I think that Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is the best Superman film made to date. Some might find this a controversial claim, maybe even a misguided one, as seemingly many fans of Man of Steel are split with regard to their reception of the film. Whereas it seems the general movie going audiences, more or less, unanimously approve of it, there is a core group of die-hard Superman fans who feel that the film is an utter disappointment.
I will briefly address the top five criticisms I have heard regarding Man of Steel here in part 1, and in part 2 I’ll explain why I think the Man of Steel is the BEST Superman film to date.
Addressing the Main Criticisms of Man of Steel
Spoilers from here on out (FYI)
- 1. “We really didn’t need a Nolanesque Superman movie like we really don’t new a Nolanesque Power Puff Girls movie,” laments one online critic.
- 2. “Man of Steel is just over the top destruction porn,” another complains.
- 3. “Superman doesn’t kill!” a nerd cries out.
- 4. “Why didn’t Superman take the fight out of the city? Then that way he wouldn’t have destroyed so many buildings and harmed so many innocent lives. And he wouldn’t have been put in the position of having to kill Zod.”
- 5. Superman doesn’t save enough people and isn’t heroic. He’s not the true Superman.
I’m going to address these comments with (semi)short and to the point responses, because they really miss the point of the film, and quite frankly, they’re more griping than genuine objections.
1. “We really didn’t need a Nolanesque Superman movie like we really don’t new a Nolanesque Power Puff Girls movie,” laments one online critic.
As for the first complaint, this is demonstrably wrong. In actuality, yes, we did need a Nolanesque Superman because the next movie is going to merge Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight with Superman—which is why Nolan played such a big role in this Man of Steel movie, including being the story supervisor and co-producing it along with Warner Bros. through his production company Syncopy.
So you see, the complaint is completely without merit, because the parent company Warner Bros. wants to create a Nolanesque universe. You cannot have a cartoony, comic book camp Supes running around with Nolan’s Dark Knight. Such a contrast would be too much and it would translate horribly to film. Matching tones to capture that Nolanesque realism was what this movie’s darker tone was meant for. Also, this film was done as a sci-fi rather than a superhero film, which explains a lot of the difference in tone. So the complaint that they didn’t need to do the Superman reboot in the Nolan universe is moot. They did. Get over it.
2. “Man of Steel is just over the top destruction porn,” another critic complains.
The second most common complaint I hear is that Man of Steel (MoS) was just destruction porn.
Okay, I’ll give them this. The Zod fight ran about eight minutes too long (that’s the entire length of the fight, by the way) and it felt rather redundant coming off the heels of the amazing Faora-Ul fight in Smallville.
I found it funny that so many people complained about Smallville getting smashed up, because of all the assumed collateral damage and innocent deaths, but in the first three seasons of the WB series Smallville (or The Young Adventures of Superman, as it is known internationally) has at least as many people die and nobody ever bats an eye at the strange skyrocketing death toll that seems to plague the unsuspecting town. But I digress.
The thing is, if you just imagine the Zod fight in MoS not being in the film, it instantly becomes the best Superman movie ever. So it ran eight minutes too long in my opinion, but so what?
It’s strange that so many people complain about it, because watching the fight alone, on Bluray DVD, it seems rather short. Shorter than the gratuitous Neo vs. Agent Smith fight in the Matrix (both of them; in Reloaded and Revolutions). So it’s really just a matter of taste, and I don’t think it ruined the quality of the film, it just caused a pacing issue at the end, but other films have had major pacing issues at the end. Have you ever hear of a little film called Lord of the Rings: Return of the King? Seriously, how many false endings were there? Four? Five? If people are leaving the theater because they think the credits are about to roll, and then the film starts up again, and then does this, again, and again, well, that’s what I'd call a pacing problem.
Luckily, MoS is pretty solid film making through and through. So destruction porn it is. Wheeeeee!
3. “Superman doesn’t kill!” a nerd (somewhere) cries out.
Superman not killing was a huge criticism, and I heard it nearly everywhere online and in person. I feel this hypsensitivity to Superman’s killing Zod in MoS stems from the fact that, traditionally, in television and the movies, as well as past DC comics with the comics code, he rarely kills. Although, that isn't to say Superman has never killed anyone.
- 1. He killed Titan in the Smallville series.
- 2. In the 1988 Superman issue #22 he killed Zod and pals.
- 3. He killed Zod again in The Adventures of Superman #444.
- 4. In the Injustice story line he killed the Joker (which many fans will cite as non-canonical, because it’s an alternate time line/reality Supers. But in the DC universe, what isn’t?)
- 5. Superman also killed Mxyzptlk in Action comics #583.
- 6. He's killed numerous Doomsday clones. So many of them.
- 7. And if you’re gonna nitpick, Superman has killed himself, at least on one occasion.
- 8. At the end of Superman II the movie, Superman crushes Zod's hand, throws him into a solid ice-wall with his super powers, and lets Zod plummet to his bone-crushing death at the bottom of a pit so deep you never hear him hit the bottom. So, compared to Superman II, the death of Zod in MoS is a mercy killing.
The point is, Superman does and has, killed. It’s only rare because, well, D.C. comics was under the comics code for so long that there’s a historical reason he (traditionally) didn’t kill.
And if I’m not mistaken, Superman did away with some nasty Nazi’s in the old propaganda comics of the 40s (but the deaths were all implied). So, after all this, and after having already killed Zod, not once but twice, people are going to complain he’s killed Zod, yet again? Give me a break. Superman has killed, and probably will again, now deal with it.
4. “Why didn’t Superman take the fight out of the city? Then that way he wouldn’t have destroyed so many buildings and harmed so many innocent lives. And he wouldn’t have been put in the position of having to kill Zod.”
Another frequent criticism is that Superman could have flown Zod out of Metropolis city and battled him on an ice-glacier in Antarctica, right? That way all that senseless destruction, and half of Metropolis, would have been spared, right? I mean, he’s Superman! Just fly away! Right?!
I have to wonder, did these people actually watch the film? Because if I recall, Zod said he wouldn’t stop, ever, and taking him at his word, all that means is that…while Superman was off duking it out no-holds-barred style with Zod outside of the city, he would have never been put into a position to stop Zod. They would have just fought for all eternity if necessary.
Meanwhile, Metropolis is already a partially smoldering crater, thanks to the World Engine, which smashed up most of the city before the Supes vs. Zod fight ever began, so while Superman is off fighting forever and a day in Antarctica (or wherever), innocent people are suffering and dying regardless of whether or not the fight happened in Metropolis or not.
The city was nearly decimated before the fight with Zod. But he could have just saved one more life, right? That would have made him Superman? How about stopping the World Engine and saving everyone on the planet instead? Yeah. So this complaint is without teeth.
Some might argue it’s not how many lives he ultimately saves, it’s whether or not he even attempts to make the gesture. But I keep thinking back to that line that Pa “Kevin Costner” Kent said to the young Clark about sometimes letting people die, and having to make the hard choices. I chocked it up to a hard choice. Zod was superior in strategy and experience, if not strength. It was only Superman’s second major battle, ever, and in the same day as his first major battle, ever, and really—when you’re in that situation, do you react or do you stop and think about it?
I agree, a veteran Superman would have attempted to take the fight out of the city. That’s not the Superman we have in this story. This Superman only learned how to fly a few days prior to his first super-powered battle of titan-like proportions. The problem I have is people are not judging the movie according to the story contained in the film, but according to the decades of Superman mythos already built up.
5. Superman doesn’t save enough people and isn’t heroic. He’s not the true Superman.
Superman wasn’t super enough for some, apparently. He wasn’t heroic, like in the comics. At least those times he’s not killing so many people (see criticism #3 above). Many have said that Superman simply didn’t try to save enough people. He allowed too much destruction and let too many people die, the critics say. This isn’t a criticism so much as a bit of fan-boy bellyaching. Either that or they were watching a different movie than I was. Superman saves so many people in MoS that he probably saves more on-screen humans than in all the other Superman movies combined.
- Clark saved the oil rig workers.
- He saved the rescue helicopter and crew that got them out.
- He saved Lois from the automated defense robot, and heals her wounds using his heat vision.
- He saved all his classmates on the bus that crashed off the bridge when he was a kid.
- He saved his mother and numerous civilians from the twister, including the little girl he held in his arms.
- He saved several soldiers in the fight with Faora-Ul, and prior to the fight he told several Smallville denizens to get inside because it wasn't safe; knowing there’d be some serious damage in the battle he was about to undertake.
- He then saved Lois, a second time, after her space-pod is damaged in the escape from Zod's ship.
- Zod lands and harasses Martha Kent, throwing her truck into the house in a temper tantrem and choking her, and Clark flies in and saves his mother a second time as well.
- Then Superman fights the World Engine, and saves the planet, but more importantly, immediately as a consequence of stopping the devastating machine saves Perry White, Steve Lombard, and Jenny Olson—who were about to be squashed like bugs (also, thank all that is just and good in the world for ditching the lame freckly faced Jimmy Olson and opting to make him a her—smart move in my book).
- Consequently, he saves the entire city of Metropolis and anyone else who may have been squashed.
- Additionally, he prevents the Earth from being terraformed and saves the world.
- Next Clark saves the half dozen people in the subway, and prevents a trapped family from being vaporized by Zod’s menacing heat vision.
- And then, by killing Zod (for a third time if you count the comics), Superman saves the whole world all over again—ensuring the psychopath doesn’t get away only to wreak further death and destruction on the planet.
- Additionally, Superman saves numerous off-screen people as well. When Lois is investigating the “miracles” surrounding Clark she has several pages in her notes, more than we get to see, as she tracks him down and figures out his identity (which I liked, by the way--you know--actual investigative journalism).
But yeah, some people won’t be satisfied, because Superman didn’t save everybody at the last minute like in the cartoon series they grew up watching. He didn't swoop down and pick the girl up off the tracks and whisk her away before the train ran her over. And well, that’s the difference I suppose. I went to an adult Superman movie for grownups. Some people apparently went to an adult Superman movie for grownups expecting it to be for children.
So do any of these criticisms hold any water? Not really. The “destruction porn” objection is most pertinent, but I’d argue it’s not any worse than the fights in the Matrix movies or numerous other senseless action block-busters with non-stop destruction in them, like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers Dark Side of the Moon (and most likely Transformers: Age of Extinction—but let’s just call it a wild guess), Battle for Los Agneles, or that horrible 2012 film called 2012 with John Cusack (seriously, what was that film even about? It was like Noah’s Ark retold for idiots).
Do I think Man of Steel is a perfect movie? No, of course not. It has some big plot holes and some cheesy dialog, but nothing can take the “cheese factor” away from Bane’s dialog in Dark Knight Rises. Moreover, DKR was pretty much a film that made you stupider for having seen it. In fact, DKR is so nonsensical that watching it simply pisses me off. Everyone in the film are idiots and the plot holes are so obvious, and the dialog so horrendous, that it’s hard to believe the same people who made Dark Knight made it. But I only bring this up because my point is that at least Man of Steel didn’t make me feel any stupider having seen it and the characters didn’t act so unrealistically that I was forced to throw popcorn at the screen like with the Dark Knight Rises.
In part two I’ll explain why I think Man of Steel is the best Superman movie to date.