Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel certainly didn’t receive the same reverence of Richard Donner’s original Superman, yet not quite the overwhelming hate of a Superman IV-type big screen outing. Reactions to the film have been split almost squarely down the middle, with naysayers’ voices echoing the loudest and longest. The problems and criticisms with Man of Steel have been beaten like a dead Comet, but we haven’t heard a whole lot of discussion as to what worked.
That being said, here are six reasons why this viewer thought Man of Steel was Super.
We’re still not 100% sure how to pronounce his last name, but even the critics have to admit that Henry Cavill makes a great Superman. He’s not a relic from days gone by like Christopher Reeve‘s classic performance, he’s not trying to emulate his predecessors like Brandon Routh, and he’s not completely dead behind the eyes like Tom Welling. Cavill’s Clark/Kal carries a lot of baggage as a hobo drifter, but once he has the opportunity to put on the suit and show what he’s capable of, there is an inherent joy to the performance. Criticisms that Man of Steel lacks heart or fun are baseless; you only need pay attention to Cavill’s slyly-smirking take on the world’s first superhero to see that the actor and the character are having a blast figuring out his limits, or lack thereof.
Some bemoaned the rehashing of Superman II‘s General Zod as the villain for Man of Steel, but there was no better antagonist to help tell the story of Man of Steel than the Kryptonian war-criminal and his band of Phantom Zone refugees. Michael Shannon does not kneel before Terence Stamp‘s Zod from Superman II, instead, crafts a cold, driven warrior engineered for the sole purpose of ensuring the survival of his race. Zod is backed by Antje Traue‘s Faora, constantly grinning through her Kryptonian armor while show-boating and ass-kicking in one of the stronger female supporting roles in the short history of comic book to film adaptations. Then there was Namek, the super-sized Krpytonian who helped Faora f— up Smallville’s Main Street. Thanks to Zod and company, Man of Steel gave Supes something to punch that also punched back.
It’s gotta be tough for Kal/Clark to have two father figures nagging him from the great beyond. But if not for Russell Crowe‘s Jor-El and Kevin Costner‘s Pa Kent (and Diane Lane‘s Ma Kent), this Superman wouldn’t experience the same summit-like character arc that starts from the opening scene and reaches past the end credits. As parents of an (alien) immigrant, Jor and Lara-El just wanted their son to have the opportunities to reach his full potential and bridge the gap between their world and ours. Outside of the decimation of Metropolis and Zod, Jonathan Kent’s characterization is the most criticized aspect of Man of Steel, however, Pa Kent was right. Had Clark revealed himself to the world any sooner than Zod’s invasion (a chicken/egg scenario), he would have been feared, dissected, or worse. Waiting for the exact opportune moment to fulfill his destiny meant that the world would embrace Superman instead of reject him.
Amy Adams never really gave off much of a Lois Lane vibe in her previous work, and the fact that she didn’t dye her hair from ginger to brunette for Man of Steel gave some of us (okay…me) a sandy vagina. But I’ll be damned if Adams doesn’t nail Lois right out of the gate, cutting through the bullsh– and suggesting a dick-measuring contest from the get-go. And boy oh boy, did Lois swing her meat through the entire flick. Sure, she has a couple of damsel-in-distress moments in Man of Steel, but only because she’s so deep in the sh– that she has positioned herself directly in harm’s way. And how cool is it that Lois Lane, ace reporter, is able to figure out Clark Kent is Kal-El? This way, Lois just has to play the dummy instead of actually…y’know…being a Pulitzer Prize-winning dummy.
Hans Zimmer, man. There is no one closer to becoming the next John Williams than the man who scored the Dark Knight trilogy, the Pirates flicks, Inception, Gladiator, and The Lion King. In recent years, movies have lacked the type of recognizable themes that were a trademark of John Williams’ filmography. For everything that Marvel Studios has done right, you couldn’t pick any of those film scores out of a lineup. Hans Zimmer, on the other hand, has helped elevate the films he has scored to new heights, providing epic, recognizable themes that resonate. Man of Steel‘s Zimmer score is no exception, as the percussion heavy main theme recalls the film’s most epic Super-moments, and the quiet, wandering piano tune speaks to the heart of the character and story.
I predict that Man of Steel will be remembered fondly, even by those who criticized the film, as the first chapter in the broader DC movie universe. Zack Snyder, David S. Goyer, and Christopher Nolan‘s Superman’s origin is the perfect stepping stone for creating a vast world of DC heroes and villains unlike we have ever seen on the big screen. The seeds have been planted in Man of Steel, with subtle references to the larger world outside of the film’s frame, and with the recent announcement of a Superman/Batman crossover in the film’s follow-up, the scope is only going to widen. And don’t think for a second that both Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor won’t have something to say about Man of Steel‘s collateral damage.
Filed Under: PoP! Top 6-Pack