Man of Steel is Edge-of-your-Seat Awesome!

Man of Steel image from Legendary Films

Apparently, somebody watches Dragonball Z.

Man of Steel was supposed to be the relaunch of Superman after decades of mulling around followed by the box-office disaster of Superman Returns. These past few years, Warner Bros. has been able to milk the Batman cow, thanks in large part to Christopher Nolan and his successful trilogy, but now that those movies are finished they desperately need a new staple to pin their profits on.

One that will actually WORK this time.

One that will actually WORK this time.


Superman is, after all, one of the most well-known characters ever made. For Warner Bros. to not try to make him work as a film franchise would be idiotic. It’s just that Superman is notoriously difficult to translate on screen. Give Warner Bros. credit, though, they brought their A-game for this one. They brought Christopher Nolan back as producer and assigned Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) as director. The also had David S. Goyer, the writer of the Dark Knight trilogy, write this movie. They wanted their best talent working on this film to make absolutely sure it doesn’t flop like Superman Returns did.

The biggest fan complaint about Superman Returns was that it didn’t show enough action. Superman, the fans said, should be going toe-to-toe with some villain that could match him. The problem with that assertion (apart from the fact it violates the very nature of what makes the Superman character, well, Superman) is that we are talking about somebody with virtually unlimited power. How do you depict on film characters that have immeasurable power fighting each other?

That’s where the Dragonball Z influence comes in. This animated cartoon that I grew up with made its mark depicting crazy action scenes such as the ones in this fan-made montage. The action scenes in Man of Steel are very reminiscent of that style – the characters moving so fast you can barely see them, punching each other through buildings and mountains while sustaining little damage themselves. Yet, somehow, in this particular context, it works.

The crazy, over-the-top action actually fits right in with the overall aesthetic and pacing of the film. By the way, kudos to the filmmakers for having Krypton, Kryptonian technology, and Kryptonian designs look truly and utterly alien and out-of-this-world.

Seriously... what am I looking at?

Seriously… what am I looking at?

The movie really sells that the Kryptonians, and even the boy in blue himself, are waaaaaaay beyond us, and we can’t hope to match them. We are practically like ants to them.

This is an important story element, because the film is largely about our hero (played by a very believable and sympathetic Henry Cavill) trying to figure out where his place in the world should be. Part of him wants to “fit in” and be a normal human, but part of him is also curious about his true heritage and the reason he was sent to Earth. He knows he is capable of doing things that are far beyond what any human could even dream of doing, but he fears that the world will see him as a threat if they knew.

This becomes a problem when star reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) begins following these urban legends about some mysterious man who appears, performs some impossible feat that saves a dozen lives, then disappears. She is determined to find out who, and what, this mystery hero is. Things get even more complicated when General Zod, another survivor of the destruction of Krypton, arrives and demands that Superman surrender to him. Michael Shannon’s portrayal of Zod is one of the highlights of the movie, as a villain whose motivations actually make sense. You can see how Zod sees himself as the “good guy”.

I think this version of the Superman story, at a very core level, “gets” what makes Superman who he is. He was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish Americans who were the children of immigrants. Superman is a character that reflects the experiences of many a second-generation immigrant – he may represent “truth, justice, and the American way”, but he also belongs to an alien race and must constantly balance his heritage with the only land he’s ever known as “home”.

Patriotic Superman image from MoviePosterDB

The film just looks amazing, too. Say what you will about Zack Snyder, but that guy knows how to put together a spectacular-looking movie. It is a sight to be seen, if ever there was one. I will admit, I had my doubts about Superman’s new costume going into the theater, but now it makes perfect sense in-context and meshes well with what we see on the screen. The editing is great, too. I was at the edge of my seat the whole time. This film pushes the intensity into overdrive as we see some of the most exciting sequences in a recent film in a very long time.

Having said all of that, though, this film is far from flawless. It occasionally gets distracted by the minor side-characters. During the climactic battle scene, it cuts back-and-forth between our hero fighting and the struggles of three characters so minor, we don’t even know who two of them are. Then there’s the elephant in the room: Russel Crowe. Crowe plays Jor-El, Superman’s father, who has only two roles in the Superman mythos: he sends his son to Earth to escape the destruction of Krypton, and decades later, a hologram of him explains to his son all about Krypton. Yet this film somehow manages to make those scenes as long as physically possible, to the point where it becomes clear Crowe is just hogging the camera because he’s Russel Crowe. It really drags some of those scenes down.

Still, even with its flaws, this film is an exciting, nail-biting, awesome film that doesn’t feel it’s two-and-a-half-hour length and keeps you emotionally invested in the main characters. If you’re looking to see an action-packed summer blockbuster, this film should be at or near the top of your list.