Written by Guest Contributor: Jordan North I did not love Man of Steel, I didn’t leave the theater talking all excitedly and buzzing with after-movie endorphins. To be honest a mixture of action-drunkenness and intoxication of the old fashion kind had me leaving the film with little more than a hundred yard stare and a gaping mouth.
And then I had some time to think on it and the conclusion I came to? Man of Steel is a damn good movie. Not it’s not perfect, yes it is dense and the last act’s quantity of action left me feeling like I’d been on a roller coaster for a tad too long, but the more I think on it the more I, as a comic lover, as an avid theatre goer, really like this movie.
And the people feel the same way. All across the internet folks in forums and chat rooms are abuzz with talk of how this film delivered JUST what we’ve been waiting to see. Never has boy blue looked so epic, the drama in his life so rich, the combat so huge. Yes, more than one theatre goer left that film grinning and has been talking excitedly about the thing ever since.
So what the hell is up with all the criticisms? Man of Steel has a 57% as far as top critics go and an 82% by way of viewers on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s some discrepancy. Even reps from the site are perplexed. And it’s not just their site. Across the board critics are bitching and moaning and picking nits. Well I’m here to blow the whistle on critics professional and amateur alike. And to stand up for what I think is one of the better, and debatably most important, superhero films of all time. Let us begin and be warned of SPOILERS ahead.
Man of Steel is Humorless
Wasn’t it just oh I don’t know, the whole time period preceding this film that you were all excited about its direction and having Christopher Nolan producing? Why are you suddenly taken aback that it feels tonally like one of his films? It was like someone voiced a worry that it’d be too serious and all the critics couldn’t wait to see their predictions affirmed, because you know, that’s cool and you get to say I told you so. But! What if I told you that what we got wasn’t a dark superman film, it was just a realistic and current one? Nolan did exactly what he does, exactly what everyone was excited for and critics are crucifying the film for it.
One problem seems to be that everyone is looking back and having some weird deep nostalgic equivalent of the post-pee tremors for the Superman pictures of old, all red underwear and self-righteous quips. And yes, those films were great (well... that first one was pretty cool) but they are reflections of the theatre of old, the actors and directors pandering to an audience that didn’t have such high standards of believability that modern audiences do and did have a higher tolerance for things like Richard Pryor on pink skis. We were damned either way, critics loaded the dice.
If the film had had the tone of an Avengers or any Marvel film for that matter we would’ve gotten, “this isn’t Superman for a new age, what a letdown.” Now when critics are handed a Superman who reacts how a young man would in his situation, its overly somber? How many quips would you have to offer if you learned it was your personal responsibility to safeguard nearly 7 billion people? Especially if you JUST gained your ability to do so? Clark is scared in this movie, intimidated, awestricken, just like you or I would be. And I thought that the quips he offered near the end after accepting his role really illustrated well a small town kid with the powers of a god becoming comfortable in his skin as America’s Man of Steel.
The Pacing Is All Off
I read a post in a forum today that I couldn’t help but agree with that said, yes the flashbacks are a little jarring, they aren’t in order and yes they splash you right back into the current timeframe when you return from them in a rather brash way. But for god sakes critics the formula isn’t very complicated-- in our current timeline Clark encounters a relevant event and he is spirited back to a relevant memory where and when he learned said lesson. What did you want, exhaustive exposition? I thought it was a good way to escape the monotony of long monologue and actually show what happened in Clark`s life to make him the man he’s able to eventually become.
The only reason I can even think you’d say this is to jump on a bandwagon, which is probably the problem in the first place. Because there’s a sizable chunk of action at the end the film has no emotional gravitas? What the hell movie were you watching? Or is your attention span so thwarted by explosions and fist fighting that you don’t recall the rest of the two hours of the film? When Pa Kent sacrificed himself for Clark, that hand up in the air as if to say, “don’t worry son, it’s not worth it and don’t for a second think that this is your fault.” Heartbreaking. The man was out there in the first place to save his dog for Christ sakes. Supes first flight, the pain, the trial and error and the elation of success. The first time Clark ever gets to really unchain his powers, “Don’t ever threaten my mom!” And god don’t forget the classroom scene where a grade school age Clark, in his little town elementary is made to feel like a complete freak, “what’s wrong with me mom?” here Clark is just a terrified little boy who wants to be like everybody else. To me this was a superman film dripping with good, heavy, crescendos of moments. Another article I read called it a “Greatest Hits” of the Superman mythos/origin, and I couldn’t agree more.
In summation, despite all the criticisms Man of Steel was the Superman movie that I, and lots and lots of other theatre goers wanted to see. Sure it wasn’t pitch perfect, sure it`s tone didn’t exactly echo the days of Chris Reeves and hey, maybe the pacing was even off a bit. Oh and while I’m at it, let’s be honest we all rolled our eyes on the “he’s kind of hot” bit. But what the film did deliver was a realistic and modern take on what it would be like for an American boy to inherit all the gifts and curses of being a mortal god.
It gave me more than a few chuckles and it treated me to the kinds of battles that I’ve dreamed of seeing play out in live action on the big screen since the first time I saw characters like Goku and Vegeta throwing the bad guys through mountains. And what’s more it made me feel with and for Superman which, for a character who is nicknamed Boy Scout is an achievement in directing an audience’s empathy. Kudos Mr. Snyder. Yes Man of Steel wasn’t flawless but then again, the journey to becoming a hero rarely is.