ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Where 'Man of Steel' Went Wrong—and Where it Didn't

Updated on July 16, 2013

There’s not much more to say about Man of Steel that hasn’t already been said. For good or ill, this seems to be the Superman that America has chosen, and while there’s plenty to criticize about the film, it’s uncertain how much of that criticism Legendary Pictures will take to heart in light of Man of Steel’s 620-million-dollar worldwide gross. What is certain is that no movie is perfect, and if Man of Steel 2 is going to overcome the flaws of its predecessor, it’s necessary to understand what those flaws are and, just as importantly, what they are not.

Ryan Brown from The Movie Blog published a response last month to what he saw as the three most common complaints about the film. While there is some basis to each of the points he rebuts, he doesn’t delve deeply enough into each of these issues to distill their full validity. They are complaints worth addressing, but not, perhaps, for the reasons Brown thinks.

1. The director's name doesn't matter

The only problem with the direction in Man of Steel wasn’t Zack Snyder’s name; it was Zack Snyder’s direction. Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Watchmen may not be great movies, but they’re well-made ones, well-shot and edited, with a palpable style and blatant creative passion. Film is a visual medium, and Zack Snyder excels at visuals. Whether or not his visual style was appropriate for a Superman film was a matter of debate before the film’s release, but one that turned out to be largely moot as Man of Steel bears few of Snyder’s trademark techniques, most notably his use of slow motion.

The real point of contention comes from other directorial hallmarks from Snyder’s previous films that made their way into this one: over-the-top violence, more care put into crafting action than character, emphasis on spectacle over story. No one, critic or audience member, who put an ounce of care into formulating their opinion of Man of Steel holds the fact that its director previously made Sucker Punch against it. What they hold against it is its failure to avoid all of the elements that made Sucker Punch a mess of a film. They’re diluted here, more subdued and restrained, but still distractingly noticeable. The problem isn’t that Zack Snyder makes that kind of movie; it’s that that’s not the kind of a movie a Superman film should be.

"You will give the filmmakers of Earth an ideal to strive towards . . ."
"You will give the filmmakers of Earth an ideal to strive towards . . ." | Source

2. The previous Superman films don't matter

Most people understand that Man of Steel is an original adaptation of Superman, not a remake of the classic Superman film series starring Christopher Reeve. They don’t expect it to have the same tone, to tell the story the same way, to depict the same sort of world. Brown claims that unfavorable comparisons of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel to Richard Donner’s Superman are the result of confusion over the original source material. He says that they forget that the comics came first, and that the Christopher Reeve films represent only one interpretation of them.

This may be true in a minority of cases, but for the most part, people don’t want the Donner film over again; they want a film of comparable integrity, quality, and understanding of the character. Superman and Superman II are the two most revered cinematic depictions of Superman because they are the most faithful adaptations of his character in the comics. That is the aspect of those films that people miss in Man of Steel. Not the bumbling villains, campy dialogue, slapstick comedy, and time travel, but Donner and Reeve’s understanding of Superman’s nature and unembarrassed fidelity to it. People don’t want a retread of the last franchise; the lukewarm reaction to Bryan Singer's Superman Returns proved that. What they want is a new version of the character that grasps its source material at least as fully as did the old.

'Superman Returns' is not remembered for its fast-paced action sequences.
'Superman Returns' is not remembered for its fast-paced action sequences. | Source

3. The special effects don't matter

Finally, Brown zeroes in on criticisms of the film’s action and fight scenes. Many people have complained, he says, about the scope of the action and the overabundance of CGI, drawing unfavorable comparisons to Michael Bay’s notoriously explosion-rific Transformers movies. He protests that this is the level of destruction one would realistically expect from a battle between two Kryptonians, and that it would be unfair to tease the audience with the old “faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” tagline and then not deliver, and he’s absolutely right on both counts. Except Superman didn’t leap over any buildings in this movie. He did crash through a whole lot of them, though.

Focusing on the level of spectacle completely misses the point. All this action and destruction and explosions and special effects and CGI were necessary to depict the battle between Superman and Zod, Brown argues, and while that may be true, the real point is that the battle didn’t have to be written that way to begin with. What is objectionable isn’t the action itself, but the way it is integrated into the story. If Superman had at least tried to move the battle into outer space, or the moon, or the North Pole, the destruction would have been justified. Zod could have refused to be drawn from the city, and the movie could have proceeded just as it did. But Superman didn’t try, so we can only assume that he doesn’t care. And Superman should always care.

A random still frame from the second half of 'Man of Steel.'
A random still frame from the second half of 'Man of Steel.' | Source

What these three complaints, as well as a host of others, ultimately come down to is a matter of expectations and justifications. There are some conventions that Superman is expected to follow, and for good reason; without them, he wouldn’t be Superman. We can come up with all sorts of justifications for why Man of Steel failed to meet those expectations (“This is Superman before he learned how to be Superman,” “This is the only way Superman can work in the post-9/11 world,” “Superman had to kill Zod because there was no other option even though he didn’t have to be in that situation in the first place”), but in doing so we are responding to the criticisms only on a superficial level. The deeper point, the one we’re conveniently ignoring because we have no answer for it, is that the movie frequently distorts the character of Superman to accommodate its plot. And a Man of Steel shouldn't bend.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • adecourv profile image

      Alex deCourville 

      5 years ago

      Admittedly, I wrote a pretty negative review for this film. One of my friends gave me flak for the fact that I watched the Reeve films first. He assumed the only reason I gave that review was because I watched those movies. For me, it's like, what was I supposed to do, get Superman's amnesia kiss so I'd forget I've seen one of the most iconic movies?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)