Continuing my series of DC reviews is the movie which started the DCEU and, in all honesty, the Superman movie that audiences asked for. What I mean by that is that DC tried a more quiet, classic Superman film with more focus on the characters than the action and special effects when making Superman Returns. Who here has seen Superman Returns? Not many people, and that’s what the financiers looked at when trying to catch up to the MCU. Why WOULDN’T they go the exact opposite route after that?
This movie is basically an origin story for Superman. Krypton is destroyed, Superman lands on Earth and learns his heritage, then fights Kryptonian criminals who want to destroy the world. He’s not quite a superhero in this movie since he focuses more on fighting the villains than saving people. There are 2 exceptions to this, the first being him taking 5 seconds to save a falling soldier, an incident that he remains stone-faced throughout, and 1 other example which I’ll get to later. I don’t care too too much about this since Superman was still getting used to his role and the full extent of his powers, so it’s not exactly a negative for me.
I loved the effects for Kryptonian technology and the story that took place on a dying Krypton. As opposed to other movies and shows where Jor-El (Superman’s father) is simply ignored when he predicts the planet’s destruction, having a civil war break out which stopped him from even making his case was a refreshing change.
No one used kryptonite in this movie and it wasn’t even mentioned. I’ve seen kryptonite used against Superman so much throughout my life that, unless something new and interesting is being done with it or it’s used as a last resort, I’d much rather see other ways to physically battle Superman. On a side note, someone PLEASE make a movie about his weakness to magic, it’s a versatile weapon against him and can be used in imaginative ways for both stories and effects.
The Battle of Smallville and the fight against General Zod were both a lot of fun to watch, even if they were CGI-heavy. The actress who played Zod’s second-in-command was probably my favorite performer in the movie, and most of the cast did a good job.
Those are my favorite parts of the movie, and honestly they’re enough to make me recommend watching it. I do have some complaints, but before I get to those, I’ll get the biggest problem most people have with this film out of the way.
In the second incident where Superman actively saves some (extremely stupid) people, he resorts to breaking Zod’s neck. Idiocy of the people who could have easily escaped aside, this doesn’t bother me. As I mentioned before Superman was just starting out and wasn’t experienced enough to find another solution. More importantly, it was clearly shown throughout the fight that Zod was getting stronger the longer he was on Earth and that he would have likely killed Superman if the fight had dragged on much longer. So no, this doesn’t bother me, and I was excited to see how this plot point would lead to his inevitable refusal to kill in Batman vs Superman. It didn’t, but that’s not the fault of Man of Steel.
What I DID hate was the forced romance between Lois and Superman. I didn’t sense any chemistry that would lead to a romantic relationship and think they would have worked better as friends. Making them kiss towards the end seemed out of nowhere and felt like the studio wanted to check off a box on their list for a Superman movie.
The death of Jonathan Kent was poorly handled. It’s not a good sign if, during what’s supposed to be an emotional scene, the viewer is questioning the nonsensical decisions of the characters. Richard Donner’s Superman did it perfectly; Jonathan has a heart attack and Superman doesn’t have the power to heal him. Here, Jonathan volunteers to run to a tornado to save a dog, gets injured preventing him from reaching safety, then signals to Clark not to save him to keep his identity secret. Ok, I see what the intention was, but why didn’t he just tell Clark to get the dog quickly before the tornado got closer? Even if Clark ran out to save him and they both survived, they could just stage their reappearance to look like they got lucky. There were a lot of head-scratching moments in this scene.
All of this adds up to an average to slightly-above-average feature. The major failing is that it had to be an outright good movie instead of polarizing fans as it did. It made me delay judgement on the DCEU and I resolved to see how the next movie…3 years later…followed up on the story. This film needed to impress people like Iron Man did for the MCU but, despite it failing on that front, is still fun to watch.
Rating: 3/5 ★★★