After seeing Man of Steel again during the holidays it confirmed my belief that the film is truly great and gets a lot more hate than it deserves. No film is perfect and I will address some weaknesses of the film in this post, but seeing Man of Steel on numerous “Worst of 2013” lists is downright cruel in my opinion. I wrote this blog post to counter some of the most common arguments being levied against Man of Steel and simply get some thoughts off my chest. Since I will be discussing criticisms of this film is some detail, there will be spoilers.
Firstly, I feel that the performances in the film are great. After seeing “Immortals” I was worried about Henry Cavill’s casting but his performance was a pleasant surprise and I look forward to seeing him in more Superman films. As is the case with any superhero film everyone compares Cavill to the actors that came before him, and judge his performance only in relation to theirs e.g Christopher Reeves was better, this guy sucks. People seem to have an inability to like more than one actor when they play the same role. Reeves has been associated with superman for three decades at this point, it is unfair to say Cavill doesn’t embody Superman the same way simply because he is a newer actor in the role. For those who didn’t like Cavill’s performance on its own merit, fair enough, but I can not stand those who insult the performance simply because he is not Christopher Reeves.
Michael Shannon was a weak link in terms of his performance. I found his performance inconsistent, ranging from hammy to great from scene to scene. I will agree with anyone who says that.
I was on youtube looking up Man of Steel videos and came across a video where the uploader described all his gripes with the movie. I stopped watching after three minutes. I did not stop watching because I don’t like hearing opinions that differ from my own, but because the uploader sounded like a complete idiot imo with his criticisms. One of his biggest gripes were the fight scenes, partly because of how they were directed, e.g shaky cam. I can agree with that, although I didn’t notice or mind it that much. The uploader also hated the fight scenes as a whole, simply because of the collateral damage and the fact that Zod and Superman fought without getting damaged. When you have two super-powered beings fighting each other, both of whom are invulnerable to most physical injuries, the environment will get damaged when they fight. I am used to fights like the final one in MOS, due to reading comics and watching shows such as Justice League. The people complaining about the damage and the fact that the Zod and Superman fight each other without sustaining visible damage to themselves probably aren’t the big fans of the comics or characters they make themselves out to be.
This brings me to another criticism of Man of Steel which is factually incorrect. Many people complain that the movie has too much brooding, “is too emo” or takes too many cues from The Dark Knight and ruins the character of Superman in favour of copying Nolan’s “dark and gritty” formula. Many people have a misconception that Superman’s entire comic lore is sunshine and rainbows, no moments of sadness, grief or doubt. Moments that are detested by some, such as Superman’s dad not wanting him to reveal himself, Superman’s suit being Kryptonian armour, Superman’s dad dying, are all taken from the comics. In particular, Superman: Birthright (2003,2004) and the New 52 Superman comics were a major influence on Zack Snyder’s version of the character. However, Pa Kent’s death was handled better in the comics. As opposed to a hurricane, he simply died of a heart attack. I believed a heart attack would have made a more powerful death scene since it would demonstrate that despite all of Clark’s power, he can’t save everyone. The film wanted to focus on the theme of the world possibly being afraid of Superman, so the writers created a scenario where Pa Kent prevents Clark from saving him. I believe this death scene would have been more powerful if Pa Kent had gone back to the road to save another human, as opposed to a dog.
Of course, one of the most shocking moments in the film is Superman killing Zod. With this movie, many regarded the move as yet another cheap attempt to make Superman “dark and gritty”. When I originally saw the film I realized what a tough situation Clark was in. By this point his fight with Zod had levelled numerous buildings and Zod made it clear he had no intention of quitting. To add to that, Zod would have killed more innocent civilians if Clark didn’t act. Some people say that Clark should have simply taken Zod to the moon, but writer David Goyer has confirmed that this version of Superman can not breathe in space. Although some powers remain the same in different comic book story lines, other powers can differ from author to author. Superman’s ability to breathe in space is one of these, while some writers allow him to breathe in space many indicate that he can only hold his breath for a long time while in space and require him to wear a breathing mask for long durations in space. Taking Zod to the moon for a fight was not an option for this Superman.
Zod’s death also makes more sense when explained by David Goyer. In the comics, Superman doesn’t kill simply because it was an arbitrary decision by writers. The writers decided their boy scout hero should not kill, and tried to mould his personality to fit his actions. Goyer explains that killing Zod serves as a tangible reason why Superman will refuse to kill his enemies going forward. He has done it once, when he had no other choice, and will refuse to do it again.
I understand that Man of Steel is not perfect: there are some areas where the pacing could have been improved, Shannon’s performance could have been improved etc. However, I believe it is one of the best superhero films of 2013 and of all time. I know many will disagree and I have no problem with that, I simply ask that detractors try to take into account the factual arguments I have put forth when criticizing the film.