Film Review: Man of Steel


After his father Jor-el (Russell Crowe) sent him to Earth to escape the destruction of his home planet of Krypton, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) must discover his true identity and assume the role of Superman to protect Earth from ruin at the hands of fellow Kryptonian General Zod (Michael Shannon).

With the massive success of the The Dark Knight Trilogy, the news that Christopher Nolan was brought on board alongside director Zack Snyder for the new Superman film was met with almost unanimous delight. After all, the woeful Superman Returns in 2006 meant that Clark Kent et al really needed a strong outing, and Man of Steel provides just that. For about half a film.

For the first half of Man of Steel, we get much of what the trailers promised: a more grounded origin for Clark (aside from the sections on Krypton) and more of an idea of what life was like growing up as he tries to hide his powers. Even the early scenes with Clark in his blue & red threads work well. However, it’s almost as if Snyder comes along about half way through and chucks a glass of cold water over the film, reminding it that it’s supposed to be a brainless summer blockbuster. Gone is any kind of real storyline or character development and in comes, well, Transformers. The action seems to last an age, and with so much going on, it can be difficult to keep track of everything.

Man of Steel

The CGI gets ramped up to dangerously high levels and we see the utter decimation of Metropolis, which, whilst reasonably  impressive, seems very out of place in a Superman film. This is a superhero known for saving lives yet his quest to stop Zod presumably causes untold loss of life during the destruction of the city. I say ‘presumably’ because we never actually really see much peril whatsoever. Where are all the people?! There never really feels like much of a threat to humanity because we don’t see them. It all feels a little shallow and like some kind of dick measuring contest with Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.

We also get possibly the most shoehorned romance in the history of cinema. We all know what’s going to happen; it comes as no surprise, but when it does arrive, it feels so out of the blue with no foundation to it whatsoever. It’s in there because someone felt it needed to be to sell movie tickets and for no other reason.

Now there is still plenty to like in Man of Steel. The first half, maybe even two thirds is perfectly enjoyable and there are some excellent scenes, particularly those showing Clark as a youngster and an excellent fight scene between Supes and some of Zod’s cronies on the streets of (I think) Smallville.

general zod man of steel-1

The casting is also generally pretty strong. Cavill is an excellent Superman, looking eerily like Christopher Reeve at times, and could well be the face of Clark and his alter ego for a whole new generation of fans. Russell Crowe does an admiral job as Jor-el, whilst Michael Shannon is a suitably formidable Zod, even though for much of the film he doesn’t seem to carry any threat whatsoever, instead just being a bit mean and doing some shouting. Only in the final 15 minutes or so does he actually get his hands dirty and even then he just punches Superman a bit. Good luck with that. In fact, it felt like most of the threat came from henchwoman Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) who seemed a much more menacing villain. Amy Adams as Lois Lane is also decent enough, although the obvious attempts to make the character a strong female role ultimately fall a little flat.

So is this the Superman film to finally put Metropolis back on the map? Personally, it didn’t quite hit the mark. It felt like it was caught between being an origin story and part of an already established series. Batman Begins has a similar structure but holds everything together with a much more grounded crucial final act. Man of Steel certainly has its moments but is ultimately let down by a lack of focus, depth and conviction to do something a little different.

3 and a half pigeons

3.5/5 pigeons

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38 thoughts on “Film Review: Man of Steel

  1. ryankjones says:

    For me, its the best one amongst all superman movies in the past

  2. filmhipster says:

    Exactly right Chris…as entertaining as it was, the characters lacked heart and development. Now that we have all the introductions out of the way, maybe they can focus on the good stuff in the next one.

    • That’s precisely what I’m hoping for. I’m looking forward to seeing geeky Clark the reporter and a bit of kryptonite too. I just wished they’d left the kiss for the next film, it would have had so much more impact.

      • filmhipster says:

        Me too!!!!!
        Not sure where that kiss came from. I didn’t see any connection there at all.

      • Me neither, it had no build up whatsoever. I’d nearly convinced myself it wasn’t going to happen, but of course it did. It was as if they got to the end and went ‘oh shit, we forgot the kiss. Quick, Amy and Henry, have a kiss and then we’ll call it a day.’

  3. keith7198 says:

    4 stars for me. Some of the problems you mention are why it wasn’t higher. But in the end I think I had a tad more fun with it. Great review man!

  4. ckckred says:

    Nice review. I liked this less than you did and was very disappointed with this film, but we agree on many of the same points. That ending was far too over-the top. (SPOILERS) I looked up online and the destruction of the city would be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I thought it was a terrible film. Boring, over the top, who-cares-really bobbins. Kevin Costner was woefully underused as was Laurence Fishburn. Be interesting to see where they go with the Justice League franchise because I can’t really see how this fits. Or will it be ANOTHER reboot. Gutted for Brandon Routh though, he must have thought he was set, as he sits in the bar over a glass and his memories demanding that Hayden Christensen gets the next round in…

    • Hey Someone (for some reason you have no ID)! I didn’t think it was terrible but could and should have been so much better. I agree about Fishburn although I guess he’ll have a bigger role in the next one now Clark is at The Daily Planet. And I definitely think there will be another in this series, it’s taken far too much money not to make at least one more.
      As for Brandon Routh, I can imagine him still putting on his Supes suit just to go to the shops in, asking people if they recognise him or if they want a picture with him.

  6. Mark Hobin says:

    This left me cold. All the exploding buildings at the climax was just boring.Too much CGI and not enough heart.

  7. I enjoyed it too, it definitely had its problems though. I found the fight scenes a bit repetitive (crashing into buildings etc). Also, Adams described their dynamic as “a strong friendship”, which I agree with. I never really saw a romantic connection between the two, which isn’t a bad thing at all, I found their friendship really sweet and charming, so when the actual romantic interaction between the two happened, it caught me a little off guard. Perhaps that’s all down to the messy script.

    Still, I enjoyed it. Nice review!

    • It was just so out of the blue, the kiss. I wouldn’t even describe their relationship as a strong friendship, they barely know each other. I just think they felt it was something they needed to include and shoved it in there. I wish they’d left it until the next film.

  8. r361n4 says:

    I’m exactly with you on this one, it’s not bad at all but it’s nowhere near Batman Begins level. I’m glad you mentioned that Shannon wasn’t nearly as effective of a villain as he should have been, he did pretty much just shout angrily most of the time didn’t he. Faora was sooooo much more effective. Great review

    • Thanks Andy. I thought she was a much better villain, actually felt like she carried some threat. Zod, like you said, just shouted a lot and then at the end just punched Supes a bit but we know he’s never gonna lose that way so it never felt like he was ever in any danger.

  9. I think you’re right in many of your criticisms, Chris, and a grade of 3.5 is more than fair. Hopefully the next film will lighten the tone and do a little better work with the characters. 😦

    • Yeah I hope that now we have Clark at The Daily Planet, we’ll get a bit more interaction and development with the characters. Maybe we’ll get Jimmy Olsen to help with that. Not the worst start to this new part of the franchise but I’m hoping for more next time round.

  10. I think we’re pretty much on the same level here, Chris. Hopefully the “first movie jitters” are out and they improve things for the sequel.

  11. table9mutant says:

    Great review. 🙂 Exactly how I felt about this movie. It started out so strong then just got ridiculous. Very disappointing.

    • Thank you! I really liked the first half. I wish they’d made this part of a trilogy or something and purely focused on him growing up in this first film. Oh well, let’s hope they improve it for the second film.

      • table9mutant says:

        I do have hope for a much better sequel – the beginning of the film was good enough to make me think that they can do things right the next time around.

  12. CMrok93 says:

    Nice review Chris. The movie was good and definitely has me revved-up for what’s next to come of this franchise, but right now, I’m left a little bit cold. Could have been so much better, and a lot more edited-down in those final 15-20 minutes.

    • Thanks mate. Yeah I’m with you – I’m kinda excited to see what happens next but I’m already feeling a little cold towards this one. I remember much more about the first half, whereas I’m struggling to recall much of the second half, which I think shows just how downhill it went.

  13. Gene says:

    I rate this a little higher than you. I actually thought most characters were developed well in the first 45 or so minutes. Only ones lacking I felt like were Zod a little bit, and Louis Lane/all scenes involving the Daily Planet felt forced upon the film. It’s kinda funny, one of the many complaints on Superman Returns was it lacked any action, while one of the few complaints of Man of Steel was there was too much action. Thanks for the review!

    • I think a lot of things were forced in to be honest. It was as if they had a list of things they felt they needed to include and just rammed them in. Hopefully there’ll be less of that next time round. And even though there was a shed load action, probably too much, I’m confident in saying it was a damn sight better than Superman Returns 🙂

  14. ianthecool says:

    Yeah, I have many of the same complaints as you, except I felt like the first part should have been MORE grounded. You are right about the romance being shoehorned in, that’s something I never really thought about much.

  15. Zoë says:

    I agree with you completely. It is good, but it lacked that WOW factor I was holding out for. Great review!

  16. ruth says:

    I’ve been curious to hear your take on this one Chris. 3.5 is acceptable, I initially gave the same rating too, though upon second viewing I ended up upgrading it to 4. I’m with you that two-thirds of the way in was more engaging than the action-packed third part, and I agree about the shoehorned romance but I did swoon seeing the kissing scene, ahah. Man what girl doesn’t want to kiss Superman 😉

  17. Monkeyboy says:

    Agree with a lot of your points. I found it pretty disappointing really. Funnily enough, I think the action at the end would have benefited from some Snyder’s trademark slo-mo. Obviously someone must have told him it was completely out of place in Watchmen, so he didn’t bother using it for Man of Steel.

  18. I agree this film falls apart after the first 45 minutes or so. I would have rather had the action look like a Snyder film (Watchmen, 300) instead it turns into something thats looks like devil spawn of Michael Bay and the Matrix films. Spot on about the lack of chemistry between Supes and Lane. There was more chemistry between Pa Kent and his dog.

    • Haha, there really was! I had almost convinced myself that they weren’t going to kiss and they were saving that for the next film, but sure enough they forced it in!
      It really did have a Michael Bay feel about it, it just became very messy that was all about the spectacle and not about the story. A missed opportunity, I feel.

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