Man of Steel

man-of-steel-posterOverview: A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.

I’m starting to wonder if IMDB users actually know anything about the movie before it comes out (or after, since I copied this today). All the descriptions and plot summaries just sound like a summary of the entire Superman franchise, so let me clarify what this movie is about.

This Superman is NOT related in any way to the 2006 Brandon Routh version (which I quite enjoyed). It’s taking everything back to the beginning with a new Superman origin story. We start off by seeing Jor-El send his son, the first “natural-born Kriptonian in centuries” to Earth with the Kryptonian codex (yes, I’m aware I’ve spelled it two different ways, I don’t know which one is right)- a databank of genetic coding for every Kryptonian (this spelling feels more right) who hasn’t been born yet (kind of like the code for a whole race of Sims).

Jor-El is preventing General Zod from getting the codex after Zod murders part of the high council and takes hostages. He kills Jor-El when he realizes the codex was sent away with the baby, then is caught and sentenced to 300 years inside a black hole (maybe, I really couldn’t tell what was going on).

So the main story is about General Zod coming to Earth (after Krypton is destroyed) to find Kal-El (Superman, if you don’t know the mythology) and the codex and then use it in conjunction with a kind of Kryptonian ark and terra forming device to re-make Krypton and kill all humans.

Plot Rating: M. Night Shyamalan Bad/5
Believe it or not, this movie is terrible. On its own the plot may be good- you’ve got Superman vs. Kryptonians, the whole dramatic side of “which race will he choose???” and all that jazz, but execution is HORRIFIC.

The evil Kryptonians, featuring Woman Who Looks Like Regina From "Once" (Left) and General Zod (Right).

The evil Kryptonians, featuring Woman Who Looks Like Regina From “Once” (Left) and General Zod (Right).

There are tons of flashbacks to reveal Clark Kent (Superman/Kal-El)’s relationship with his father, all that back-story about him being an alien AND Jor-El/Zod’s relationship as well as Kryptonian history. And it’s done horribly. Clark flashes back for no apparent reason to random periods of his life where little happens. The story then resumes days or even presumably weeks later. The midpoint of the movie is really an end to the story and then for the next hour or so it’s near constant fighting. Rather tedious.

Another writing issue I have is with all the ridiculous inconsistencies. Lois is brought into the story at a top-secret military dig in which they found something that is 20,000 years old frozen in the ice up in the arctic. She says they had to let her in because an injunction didn’t stop her after Canadian courts overruled it (which presents the idea that since we saw Clark only just hear about the brand-new thing it must have been at least a month or two for her to get the story, get the injunction, and fight it in court). Except everyone she talks to is AMERICAN military. Oh, and Clark randomly appears as bag carrier, because somehow he put in a job application to a top-secret military dig. Oh, and only Lois is there. She is the only reporter in the entire world to get this story.

Back to the 20,000+ year old ship frozen in the ice- it’s a kind of Kryptonian ark, which just happens to be totally technologically compatible to Clark’s Kryptonian key/flash drive. And Jor-El probably designed it because he says later (on another ship) that he can integrate the consciousness saved onto the flash drive/key with systems he designed. Even though he isn’t 20,000 years old.

Glaring inconsistencies in characters also destroy the writing of this film. As I said before, long time jumps appear to be made without thought. Characters move about randomly, there are no transitions to smooth it out, and that also applies when talking about personality. There aren’t character arcs so much as wormholes. Clark goes from being a good ol’ country farm boy, a bit shy, trying to learn to control his power and temper, to being all “I come in peace to your world little human who I respect”. It’s like going from Captain America to Thor in 0.5 seconds.

Russel Crowe did such a great job as Jor-El I am tempted to forget his disappointing singing in "Les Mis".

Russel Crowe did such a great job as Jor-El I am tempted to forget his disappointing singing in “Les Mis”.

I don’t blame the actor for this (I adore Henry Cavill’s work), it’s clear it’s the writing. Lois and Clark are the main source of trouble for this, but also Christopher Meloni (who’s character name I totally forget). All of them have nothing resembling Hero’s Journey (if you know the Blake Snyder terminology). From one scene to the next there is a change, and we don’t see it. Meloni tries to add bits in here and there, but he can’t beat the bad writing.

This gets its own paragraph because it was so shocking to me and it is where I heard a lot of people in the theater going “what?”. The writer has proven their sheer idiocy. I’m going to spoil how Jonathan Kent died, so you’re warned. It’s not a big deal overall, the main thing is that he died, but it’s not the heart attack we see in every other Superman franchise thing. The Kent family is driving down the road, arguing about how Clark has to hide his abilities to the point where he is being told to let innocent people die to protect himself. They stop because of bad traffic, then see why people are running all over the road- a funnel cloud is forming next to the highway.

Jonathan, a man who has lived in KANSAS, the #2 state in the COUNTRY for tornadoes, gets out of his car and shouts “GET EVERYONE UNDER THE OVERPASS, NOW!”.

What? The minute that line was uttered half the theater made the same “huh?” noise.

In case you don’t know UNDER AN OVERPASS IS THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE TO BE IN A TORNADO. It’s better to be laying on your stomach in a ditch (of which there were many along the side of the road) than to be under an overpass. I grew up in Alaska and California and even I knew that by third grade. One of the courses I took my last semester of college (a month ago) was Weather and Climate. The professor spent the entire last class telling us about how stupid a move it is to go under an overpass. He even showed us pictures of dirt outlines where people used to be under an overpass and blood splatter everywhere. A Kansas man would know NEVER to go there, and people from Kansas aren’t stupid, they wouldn’t listen to the moron suggesting it.

Acting Score: Impossible to Determine Due to Bad Writing/5

I loved Henry Cavill in The Tudors, he was absolutely fantastic! He handles the emotional scenes in this (all 1 of them) very well, and he is charming and gorgeous and British and… I got distracted there for a minute… sorry. Anyways, he’s one of the actors on my “perfect acting score forever” list. The writing doesn’t give him an opportunity to show it. He plays exactly what the script is calling for- if Clark is shy, he’s shy, if Clark is angry, he’s angry, it comes off as natural and wholly believable at all times. But the WRITING is so inconsistent. Clark has a personality early on, and later he’s 99% robotic alien man. You can see Cavill trying to show Clark through Kal-El, but… If you have the misfortune of seeing the film you’ll see what I mean. Like Meloni, he doesn’t have much chance of getting over the writing.

Lois hunting down the mysterious man with supernatural powers who saved her from an alien robot (Oh, BTW, Lois figures out really early on Clark=Superman).

Lois hunting down the mysterious man with supernatural powers who saved her from an alien robot (Oh, BTW, Lois figures out really early on Clark=Superman).

Amy Adams is also fabulous, and from her previous work you can see it. Lois isn’t too bad in this movie, mostly because she has no character arc whatsoever, let alone a choppy one like Clark and Meloni’s character (As always when I write these, I have IMDB open in another tab, I just prefer Meloni to the character).  She handles aliens a bit too well though, like Clark there is no transition whatsoever. “Oh, aliens exist, I’m on a spaceship, and a droid just stabbed me through the stomach then my wound was cauterized by the eyeballs of a really hot guy? OK, what’s for dinner?”. That’s kind of how the whole first hour of the movie goes right there… But, and I swear I’m not being biased in any way, it’s all the writing.

The writing, in case you didn’t notice, sucked.

Directing: I blame you Zack Snyder/5

I’m adding this category to express my disappointment. Directors sign off on that writing crap, and so he’s at least 75% to blame for allowing that to go on (writers are like 5 year olds- they will be creative all on their own, but the director has to be the grownup who tells them when they’re misbehaving (and I say this as an amateur script writer myself)).

Also, just because it would have been nice to know THIS MOVIE IS THE DEFINITION OF “SHAKY” OR “QUEASY” CAM. My father, who is prone to motion sickness when films get too shaky (see the Bourne films for examples) left around the 15 minute mark. I’d been nursing a headache for days and it ended up going into full-blown migraine territory (I was at the film with my mother and Aunt, who suffers from severe Downs Syndrome, so I wanted to stay to help my mom if my Aunt needed help with anything, otherwise I would have been out of there right on his heels, for both the headache and the bad writing. I would have spared myself the whole movie.

Queasy cam, not controlling the writers.. what else can I pin on the director? Sometimes the camera wasn’t in focus and it would be panning around trying to be cool (great for headaches), I had to identify actors by voice half the time.

Clark practices his bitch!face as a Kryptonian (it's not only Meloni's character I have issues with in the name department) snaps a breathing unit on Lois to help her acclimate to the environment on their ship.

Clark practices his bitch!face as a Kryptonian (it’s not only Meloni’s character I have issues with in the name department) snaps a breathing unit on Lois to help her acclimate to the environment on their ship.

Structure is also getting pinned on Snyder at least 75% (same as writing!). Movies are structured to generally follow the same pattern. What I’m going to be angry about next is MIDPOINTS. A midpoint is in the exact middle of a movie (hence the name!) where the hero either loses the entire movie and is defeated in a way, or the bad guy is taken into custody and it looks like they won (see Skyfall for that one). After the midpoint you have to have a kind of lull, then the crap hits the fan, and the main character has an All-Is-Lost kind of meltdown. Then they rally their strength, go back fighting into Act 3 and defeat the baddie in the Finale. “The Avengers” has excellent structure. This has no structure.

From the midpoint through the finale, everything but the closing image, is one big battle. Almost constantly. There is literally a single 2 minute scene where they AREN’T fighting and that’s all. It’s horrible! The All-Is-Lost is that he doesn’t kill someone on the first try, makes a puppy face, and then they go back to fighting.

If you’d like to learn more about structure than the Man of Steel writers do you can check out my scriptwriting website PretendThisIsScriptwriting.Tumblr.Com

Age Rating: 9+

The age rating is pretty fast and loose. There is no sex, nothing particularly graphic in terms of… well… anything. There might be some cursing, if there is I don’t remember, but there is a LOT of violence. As I said, everything after the hour mark is a fight scene, so be prepared for a lot of violence. It wasn’t graphic at all, but I’ve been mostly watching Copper and Hannibal lately, so my “graphic” meter  has kind of shorted out.

Fun Facts

This movie was written by monkeys on weed.

Many actual directors were considered for the film before Snyder, including Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Ben Affleck (Argo), Tony Scott (Top Gun), and Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans, which I hate only because I have a degree in Classical Mythology).

Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films) was considered for General Zod. Which would have been E.P.I.C.

Henry Cavill is the first non-American to play Superman, though it is worth noting that one of the babies used for Baby Kal-El in the original series was born in London (count it if you wish).

The film was released on the 75th anniversary of the first publishing of the Superman comics. Luckily it wasn’t an important anniversary like a centennial or something

Originally Christopher Nolan (Writer/Director of the Dark Knight movies) was pegged as a consulting writer. Using the nickname “Man of Steel” and not “Superman” is a hallmark he also used in his Batman-Franchise films. Nolan handed total creative control over to Snyder (he was never intended to be an actual writer/director for the film). This is the first Superman movie to not include the name in the title.

General Zod, the only character in the film with a consistent personality.

General Zod, the only character in the film with a consistent personality.

Henry Cavill was actually pleased with the numerous set photos leaked or taken by fans showing him shirtless while filming. He said it showed that the physique was actually his and not digital (or, in his words “Smoke and mirrors”). 5 stars for you, Henry. The fangirls appreciate the effort.

Amy Adams previously appeared in a season 1 episode of Smallville, the hit WB show about Clark Kent in high school and his early days working for The Daily Planet as he grew into his superhero role.

This movie was Amy Adams’ THIRD time trying for the role of Lois. She previously tried for the 2006 Brandon Routh film.

During a fight scene Superman flies into low orbit and collides with a satellite bearing the Wayne Enterprises logo (as in Bruce Wayne, Batman). This is a nod to the fact that the Man of Steel movie was made to begin the march towards DC’s “The Justice League”, which will have no prayer with this kind of writing of ever being able to compete with “The Avengers” franchise of Marvel/Disney.

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