After the Christopher Nolan ‘s Dark Knight Trilogy got over in 2012 with The Dark Knight Rises and Christian Bale promising never to don the cape again, Marvel pretty much had monopoly on superhero genre in Hollywood. With Watchmen being a one movie story and Green Lantern being not enough commercially successful to guarantee a sequel, it looked like Marvel had no competition from DC comics in film industry (until and unless you count direct-to-video animated films like Under The Red Hood and TV series like Young Justice). DC fans were worried over the future of their favorite comic book characters on-screen. Adding fuel to fire was that after the success of The Avengers , one of the most successful crossover films of all time, it looked like Marvel films had become more strong due to Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a result, DC decided to launch it’s own Cinematic Universe. DC fans who were tensed in 2012 with Batman series getting over were now relaxed with the release of Man of Steel. Man of Steel was second reboot of Superman series. First one was Superman Returns. Okay, I admit Superman Returns of more of quasi-sequel than a reboot, as the story followed Superman 4 : Quest for Peace ( 1987) , but with every star cast changed it felt less like a sequel and more like a reboot. I have not Christopher Reeve starrer Superman series till now, but I saw Superman Returns in theatre when it was released in 2006. At that time I had not seen any superhero movie beside Spiderman and Batman and Robin, so the expectation were not really high. Despite this fact, I was not that impressed with movie. Yes it had bullet hitting eye scene and airplane rescue was good, but I felt the movie was incomplete. As if it had beginning or end, only middle. Since then I have not seen that movie ever again. So again, when I saw Man of Steel in theatre in 2013, I again had low expectations. There was no good previous Superman movie to compare to for me.
Even though I saw Christopher Nolan‘s name on trailer as producer, I knew that Christopher Nolan was not going to be the creative head but the director Zack Snyder. Christopher Nolan’s name was there for publicity purpose only. Even though I found 300 entertaining and Sucker Punch original, I was still not confidant about Zack Snyder due to his direction of Watchmen. Trailer was not also very promising for me. Quick editing and dark colors did not excite much. So the expectations were really low.
So did my head blow off excitement of sheer awesomeness that is Man of Steel. Well…Nope. I would say quite opposite happened. Not only the story was above average (to be fair I don’t really watch superhero movies for story except in case of The Dark Knight trilogy) and action scenes uninspiring ( which is case for most action movies today), I found movie boring.
I agree that this is very vague criticism. What may be boring for me may be entertaining for other. Had I find movie entertaining, I would have overlooked the faults like plot holes and logic gap in storyline. I would have even not mind shaky cam in action scene as long as they were entertaining. But main problem for me were characters. General Zod had no personality beyond evil. It was only saved by Michael Shannon‘s acting.
But main problem was Kal El. I would only use Kal El as in this Kal El is just Superman who wears normal clothes when he is not fighting. He is not truly a Clark Kent as Clark Kent is a nerdy journalist and here Clark Kent is neither nerdy nor journalist only angry and jobless. This Clark Kent…I mean Kal El had issues. Big issues. Even bigger issues than Bruce Wayne. What to do with his powers? Should he hide them or use it for good? By the end of movie he neither hides nor use it for good. The latter might sound surprising as he did save the day from Zod. But he also did lot of destruction in city to protect it from three aliens (Zod and his two goons). Some people had problem with Superman’s portrayal as he was no longer optimistic kind of guy he is supposed to be and was instead made into Batman by turning him into humorless and bit pessimistic just because of success of The Dark Knight trilogy which had made everything dark , gritty and realistic. I agree that Nolanisation was unnecessary and counterproductive as Batman and Superman are two different types of characters. Batman represents fear, Superman represents fear. Batman can be possible in real life, Superman being an alien, not so much. Thus it made sense to make Batman realistic. Not so for Superman. Realistic Superman would not have been a problem has it been likeable. He wasn’t. He was too emotional and loud. Only good thing about new Superman was his costume as his underwear was finally inside his pant. Plus he revealed that “S” on his chest was not alphabetic “S” but a sign in his home planet Krypton that meant hope. This is ironic for this movie, as Superman by end of this movie does install hope.
Other characters like Lois Lane and Jor El did not fare well. Whole relationship of Lois Lane and Superman seemed force. Especially the scene, in which one of Zod’s goon ask Lois Lane to come with Superman in space ship without any reason for her to be there. Only reason this scene was added so that Lois Lane and Superman can develop relationship in middle of all action. In many action scenes, the presence of Lois Lane seemed illogical. Her screen time needed to be increased or else feminist would have complained. That is why she is sometimes shown to be helping Superman (despite being just a journalist) just to satisfy feminist viewers. In this movie, she is not just love interest and damsel in distress. But she is also not a well written character.
Jor El , father of Kal El was no better. While in usual Superman storyline, Jor El gave enough video information on a chip type of thing in space shuttle through which Kal El came to Earth, which would just tell how Krypton was destroyed and what are his power, in this Jor El not only gave message but also supervised Superman whenever he was fighting General Zod. It was difficult to know whether Jor El was alive, ghost or just giving recorded message. It is ironic for a movie that was supposed to be realistic; it had lot of logic gaps.
The movie proved itself to be dark by not only breaking necks, but by being literally dark in sunlight. This was unlike any mainstream Superhero movie that came in summer.
While the movie was critically mixed, it was commercially successful enough to guarantee a sequel and start the era of DCU. It almost looked like that the monopoly of MCU was going to broken.