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Movie Review: "Man of Steel"

By Scott Tibbs, June 24, 2013

The excitement surrounding Man of Steel is palpable and I would recommend it to any fan of action movies and especially superhero movies. The Superman franchise peaked with Superman II but fell off with the third and fourth movies, with the fourth movie being especially bad. After the disastrous movies of the 1990's (specifically Batman and Robin and Steel) and some bad movies in the early 2000's (Catwoman and Superman Returns) DC hit a home run with the Batman movies. Now Man of Steel may do the same for Superman. When I saw it at 10:00 am on a Saturday, the theater was packed.

Let me address a couple criticisms of the movie. First, the scale of destruction in both Smallville and Metropolis has been criticized. That criticism misses the point. The evil Kryptonians were attempting to destroy all life on Earth and make it into a new Krypton. Obviously a machine that would terraform earth would cause a massive amount of destruction. The battle between Superman and the evil Kryptonians would also cause a lot of destruction if these characters existed in the real world. Superman's strength has varied wildly in the comics (he has been known to literally move planets but other writers have toned that down) and characters who are as immensely powerful as Kryptonians are going to cause a lot of collateral damage

Superman killing General Zod was highly controversial, but it makes sense. A female Kryptonian said she would kill millions of people for every one Superman saved, and Zod was trying to incinerate several humans when Superman broke his neck. Sometimes, the only way to save innocent lives is to kill the bad guy. This has happened in the comics too: Superman killed three alternate-universe Kryptonian villains in the comics in the 1980's to prevent them from coming to his universe and exterminating all life on his earth like they did in their universe. That story may or may not have happened (and probably did not) in the post-Flashpoint "New 52" timeline.

My primary problem with Man of Steel is that it is another origin story. It was a well-done origin story, but it did not need to be done. Even people who have never picked up a comic book in their lives know Superman's origin story, as it has become a part of American culture. Why can't we jump right into General Zod and his forces invading Planet Earth with an already-established Superman stepping up to protect the planet? Now we have to wait a few years for another movie to advance the story after Man of Steel re-told the same story we have all seen or read many times.

Having Zod show up with multiple Kryptonians raises an interesting question that was never answered in the movie: Why not have all of the Kryptonians leave the ship and go to earth? Superman fights Zod and two other Kryptonian villains in separate fights, but with the number of Kryptonians on Zod's ship he could have sent all of them to overwhelm Superman and beat him to death.

DC missed a huge opportunity by not including a scene establishing a shared universe with other characters. (Easter eggs do not count.) Marvel did that very well, using after-credits scenes to build each solo movie to 2012's blockbuster team-up. The Avengers showed that there is a potential gold mine for a Justice League movie, and Batman is already established as a franchise. Why not have Amanda Waller (a top government agent in the DCU) be the DC movie franchise version of Nick Fury, to tie everything together?

My complaints aside, this was a very good movie and well worth seeing in the theater.