Man of Steel is a great movie that, sadly, may disappoint
In the film industry, quite frequently, expectation can be the kiss of death. Good movies that simply aren't quite what you were expecting are frequently viewed unfavorably under the scathing light of "not being what I thought it was going to be."
Such is the cross that Man Of Steel has to bear.
It's an origin story for one of the most iconic superheros ever, with a screenwriter (David S. Goyer) and a producer (Christopher Nolan) who had both worked on the recent Batman trilogy.
But while Man of Steel is actually a very good, compelling thrill-ride of a movie, it's not what you likely expect when going into it fresh.
But first the story
We start on Pandora. Or Krypton. Or Pern. Or wherever the heck it is. Kryptonian scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is trying to convince Bill & Ted's Most Important People in the World to give him access to something called the Codex before the planet goes kablooey.
Meanwhile, over-zealous soldier General Zod (Michael Shannon) makes a power grab and attempts to take the Codex for his own purposes. There's a thrilling fight scene, and it all ends with Jor-El and his wife, Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer), launching their infant son into space to start a new life on a new planet where he will grow up to become the superhero Metro Man!
(I'm assuming the baby was played by Henry Cavill using some new, amazing age reduction special effects software.)
On Earth, young Cal-El is found and raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). But he seems to lack personal direction and a strong purpose to his existence. He leads an itinerant life, helping people out, and leaving a trail of urban legends behind him. On the way, he crosses paths with spitfire reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams).
Eventually, an alien spacecraft shows up looking for the son of Jor-El. And our hero is forced to decide whether he should trust Zod to leave Earth alone or Earth to accept him and do the right thing.
Dot dot dot
One of the first things I notice when looking back on the movie as a whole is that this is a very science-fiction-y take on the Superman universe. Now, Superman is an alien sent from another planet, so there's a science fiction element to his origin anyway, but never has it played out this strongly as a sci-fi movie.
That's not a dig on the movie. I'm a big sci-fi fan. But for people who are expecting something more in the vein of previous Superman outings, that's one of the expectations that will likely affect their enjoyment of the movie.
The second thing I would point out is that this is definitely an origin movie in much the same way that Batman Begins was an origin for that character. And by that I mean, you should be ready for it to take quite a long time for the Superman we all know to finally emerge.
If you think of this as Superman Begins (or maybe Superman Starts?) and a stage-setting for future Superman movies, your expectations shouldn't get in the way of simply, thoroughly enjoying the movie as it is, rather than wish for it to be something else.
Because there are plenty of things to enjoy in this movie.
The action is fast paced and high-energy. Characters like Lois Lane and Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), who historically have basically been there for Superman to rescue, have their own moments to shine and act heroically on their own. And the Superman character, who has usually been portrayed as confident and self controlled—which can be rather boring to watch at times—actually has some inner conflict and personal growth here as he struggles with his place in this world.
Not that they've turned Superman into a brooding Batman. His inner conflict is perfectly reasonable and handled well. But it also makes him more dynamic, and thus more interesting to watch.
One area where I actually was a little disappointed was Zod and his followers. In the Richard Donner movies, it was Zod (Terrence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran). This time we get Michael Shannon as Zod with a sizable crew, but primarily the imperious Faora-Ul (Antje Traue). I miss the silent giant Non and Terrence Stamp is definitely much more charismatic than Shannon in this role.
Shannon doesn't give a terrible performance, but Stamp's position as Preferred Zod is in no danger of being stolen.
(And yes, I know Faora is from the comics and apparently Ursa was strongly based on her character or something like that. My issue is simply that I liked Ursa. If Shannon's Zod were a bit better, I probably wouldn't have missed her at all.)
Man of Steel Trailer
Now, some of you may be wondering about the 3D version. This one has been converted to 3D but I know conversions have been getting better recently. I didn't see it in 3D so I can't speak authoritatively on that front, but I'd heard that this one really doesn't use the 3D that well. So make your own choice.
Oh, and this movie also has quite the body count for a superhero movie. We don't really see many actual onscreen deaths, but you absolutely know there's no way everybody escaped harm in most of the fight sequences.
But what do you think of the movie?
For me, I'd probably give this one an 8 / 10 as a sci-fi movie in general, but as it's a Superman movie, which brings a different set of expectations, I may need to give it a 7 / 10.
Man of Steel is rated PG-13 for plenty of bloodless sci-fi action violence, tons of destruction and a little bit of language.