who adopt him raise as their son Clark. As he grows, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) learns of his extraordinary powers and abilities, and when a world-threatening villain named General Zod shows up, must adopt the mantle of Superman and fight to save his home and loved ones.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Official CLC Review
The First Superhero Ever
Reimagined For A New Generation
Review: To say Man of Steel was the most anticipated film of 2013 and one of the most anticipated superhero films ever would be a truly monumental understatement. After the colossal success and All-Time greatness that was Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, all eyes were glued to DC when the first similarly-styled trailer was released for the first and greatest superhero of All-Time: Superman. Arguably the most recognizable character in all of fiction across the world, Superman has had as rich a history at the movies as he does in the comics, holding the title of first superhero blockbuster ever in Donner’s 1978 “Superman: The Movie,” as well as the phenomenal sequel “Superman II”, a couple more spinoffs, and 2006’s artistic & poised Superman Returns (that, although fine, didn’t quite pack the punch lifelong fans of the icon were hoping for). Well, the new Superman movie certainly delivers on that front, offering a viscerally thrilling, visually resplendent, modern immigrant’s story-exploring, & philosophically complex reinvention of the classic hero for a new generation.
The Jaw-Dropping Cinematography: The Best in CBM History
Let’s start with the pros, so many to count and ones that have even be shockingly overlooked by the general public. First of all, the movie is STUNNING to behold. Zack Snyder has always had a gift in cinematography and pure visual splendor, but Man of Steel takes the cake. Although I wish the colors were slightly brighter (will talk about later), there is no denying that the film is visually a work of art visually. Scenes like Superman’s First Flight Scene (the most jaw-dropping scene in the history of superhero movies in my opinion) almost made me cry as a lifelong Superman fan with how innovative, artistic, and lovingly/ technologically wowing the crafting was.
The Iconic Origin Reworked: The Dark Sides Of Growing Up
The Immigrant’s Story
This breathtaking visual splendor extends to the other greatest pro of MoS: the action sequences. Not only are the fight scenes stunning to behold, they are as grand scale as humanly possible in a film, with stakes as high as one can even imagine, and with a power unseen before in any superhero film. For example, the Superman vs. Faora/Namek fight in a small Kansas town has the Kryptonians trading blow for blow and even throwing things like 18-wheelers and taking down fighter jets without even blinking. But nothing compares to the Superman v. Zod final 1v1 Metropolis fight. They literally take down entire buildings themselves without even batting an eyelash, which besides casualties (will definitely discuss later) shows Superman’s status as the most powerful superhero ever and truly gives you that awe-inspiring feeling of watching gods fight like in superhero comics but on the big screen with the sort of realism only mountains of money can buy.
The Performances: Russell Crowe, Henry Cavill, & A Shakespearean Krypton Tragedy
Next, the acting. Man of Steel features phenomenal acting performances all-around as well by a stellar cast. Russell Crowe steals the show as Jor-El and a God figure bringing Superman as Jesus to Earth. Michael Shannon gives the performance of his career as the bone-chillingly intense, angry, spitting, merciless General Zod. Heck, even the supporting actors consist of pedigree like Laurence Fishburne from The Matrix and Michael Kelly from House of Cards. None compare, though, to Henry Cavill: who brings a brooding beauty to the role of Superman never before seen but radically different and even likable while also displaying the troubles modern immigrants like even Superman would face in today’s xenophobic modern society. Whereas Reeve was the perfection of comic book Superman lept off the pages of the inklings in 1939 and Routh was fine but too-emulative, it’s time to move on nearly a century later to something new and fresh for the world’s most iconic fictional character who started superheroes as a concept and genre.
The Suit: Metallic Shine, Intricately Woven Design Patterns
General Zod is an incredible choice of villain as well. I’ll admit, at first I did not like the decision not to have Lex Luthor as the main villain because he is by far the most iconic Superman villain and one of the most iconic supervillains period. However, I am happy to say that I was wrong: going with Zod helped them explore Superman’s origins and home planet history right in the first movie, and made it feel fresh and different from the 1978 and 2006 versions while also giving them more freedom to create and make jaws drop putting two Kryptonians, the most powerful beings on the planet, head-to-head. It also adds tremendous depth to Superman’s internal dilemma being the product of two worlds (Earth and Krypton) and the centuries-old dilemma of good vs. evil and what truly defines the boundaries of each due to Zod’s somewhat sympathizable ideology of just wanting to defend and help his race survive extinction as their general, but also unleashing horrors upon the native dwellers.
The Most Exhilarating Action Sequences Ever Put To Screen In A CBM
Following, the scoring of the film is absolutely BRILLIANT!! Hans Zimmer is arguably the best composer for film of All-Time along with John Williams for my money, having shown it in The Dark Knight trilogy and adding tremendously to his mantle here with arguably the greatest score of his career. The airy, hopeful ballad leaps off the screen like Cavill in the First Flight in the Arctic and makes the viewer feel how it truly feels to fly and have as much power as Superman, and with the visuals to accompany it, is like a symphony for the senses. The tone of the film is also refreshingly sophisticated and Dark Knight-esque. While it could’ve been a little lighter overall (mainly having to do with the visuals which admittedly have a dark tint on them), it does have humor and light moments, but never forgets that it is not a cash-grab, happy-go-lucky, childish superhero movie like many of its competitors (looking at you, Marvel) and instead one made for adults and serious comic book fans who have more sophisticated taste.
Finally, the suit. I can not say enough how much I LOOOVE the way Man of Steel’s Superman looks. No colored trunks on the outside, no latex or other strange materials, a metallic sheen and intricately woven design: the suit is without question the most beautiful superhero suit I have EVER seen. I also respect and find personally important that they decided to completely do something different than copying Donner’s 1978 Superman and making another light-hearted entry, and also tell the story of the modern immigrant in America and how hard it can be to adjust, feel like you belong, and go from the shadows to the light. I can only imagine how young immigrants will see this movie based on how empowering the message was for me as a person of color and immigrant’s son: to see that SUPERMAN, the symbol of America and all that’s good and righteous in the world, be unappreciated and even rejected as they slowly start to see him as a symbol of hope, will no doubt be iconic and deserves to be a Superman for a new generation.
Pure Science-Fiction & Metropolis
Now, while there are so many more pros than cons in Man of Steel, there are a couple I can’t ignore. First, as mentioned previously, the colors. There is clearly a tint in the cinematography and camerawork to make the visuals feel darker, and while this helps add to the serious and no-nonsense adult entertainment value of the film, I wish they would’ve just used a regular lens with more color as the visuals would’ve gone from jaw-dropping and resplendent to simply perfect and sensory overload. This dark tint also goes with the tone, which is a little dark for Superman, who’s supposed to be the symbol of light and hope. Superman does save people throughout the film, from the Bus to the General in Kansas to his mother, and has countless of hopeful, savior-ic acts, but these don’t have the impact they would if the tone and colors were just a little bit lighter.
Hope: A Light In A Dark Place
Finally, the casualties. This is without question my biggest problem with the film and a flaw (albeit one of the few major ones) that I agree is undefendable. First, having the final brawl in the city. While I love the sheer power, stakes, and force that are on display in every fight scene, Zod left Superman with no other options due to his desparation and willingness to slaughter humans by the millions without Superman there to protect them, and there is destruction in every superhero fight scene in the city, even in Avengers 1 (“I’m bringing the party to you guys” leading a 50-ton Alien snake through skyscrapers) and Avengers 2 (dropping an entire city on unsuspecting victims), I admit they could have certainly written that part better.
Flaws: The Colors
Flaws: Destruction & Casualties On-Screen
They could have written it so that everyone abandoned the city when they heard of the invasion, or it was in a construction zone, or something, so that not seemingly every building that was brought down was office or residential and so many lives were lost. Also, the final scene where Superman has to kill Zod (by snapping his neck in a brutal way no less) is a head-scratchingly inept way to write it that, although right in its message of Superman doing anything to protect innocent citizens from certain death by Zod’s vision and for which Cavill screamed in remorse after, all people will focus on is the fact that Superman (the ultimate symbol of light and hope) had to get his hands dirty with killing.
A Comic Book Movie Decades Ahead Of Its Time (& The Ultimate Superman Movie)
Though there are flaws, like in every movie, Man of Steel does so many things right for the first and greatest superhero ever in Superman that I still thoroughly enjoyed it and walked out the theater in awe. While there are legitimate concerns and criticisms people have cited, Man of Steel is far superior to most superhero movies that just do the same basic formulaic thing over and over and deserves so much respect for bringing Superman into the 21st century and doing probably the most well-known origin story in all of fiction again while having it feel new and exciting. It is not perfect by any means, but Man of Steel is still a work of art that will be fully appreciated with time as one of the best superhero origin films.
Official CLC Score: 9.5/10