Reviewing – Man of Steel
Since I reviewed a masterwork last week, I decided to balance the scales by reviewing a disaster. Man of Steel was released in 2013, starring Henry Cavil as Superman, directed by Zach Snyder.
Following on from last week, I want to focus on story, specifically the core story components and peripheral content problems.
Man of Steel suffers from one consistent core story problem throughout; the main character’s decisions have no weight or simply don’t exist at all. As the beginning hook of the story introduces us to Clark as a boy – through constant and unrelenting flashbacks – Clark is shown to often chose to help people. However, the plot of the beginning hook is for Clark to become Superman and get his suit. He never makes a decision to become Superman. You could argue that the decision is made off screen after his father dies, but that doesn’t happen until after Clark gets the suit, making the crisis of the beginning hook after the resolution if it exists at all.
The middle build suffers the same problem. The antagonist, General Zod, gives Superman 24 hours to surrender, Superman asks some people who all tell him to surrender, so he does. I’m not invested at all in the crisis, Superman is told how to advance the plot, so he does it.
In the ending payoff superman goes to destroy the world engine, which the plot tells us will make him weak, so he just overpowers it with no problems. Why? Because you can’t get to the cool scenes later on if that doesn’t happen.
The protagonist’s decisions are supposed to be how a plot moves forward, but Superman doesn’t struggle over a single decision he makes.
The pacing of this story is equally disorienting, as the beginning hook ends at 60 minutes into the story, the entire middle build takes 42 minutes, and the ending payoff is 31 minutes. This makes the start of the story feel like it’s dragging and the suspense of the end feel like it’s just going through the motions.
In peripheral story problems, the movie is rife with them. The story deviates heavily from the cannon. Superman is an uplifting story, but this movie is dark and kills a lot of people. Superman occasionally saves a bystander, then throws Zod through seventeen high-rise buildings killing thousands. Superman tells Zod how to cope with the air on Earth, why does he assist an enemy? Lois just walks out at night in the Arctic after being told that it will get to -40 degrees, but has a completely exposed face, and doesn’t look cold in the slightest.
And worst of all, Superman solves the final battle with Zod by killing him. Yes, Zod was going to kill some people, but the underlying story of Superman is that all the strength in the world doesn’t give you the right to do bad things. But this is why Zod is the antagonist in the first place, his disregard for life is why he is the antithesis of Superman, it makes no sense for Superman to kill Zod, for any reason, no matter how many people he kills.
When I watch a movie like this I try to think about the story as if I know nothing about the cannon. If it were not a Superman movie, but just some random film would it make sense for the main character to kill the antagonist at the end? It’s a very human thing to do, but if you have the power to snap his neck, then you have the power to turn his body, or throw him into space. You can fly remember?
If you’re looking for a movie with cool graphics and lots of superhumans punching each other in the face, then this is a decent movie to watch. If you’re looking for a good story, then you won’t be happy with this film.