Film Review: ‘Man of Steel’

A humorless tone and relentlessly noisy aesthetics drag down this heavily hyped, brilliantly marketed tentpole attraction.

There’s nary a mention of kryptonite, the Fortress of Solitude is only an existential locale, and Clark Kent never earns so much as a single Daily Planet byline in “Man of Steel,” director Zack Snyder, writer David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan’s strenuously revisionist Superman origin story, which might more accurately have been titled “Rock Em Sock Em Spacemen,” given the amount of screen time devoted to exiled Kryptonians body-slamming each other into all manner of natural and manmade structures. Clearly designed to do for DC Comics’ other most venerable property what Nolan and Goyer’s “Batman Begins” did for the Caped Crusader, this heavily hyped, brilliantly marketed tentpole attraction seems destined to soar with worldwide audiences this summer, even if the humorless tone and relentlessly noisy (visually and sonically) aesthetics leave much to be desired — chiefly, a “Steel” sequel directed with less of an iron fist.

Where the red-booted one’s last bigscreen appearance, Bryan Singer’s 2006 “Superman Returns,” was conceived as a mash note to Richard Donner’s iconic 1978 “Superman,” Snyder, Goyer and Nolan (who also shares a story credit) labor to distance “Man of Steel” from those precursors, starting with a Krypton that looks less like an ice castle in the sky than a grayer, grimier version of “Avatar’s” Pandora (by way of “Alien”). There, the noble scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) plots to spirit his newborn son, Kal-El, away from the dying planet — a plan that coincides with a military coup staged by the rogue Gen. Zod (Michael Shannon, sporting a most unflattering bowl cut). That sequence sets the tone for much of what follows in “Man of Steel,” with Hans Zimmer’s thunderous score rattling both speakers and eardrums, the actors dwarfed by layer upon layer of crumbling buildings and warring spacecraft.

SEE ALSO: “Man of Steel” on Track for $100 Million Debut

After Zod and his accomplices are caught, they’re frozen solid and banished to a black-hole Siberia, just before Krypton itself goes kaboom. “Man of Steel” then breaks from a linear timeline to jump ahead some 33 years, where we find the adult Clark (Henry Cavill) working as a grunt on a commercial fishing trawler, not yet having revealed his superego to the world, but occasionally dabbling in large-scale heroics nonetheless. When a nearby oil rig is engulfed in a fiery blaze, he barges in to rescue the crew, then just as quickly disappears before anyone can ask too many questions. As in “Batman Begins” (which opened with a wayward Bruce Wayne wandering the earth like “Kung Fu’s” Caine), these are supposed to be Clark/Kal’s years in the wilderness, grappling with daddy issues and an amorphous sense of self as he bounces from place to place and one odd job to the next.

Pic also adopts a similar flashback structure in which present events trigger memories of Clark’s past, as the adopted son of Illinois farm folk Jonathan (a touching Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent, as a loner/outcast bullied by schoolmates, and as a superhero-to-be coming to terms with his alien heritage and powerful gifts. But even here, Snyder seems averse to staging a single scene in which there isn’t something catastrophic happening, whether it’s a schoolbus accident that plunges Clark and his classmates into a raging ravine, or the entire Kent family finding itself stranded on a highway in the path of an oncoming twister.

Things finally snap into sharper focus for Clark when he follows news reports of a strange “anomalous object” to a NORAD outpost somewhere in the Arctic and, via a little Kryptonian hocus-pocus, communes with the holographic consciousness of his birth father (who narrates a brief animated history of the rise and fall of Krypton, drawn in striking, Soviet propaganda-art style). It’s there, at just around the 50-minute mark, that Clark first dons the trademark “S” suit, and also where he first encounters Lois Lane (Amy Adams), this time a Pulitzer Prize-winning hard-news reporter who uses her journalistic acumen to quickly deduce Supes’ secret identity. But rather than moving logically on to Metropolis, “Man of Steel” somewhat curiously dovetails back to Smallville, where Clark’s reunion with dear old mum is interrupted by the arrival of Zod. Newly freed from his interstellar limbo, he threatens to make haste with all of humanity unless Clark/Kal surrenders both himself and a coveted “Codex” that can be used to rebuild Krypton … on Earth.

WATCH the Final “Man of Steel” Teaser (VIDEO)

So far, so gloomy, with little of the genuine wonderment the very name “Superman” calls to mind. Blessed with the most classically chiseled jawline of any actor who’s yet donned the red cape, Cavill is also the most dour and brooding, lacking even the sardonic self-amusement of Christian Bale in Bruce Wayne mode — and he appears to have been directed to be exactly this way. Like its lead, Snyder’s entire movie seems afraid to crack a smile.

The ambition to make a grittier kind of Superman pic is certainly admirable, but much of what Snyder and Goyer set out to fix wasn’t really broken in the first place. By having Lois discover Clark’s true identity so early on, “Man of Steel” relinquishes the halting romantic chemistry between the two characters that brightened previous versions of the tale. And the narrow focus on Clark, Lois and Zod gives the movie an oddly circumscribed feel. Nowhere to be found is the rich gallery of colorful supporting players that populated the Donner film, Nolan’s “Batman” pics and Snyder’s own “Watchmen” (one of the richest and most satisfying of all comicbook adaptations). Gone, too, are any of those lighter moments, fondly remembered from Supermen past,  in which our hero — in or out of disguise — used his powers for decidedly non-super feats and, by doing so, grew closer to his fellow man. One longs to see this Superman change a flat or rescue a kitten from a tree or take Lois for a flight around the block.

Instead, we get two climactic rumbles — one on the streets of Smallville, one (finally) in downtown Metropolis — that test one’s patience for blurs of movement smashing through buildings with little if any respect for the laws of physics. Indeed, if “Man of Steel” doesn’t much look like previous “Superman” movies, it does closely resemble such other recent sci-fi/fantasy pics like “Thor,” “The Avengers” and “Transformers” and their symphonies of disorienting CGI destruction. At points, the action scenes even recall the hallucinogenic dream sequences from Snyder’s own crazily ambitious mental-hospital musical, “Sucker Punch,” except everyone here is supposed to be wide awake.

Pic is undeniably impressive, in the sense that little if any expense has been spared in bringing Snyder’s vision to the screen, though this is a case where less would almost surely have been more. Much of the craft work exudes the same general feeling of overkill, from the frantic handheld shooting and desaturated colors of lenser Amir Mokri to the unceasing Wagnerian bombast of Zimmer’s score.

Film Review: 'Man of Steel'

Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, June, 6, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 142 MIN.

Production

A Warner Bros. release presented with Legendary Pictures of a Syncopy production. Produced by Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas, Deborah Snyder. Executive producers, Thomas Tull, Lloyd Phillips, Jon Peters. Co-producer, Wesley Coller.

Crew

Directed by Zack Snyder. Screenplay, David S. Goyer; story, Goyer, Christopher Nolan, based upon “Superman” created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Camera (Deluxe color, Technicolor prints, 35mm, widescreen), Amir Mokri; editor, David Brenner; music, Hans Zimmer; production designer, Alex McDowell; supervising art director, Kim Sinclair; art director, Chris Farmer; set decorator, Anne Kuljian; set designers, Aric Cheng, Scott Herbertson, Tammy S. Lee, Thomas Machan, Richard F. Mays, David Moreau, Patrick M. Sullivan Jr.; costume designers, James Acheson, Michael Wilkinson; sound (Datasat/Dolby Digital/SDDS), Michael McGee; sound design/supervision, Scott Hecker, Eric A. Norris; re-recording mixers, Chris Jenkins, Frank Montano; visual effects supervisor, John “DJ” Desjardin; visual effects producer, Josh R. Jaggars; visual effects, Weta Digital, Double Negative, MPC, Scanline VFX, Blur Studio, Look Effects, Teamworks Digital; associate producer, Curt Kanemoto; assistant director, Bruce G. Moriarty; second unit director/camera, Pete Romano; second unit camera, William Dalgleish; casting, Lora Kennedy, Kristy Carlson. 

With

Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Christopher Meloni, Kevin Costner, Ayelet Zurer, Laurence Fishburne.

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  1. BOB says:

    Olivia Wilde,Mila Kunis & Kristen Stewart were some of The Actresses That Auditioned for The Lois Lane Part in MAN OF STEEL, i am GLAD Amy Adams got The Role, Amy Adams is 38 years old but she looks 27 or 28…Also i DON’T know in what World Brandon Routh looks more like SuperMan than Henry Cavill, Henry is PERFECT for That Role, Brandon DOESN’T look like SuperMan and Does NOT have Blue Eyes neither…….

    MAN OF STEEL will make Over 1 BiLLiON Dollars Worldwide,Henry Cavill is a Good Actor & Multi-Oscar-Nominated: Amy Adams is Beautiful Plus

    Multi-Oscar-Nominated: C-NOLAN is The Writer & Producer, The

    New Suit Looks Great & Better than The Old Light Blue Suit
    that Looked Like a SMURF & with The OutSide UnderWear that was NOT Good, MAN OF STEEL will be in Theaters in 2D, 3D, IMAX & IMAX 3D,i’m Going To See it in 3D

  2. Roy says:

    I actually dislike the so-called “light” Superman of Donner. While not as camp as the old Batman tv show, it still palled as though the threat wasn’t real, (the writing was bad) and so the heroics weren’t amazing. Superman Returns was more satisfying in tone, but the story needed work….
    I look forward to this reboot. If i want one-liners i go to Marvel. DC was always square jawed heroism.

  3. General Zod says:

    Ridiculous.

    When I found out ZS was directing this I expected the same lot of critics who have panned each of his movie to come forward in tow like a bunch of lemmings eager to hate on the movie just because they have hated on every movie that ZS has been involved in.

    Thank you so much to confirming my suspicions.

    All this tells me is that Man Of Steel will be amazing and be exactly what this series needed a long time ago. Thank creativity that we have someone like ZS in Hollywood.

    Love ZS who is a true visionary. I hope this movie smashes all records at the box office just to make sure we keep getting more movies from Zack.

  4. John says:

    What a dick!

  5. Thomas Farrell says:

    There is a common theme with reviewers who are giving Man of Steel poor scores. They are all saying it is to dark and Superman should be lighter and filled with more hope. That is exactly what we had with the previous 5 Superman movies. It is time for a darker and more challenged Superman, one who has real emotions and does not want the power, and one who struggles emotionally with the powers he has. Frankly everything I’m hearing from people who don’t like the movie are the very things I am so happy and excited about that they put into this story. I want a more emotional and real Superman, not the fake there is always hope Superman.

  6. jepressman says:

    Movie reviews for big studio films like MOS are battlegrounds for reviewers who see 21st century domestic politics in every movie filmed and this is no exception. The complaints against the film are complaints one could make about many indie/art house films, but these reviewers are more likely to give those films a pass. The reviewer here likes WWZ better than MoS, so killer zombies are more acceptable. I’ll go with Superman.

  7. Jamie Wall says:

    Come on, it seems like you want another Donner film! Man of Steel is a REBOOT, it is GOING TO HAVE a different styleto previous versions. It has what Reeve’s lacked, and misses some of what it had. This film was a worthy reboot and if made your way would have been Superman Returns (which the director tried to make in ‘your’ style). You have said nothing other than you preffered the original, if this had come out first people like you would be saying “Reeve is to light-hearted and colourfull”. No offence, but get with it.

  8. al says:

    The reviewer is trying to say that the most powerful superhero ever should enjoy being that and lighten up. Marvel gets that movies can be fun is you let them be. Superman is a joyous character in the comics and it would be nice to see that on screen too

  9. Larry says:

    LOL. They thought there would be humor in Man of Steel. Variety, did you criticize Batman Begins because no one said “Holy Smokes Batman!”? Ridiculous.

  10. Al says:

    Obviously he has never read a Superman Comic book ever. It would be like reviewing a baseball game without knowing the basic rules or have neve have seen one. His review of the movie is based on what he precieves Superman should be I can only assume from seeing prior Superman movies. Mind you those movies, namely Superman Returns, was a rehash of the Christopher Reeves Superman of the 1970’s. Which was fine in the 1970’s, but by 2006 Superman has progressed to be a character, that is more than punch lines, and villians who had no depth to them. He should have done his homework before reviewing Man of Steel. It is not enough to say he was reviewing a movie by itself, Superman as a character that has many layers to him, and has been written many ways, this was just one of them.

  11. Odigs says:

    Let’s just enjoy the movies!!! It’s all about imagination…what matters most is my own reviews! I am the one paying the $15 dollars while you got invited for the premiere and got paid overtime by your boss to see it…

    • John Allen Small says:

      re: “It’s all about imagination” I guess that’s my problem with this movie; it shows very little imagination. Just a lot of brawling. That’s not my idea of storytelling. If all I want to see is a fight, I’ll stay home and watch a boxing match on pay-per-view.

      • johnsmall says:

        Frankly I LOATHED the Nolan Batman movies. Sorry, but that’s the way I felt about them. And while I was always more of a DC man than a Marvel fan when it came to my comics, I rather liked the recent Marvel movies, in part because they possessed something which the Batman movies lacked and which, based on what I’ve seen and heard, is also true of “Man Of Steel” – namely, a sense of humor.

      • Al says:

        I guess you would not enjoy any of the Superhero movies, i.e. Avengers, Iron Man, Wolverine, Batman all have brawling in it.

  12. Jim says:

    I always love how people come on comment pages for movie reviews and tear the reviewer to shreds as well as his review for a movie that they have not even seen yet. Am I excited for Man of Steel? Yeah it’s my most anticipated movie of the year! Could it suck? Yes it very easily could. Just because this reviewer did not like this movie does not make him a moron and the thing is that if this reviewer gave Man of Steel a high score and each one of you went out and saw it and then did not like it you would come back on here and call him an idiot for telling you to see a movie that you didn’t like. Internet trolls…..

  13. rolando mota says:

    sorry sir, but you know shit about superman.
    anyway… what am I doing reading a variety review?!?! XD
    sucks

  14. Anon says:

    Watchmen was ‘one of the richest and most satisfying of all comicbook adaptations’? Sorry, you just lost me. Zack Snyder has made one good film (t was about zombies)… as soon as he’s expected to take things seriously, he messes it all up.

  15. leo katigbak says:

    MAN OF STEEL features a very human Superman that’s apt for this day and age.While I enjoyed Donner’s SUPERMAN back in the 70s, it certainly wouldn’t fly now except for nostalgia. It is very much a product of its era. MOS is dynamic with huge set pieces but still relatable characters. The amazing cast did very well with the screen time they had and the changes to the lore were cosmetic but remained true to the essence of the characters. While everyone is entitled to their own commentary, a professional reviewer needs to be a bit more objective, reviewing films on their own merits instead of what they think it should be based on how their favorite incarnations played out. I guess what ultimately counts is I while I read reviews to get a sense of what others think, I form my own opinions and I loved MOS, and it seems everyone else in the theater who applauded after. It’s always a good sign when people aren’t restless during a long movie and when they are not rushing out of the theater after its over. People were generally talking about how much they enjoyed this edition of SUPERMAN. I’m watching it again this weekend.

  16. Mick says:

    They complained that Superman Returns had too little action, now this film has too much action. WTF???

  17. Douglisio says:

    You are a moron. This is embarrassing. Variety, stop sending this barely-sentient money.

  18. Hollis says:

    With an interest in ‘Man of Steel’ as a film adapting a comic book character, I have a hard time considering the merit of Mr. Foundas’ criticism of films based off comic books when he writes that Zack Snyder’s adaptation of ‘Watchmen’ is “. . . one of the richest and most satisfying of all comicbook adaptations . . .”.

    If adaptations are “rich” and “satisfying” when they add gratuitous violence, tasteless recreations of national tragedies for sight gags, easily discernible villains where the original source had none, melodramatic cues to suggest how one should feel about particular characters instead of leaving this decision to the audience, additional action sequences where such sequences defeat the purpose of a scene, and a completely revamped conclusion that lacks the shocking impact and poignancy of the original source material, well then his comment makes sense. ‘Watchmen’ is one of the richest and most satisfying of all comic books, but clearly not so as an adaptation. Simply recreating the visual composition of an number of comic book panels and missing the spirit of the original shouldn’t count as rich adapting of source material.

  19. Floridaphil says:

    So, your basic problems with MoS are:
    1) no kittens rescued from trees
    2) no flights with Lois round and round abs round the Statue of Liberty while Lois thinks out loud, wishing telepathy was one of his powers
    3) you miss Otis.
    Not to worry: there’s a train leaving for 1978 any minute now. The rest of us are ready for the real story of the Kryptonian-American adoptee. That fluff you miss? I hated in 1978 and I don’t miss it now.

  20. Eric says:

    One of the things I have always been most disillusioned with when watching any previous superman movie is the fact they were never ever able to capture just how amazing superman was in my minds eye, it was always a disappointment. With all I have seen from the trailers and all I have read on the web I think this movie will finally bring that vision to reality. Everyone is definitely entitled to their opinion, but nothing this critic or any other critic out there says is going to spoil my fun with this movie. I am so pumped and I cannot wait!!!!

  21. This Reviewer actually stated “Watchmen” (one of the richest and most satisfying of all comicbook adaptations), alright review over…. NEXT…Watchmen sucked…this review is weird and Variety…maybe hire a reviewer with a slight understanding of the current culture…this reviewer is obviously from another planet.

  22. John says:

    The fact that this reviewer calls The Watchmen “one of the richest and most satisfying of all comicbook adaptations” invalidates pretty much every single other thing in this review.

  23. So Man of Steel features a superman who actually questions his ultimate identity and is conflicted by the idea that he is an alien with god like powers living among humans and the supposed guardian of the human race, but (super) mans up and accepts that awesome responsibility anyway when we really need him to? Wow, there’s nothing powerful or hopeful about that at all…

    … I will be there opening day, with a cape on. Finally a true “Man of Steel” to show us how he ultimately becomes the more immaculate “Man of Tomorrow.” Uhhh SEQUEL TITLE ANYONE?

  24. Guillermo says:

    In my view, I think that this criticism was more of a “I miss being more avengers” punctuating always with the idea of ​​having mood and laughing, as he has had Tony Stark in Iron Man, Hulk, Thor … I’m a fan of Marvel and DC comics, and “The Avengers” ME LIKE BOTH as Iron Man But let’s face it, are different universes, I have devoted some time to see the other Superman movies, and I can say that “Man of steel “is also great Superman 1 and 2, that Superman Returns, was for me a mockery of the previous films and the history created in DC comics. Finally, as I have shown, I do not agree with this criticism, a criticism which tells us that lack mood like a comedy movie, which tells us that the action scenes and sound are more than strong, when “The Avengers” TDKR, etc, also we had. Man of Steel is a great movie, a punctuation of 8/10.

  25. Mit Olson says:

    I bet everyone who has commented on this thread will see the movie. Isn’t that the point?

    Some of the most memorable and successful films were backed by controversary (i.e. Birth of a Nation; Battleship Potemkin). The story of Superman isn’t as polarizing as race, nor will it spark a revolution, but the fact that this conversation is being had all over the world will work to the film’s benefit. Everyone is curious about this movie, even people who have never seen or read anything about Superman.

    The dollars will speak for themselves. My bet: MOS generates some of the highest box office numbers ever seen.

    Take this as an early congrats to the production team.

    PS – I am pro “spoiler alert.” Thanks for that….

  26. Denis says:

    I wonder if the movie reviews should not learn a speech on this kind of film. This is not a film by Ingmar Berman we are talking about. It has all the definition of Super-Hero seen as a mythology of the industrial era originally introduced by Superman. Only Kal-El, there are a Kryptonian culture. I am convinced that the movie Man of Steel coming to this Kryptonian culture. We learn about the origins of Kal-El. Cavill did not smile much in figure would be a flaw in the film? Let’s be serious. It’s not like a choir where Chef asks his singers smile. The intention is different for the film.

  27. Erik says:

    The maturity level of some of the people commenting is painfully clear. Personals attack on the reviewer simply because he did not like the movie you’re looking forward to?
    And it’s not even like he’s bashing it, he’s only pointing out what he perceives as flaws. Is that all you need to feel like you have the right to insult someone?
    Wow. Grow. Up.

    Unfortunately, these are the same people that think that ‘darker’ or ‘grittier’ equals ‘mature’ or ‘interesting’.
    Sad, really.

  28. 54321 says:

    Critics are generally ignorant when it comes to the concept of storytelling through film. They just say ‘ADD THIS!’ …and ‘ADD THIS!!’….’ADD THIS TOO’….’YOU MISSED THIS!’….while having literally no understanding about the process and restraints.

  29. R. Paul Dhillon says:

    Too funny. I never knew there were so many whiners who liked Superman. Give it a rest. It’s just a film and apparently this one is not that good. But stop blaming the reviewer. It’s his job to tell it like it is and from what I read, he has done a good job of balancing – giving the film marks on action and grittiness but that the tone is off and perhaps the grittiness too much. I think it’s easier to make Batman a darker character but Superman has been the iconic good guy so it was important for the makers to retain some of the humour that the character has displayed along with the niceness but that was too much to expect from the dark, violence-ridden minds of Nolan, Goyer and visualist Snyder!

  30. Kathy says:

    Scott Foundas tremendously jealous of Henry Cavill…well who wouldn’t be?

  31. Eric says:

    How about this everyone: go see the movie and decide for yourselves how you feel about it! This is one man’s opinion on the movie. Don’t let it make the decision for you.

  32. Mac says:

    Ah, Variety. How I miss your daily print days. I’m out of toilet paper.

  33. Dan says:

    This review confirms what I’ve been fearing more and more with each trailer that’s come out.
    They tried to make Superman dark, gritty and angst ridden. Superman has always been a symbol of hope (and they try to symbolize that by making the House-of-El emblem into the symbol for hope instead of through the story. WTF?) he’s been the positive balance to Batman’s pessimism/dark persona. But I guess since DC/WB failed miserably with Green Lantern, they think that the only way to succeed is by turning all their characters into Nolan’s Batman.

    The comments here show the two extremes, the younger audience who wants everything to be dark, gritty and “realistic”, and the older one who would like to have Donner’s Superman back. This film should have been somewhere in the middle, stepping away from Donner’s vision (and the awful train wreck that was Returns), while still maintaining the element of hope that even though that Superman is an alien, he’s as human as anyone else while still being the best of us.

    The film taking itself too seriously is exactly the problem that Nolan’s Batman had, particularly TDKR. Yes, Superman does deserve a film that showcases all the spectacular feats hecan accomplish, and having a character that can punch holes through mountains face someone who presents a threat to him was necessary. But there was no need to turn him into an angst-ridden, dark, gritty hero (there are a few of those already) to do that.

    There are aspects of the character that needed to be reinvented and updated, no argument about that. The Donner films, while an important milestone for Superman and comic books in general, would not work today (and we all know Bryan Singer made us all very aware of that), but at the same time, turning the film into “The Dark Knight of Steel” is absolutely ridiculous. Nolan’s (maybe Goyer’s as well, is hard to say when he’s also written ridiculous garbage like “Ghost Rider: SoV”) idea of “realism” seems to be turning everything into tragedy, where the world is dark and evil and no one deserves to be happy or glad, especially not our hero.
    If that is what has been done to MoS, then I’m really not interested in it at all. A shame though, I was hoping this film would show us Superman the super-powered hero while still showing us the interesting side of the character that has been shown countless of times in comics, animation, etc.

    A comment to the (apparently younger) audience complaining about the reviewer (and others) still basing some of their perception of the character on the Donner films. Everyone has a biased image of what the character is or should be. This image is based on whatever media we have consumed in our lives as well as what has made the biggest impact on a personal level. Like it or not, comic book readers are a small portion of the population, and the Donner films had a huge impact on many people who still see the character as it was presented then. This is inevitable, and all versions and visions of the character, and what it represents, are valid. The problem comes when the core of the story (that has been present throughout a 70+ year history) is suddenly stripped away and changed in favor of the more popular “dark and gritty” method.

    I really hope that the film is not “Batman from Krypton” or an empty action film with no story. It would be a real shame if it were though, because this character deserves a good movie.

    • Patty says:

      Variety actually ranked Superman Returns HIGHER than the original 1978 film…

    • Amanda says:

      Well said; I think you nailed it – WB likely wants this to be “Batman from Krypton” which defeats the purpose of Superman being his own guy.

  34. paul says:

    Haters will always hate

    • Clock says:

      Having just seen it last night I can tell you that, while yes there is literally almost no levity, the character is immensely positive. He is so hopeful and his struggles are with trusting mankind, not dark demons or brooding. I am not a big superman fan, and I loved the tone they struck. It wasn’t gritty so much as regal. Important. Tonally I would say it most closely resembles the Asguard portions of Thor. I think this review is way off. Not every blockbuster has to be a jolly romp. This blew Iron Man 3, and really all of the other Marvel films, out of the water for me.

      • Jay says:

        This.
        The movie tries to find a balance between regal and majestic. Confusing the character as ‘grimmer’ as opposed to ‘conflicted’ misses the entire point of the narrative. And, I guess ‘colourful’ supporting characters should be either bafoons (Donner’s Superman) or caricatures (Nolan’s Barman Begins). This review is loaded with so much trite and obvious pandering snark, that it isn’t informative.
        Aren’t critics supposed to be observant? This is lazy criticism, a sterling example of not reviewing a movie on it’s own terms.

  35. Aidan Lucid says:

    A bloody spoiler warning would have been nice! You practically gave away key details of the plot! Still, I am going to see this movie. I bet it will be super epic! Yeah, the pun was intended.

    • Testy Besttester says:

      Really? You feel everything needs a spoiler; it is always the other guy’s fault and not your own for reading a review of the film in the first place?

      **Spolier Alert** grandma is pulling into the driveway.

  36. Zachary Alexander says:

    Ummm, You are incorrect in your review sir. The formula for Superman WAS broken. Superman Returns is not a good film. How do you have a Superman film where he doesn’t throw one punch? What Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan have done is they brought us the Superman we have always wanted and deserved this day and age. Very disappointed with your review. I saw the film and think it is the best film of the year so far and a very very masterful effor

  37. Joe_Alva says:

    “One longs to see this Superman change a flat or rescue a kitten from a tree or take Lois for a flight around the block.” No We REALLY don’t.

    • johnsmall says:

      YOU may not. A lot of us who remember what the character USED to represent really do.

      • Joe_Alva says:

        He still represents everything you remember, Saving a cat from a tree or change a flat is not what Supermans character is about. Try not to deal in absolutes and TRY to see this through new eyes. You can choose not too, in the end its your choice, but to say Man of Steel isn’t the superman you remember because he isn’t smiling or being a goof just tells me you have a hard time letting go the past. He still represents all that is good with the new addition with his struggle which we have never truly seen in this manner. I really do wonder how all of us would react if there was a real Superman living among us. The older Superman movies were great, they have their place in history, Man of Steel is perfect for our time and I agree with Ryan that “dainty little acts” do not represent Superman.

      • “baaaackkk in my daaaay, Superman had a spit-curl and smiled in every panel…”

        welcome to not 1956. Superman changed in every form of media.

      • Ryan says:

        He still represents the same things. The movie focuses on the conflict of BEING a savior to humanity rather than the dainty little acts that we really don’t need to see on the big screen.

  38. itsnotatuma says:

    Its crazy when reviewers compare this to donners films.this is in a way a reboot a fresh start but also taking from its source material(the comics) and adding to it.when someone decides to make a change to superman in the comics,ie change his hairstyle,give him a different costume or whatever they decide to change no one bats an eyelid(sorry for the bats pun)but when a change is made for the big screen everyone is up in arms about it.
    This is superman on screen for a new generation and some older so enjoy it with a open mind embrace change.hey marvel fans even took to x-men without their iconic costumes n appearance when it came to film the same should be the same for superman…sorry the man of steel!!!

  39. Geena Clemens says:

    Saw Man of Steel yesterday and I have mixed feelings about it. I think it focused way too much on Superman’s alien aspect which lacked the warmth and inspiration I was expecting from the character as the heroic figure he has been known to be. Good, but not as good as I expected. I could’ve waited for the DVD’s release.

    • Thomas Farrell says:

      Thanks, I know I will love it now. we know the hero story, we have seen it a half dozen times. Its time for the emotional story, one that shows how conflicted he is about being an alien and dealing with his powers. Overcoming those emotions and helping earth in the end is tremendously hopeful and inspiring. Frankly everything people are saying that they hate about this movie is getting me so much more excited. I didn’t want a cookie cutter Richard Donner there is always hope and a heroic Superman, I wanted to this side of him.

  40. Sanzkrit says:

    Just by looking at the trailers you can see that the film is too dark and brooding to be a Superman film, which is expected to be upbeat, hopeful and inspiring. The changes to the suit were terrible (it almost look black on many scenes along with the omission of the red tights to break up the blue). You don’t have to fix a character that has worked for the past 75 years. You can do upgrades to a character, but to try and change it by throwing away the past and ignoring it’s roots in favor of “modernizing” (dark, brooding, edgy and conflicted) because today’s generation can’t relate to Superman’s iconic roots, then it’s their loss. True fans embrace all aspects of the character and not pick, choose and change whatever they want to appease their “modern” wishes.

    • Ryan says:

      Clearly you don’t read the comics. Because that is the iconic Superman. This movie is closer to the comics than the Donner films ever were.

      • johnsmall says:

        Maybe YOU need to go back and read some of the OLDER comics from eras before the “New 52” crap that DC is putting out these days. This film may be closer to THAT version of Superman, but the Donner-Reeves films were far closer to the iconic version of the character than this dark-suited wanna-be can ever be.

    • You are kidding right? Why would Superman wear underwear outside his pants? You need to let go of everything that is wrong with Superman. You need to allow people to fix what needs to be fixed.

      • mmcb105 says:

        @Sanzkrit: you said, “True fans embrace all aspects of the character and not pick, choose and change whatever they want to appease their “modern” wishes.”

        Wouldn’t this include embracing new interpretations of the character as well as old ones? Also, at what point does the “true” Superman begin considering for a few years after he was first conceived he couldn’t even fly. Maybe we should forget that revisionist wrinkle as well and go all the way back to the real jumping Superman.

        My point is that there have been tons and tons of different interpretations of the character over its 75+ year history, some of which conflict with others. To say that there is only one real or true interpretation is ridiculous and claiming that one is better than another is just an exercise in personal taste.

      • Sanzkrit says:

        You just proved my point. You don’t get the character. There’s nothing wrong with it. Like it or not, Superman’s iconic look and essence has worked for 70+ years no matter what revisionists are trying desperately to do with the “New 52”.

  41. You young pups who want to “see sups kick the crap outta things” obviously have no idea what made this character so great and iconic in the first place. This review confirms my fears that this new version Superman is robbing him of his very greatness. How sad that, on the year of his 75th anniversary, the character who created this genre of heroic storytelling has become just one more muscle-bound street brawler. Makes me miss Christopher Reeve all the more.

    • Mike W. says:

      What you FAIL to realize, is that everything you think WAS great with the character almost killed him in 90’s. If it hadn’t been for Dan Jurgens creating Doomsday and the death of Superman story arc—which was nothing more than a knock’em down drag’em out fight—the character would have died off. It was this amazing display of strength, brutality and yes, the death of Superman, that brought people back to the comic. His’ “boy scout” persona was becoming tiresome and he need to be given a edge. Why have a character with these immense powers, if he’s going to help a lady cross the street or rescue a person falling from a building. That’s not what we want to see. We want a hero that saves the planet, that battles to an inch of his life to save us in heroic, unhuman manner.

      Times have changed since 1938. Hell, when Shuster and Siegel created him, he couldn’t even fly. And as a graphic designer and illustrator, I can tell from art history lessons, the only reason the “red” tights were added, was because it was difficult in certain print facilities to see where the torso ended and the legs began, had it all been blue. The “underwear” was used to break up the color and make it easier to print. Nowadays, we don’t have those issues with printing. So just as Superman has learned to Fly, instead of jumping over building, he’s been remodeled to fit a more modern time.

      This is coming from a guy who grew up on Superman, who has a tattoo on his back of the symbol. Superman is deeply imbedded in my life and I share a very special connection with my mother who recently passed away from Breast Cancer, all because of the character and symbol emblazoned upon his chest. I think what Synder, Goyer and Nolan have done, is made Superman a solid force of good, but with human emotions. No longer is he going to seem like the silly, smiling, do-gooder of the 1930’s. Superman will now fit in with edgy, cooler superheros like Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Iron Man. If you’re a true Superman fan, that’s what you want, you want the character to be popular again, to click with children of today, they continue to read the comics and keep the character around for another 70+ year.

      Time changes everything, even Superman. Thankfully, with the team behind Man of Steel, he’s changed for the better.

      • know1 says:

        Sir I had to find my hat and put it on just so I could take it off to you dear sir. What an immensely superb counter-review. Maybe variety should have you on payroll and this whiny nostalgic nincompoop. That is all.

      • johnsmall says:

        Well, I guess having a Superman tattoo on your back does make you more knowledgable than someone who has spent pretty much his entire 50-year existence as first a fan and later a student and essayist on the subject. Must be nice going through life firmly convinced that you’re the smartest guy in the room and your excrement doesn’t stink. For what it’s worth, my two sons are part of that “children of today” you mention – and they hate the modern comics even worse than I do (and arrived at that opinion entirely on their own, I might add). You’re right, time does change everything – but not always for the better. Once you’ve gotten a few more decades under your belt you’ll see this.

    • Matthew says:

      Mr. Allen, this film will not “rob” superman of its greatness. You really need to update your semantics of understanding today’s technology versus your pre designated thoughts of the 1980’s. Have you ever read a DC Superman comic book, because if you had…you would discover that Superman IS a brawler in most if not all versions. Dispense with your movie ideals and embrace what the character is sir.

      • johnsmall says:

        Moragami, my opinion is my opinion. I never said otherwise. An opinion by its very definition cannot be right or wrong. For the record, I respect the opinion of those who disagree with me; I am simply voicing my opinion in the same fashion as they are voicing theirs. I stand by those opinions, and nothing you have said has changed them, but I do respect your right to disagree. What I do NOT respect is the level of ignorance some people see fit to display regarding the character’s history, such as when people say that the Donner film was not true to the iconic character – or your reference to the star of said film as “Christopher Reeves.” His name was Christopher REEVE – no “s.” George Reeves – with an “s” – was the star of the 1950s TV version of Superman. Which was also far more true to the iconic character than this new film appears to be. That’s my opinion. Thank you and good day.

      • moragami says:

        John Small, you sound even more arrogant and narcissistic than those you’re talking down too. Because you’re older and have some wisdom and experience does not necessarily mean your opinion is right. In fact, opinions are arbitrary, so trying to use your age to bolster and support your opinion is just, as the kids would say, fail.

        Especially when dealing with a subjective matter such as writing and filmmaking. Fine, you want every Superman to follow the same template as the Donner films. Well, they tried that, and we got a boring unmoving movie that almost ruined Superman for future generations.

        I love Superman: The Movie, I was 8 years old when I saw it, and spent the next 5 running around with a cape on. Yes, Christopher Reeves was a great Superman, and the movies were very good for their time. However, times have changed, and movie audiences demand more than one-liners and cutesy cat rescues. They want the Superman from the comics, the one who can punch a guy into geosynchonous orbit. This movie looks like it’s going to deliver. Then again, I’ll have to wait until I see the movie before I judge for myself. After all, all my years of wisdom have taught me not to make concrete opinions about things I have yet to experience.

      • johnsmall says:

        Have I ever read a DC comic book? Listen, you young know-it-all, I’ve been reading DC comic books for nearly 50 years – longer than a lot of the young’uns who are defending this film have probably been alive, I suspect. I’ve got boxes of comic books out in my garage dating back to my childhood in the 1960s, and before. As a professional writer and pop culture historian I’ve done a fair amout of research and have written numerous articles about the character. And I’m here to tell you that the character that is being presented in the comics today – and, based on this article, in this new film – is NOT the Superman that so many kids grew up reading about and admiring since he debuted in 1938. I don’t need to “update” anything – you young punks need to educate yourself on the true meaning of what it is to be a hero. Listen real close: that “whirring” sound you hear is Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster spinning in their graves.

  42. stefan walker says:

    i agree with mr mathew, sorry reviewer guy but this movie was made for us. and when i say us, i mean the fans who wanted to see sups kick the crap outta things more then bitch and moan. i know thats not what you wanted reviewer because for some odd reason, critics love super hero movies that have next to no action (iron man 3). as soon as there is just as much action as story development they
    wanna give it a bad review. sorry this is the kinda superman movie we needed you critics got your pansy comic movie with to much emotion and not enough action months ago( cogh, cough, ironman 3.) which sense we are now speaking about ironman 3 why is it that reviewers complain about not enough spark between lois and supes, but know one thought it was down right stupid that iron man fought off aliens in the avengers but cried every time it was mentioned in i.m.3 ? ohh thats write because the reviewers felt that it was provocative and brilliant and all those other big words they use to try to make us feel small in comparison to them. we escape reality when we watch movies, that’s the main reason why we watch (the average movie watcher.) not to be more rooted into it.( dumb ass critics.)sorry but we do like our super hero movies punchy. its about time someone makes one more for us then for you.

    • allan says:

      Apparently John smalls and the reviewer wanted a Superman flick with no action, and a lot of comedy.

      • John Allen Small says:

        No, I just want a Superman film that is truer to the original concept of the character originally created by Seigel and Shuster, not this dark and dreary post-millennial bore foisted on us by people who think they know more about the character than the people who created him.

        And if you’re going to respond to my comments, at least have the courtesy and/or intelligence to get my name correct.

    • M^*&I)(&*G#$%U)(*E%$^L says:

      Ur absolutely wrong, the only comic superhero that could deal with beating up everybody and everything is the Huk because its on his nature. Supes is about caring of the human existence, not just beating the crap of everybody. You see the critics are right in the way that Supes lost his authentic identity and copied from other superhero movies, resmbling the Avengers. The scence where zod jumps into a fighting aircraft is the same on the Avengers where Hukl does the same thing. The scene of the kryptonians invading metropolis is the same as the final scene of the Avengers at New York City. You see all u guys are bilnded and desperated for a Superman thah lost his principles and switched off for another superhero.

  43. Matthew says:

    It’s rare that you can find a reviewer that says a movie sucks, then writes 5 paragraphs detailing most scenes in the movie. Come out of the closet sir, its ok to admit you liked it. Also, please understand that the year is 2013 and comparing today’s movies to the 1980’s is just unacceptable as a professional. Perhaps you missed the memo that this is a reboot designed to show Superman /Clark in an introspective manner, not the “down to earth” kinda guy Chris Reeve played.

    • Sanzkrit says:

      Us = The Bieber Britney Gaga Glee generation. . . . That’s why you kids don’t get the Superman character.

  44. AnonimusUser says:

    After reading this review i must asume that Mr. Foundas still thinks we are still in 1978, and has never readed the source material in the 30+ years since.

  45. Michael Hunt says:

    Thanks for the spoilers

    If you had any talent you would have been able to write a review without spoiling the movie; if you had brains you would at least warn your audience. Perhaps you learn how to do that before critiquing anything.

    Unfortunately you are just another pretentious, talentless idiot who doesn’t even understand the character, let alone the purpose of the movie.

    Moron

  46. btflash says:

    soooooo, hes complaining that the tone is serious and theres way too much action. your joking ,right? thats what was seriouly lacking from superman returns.

  47. un-biased says:

    im so sick of people not being able to look at something for what it is, in comic books they have different universes where there are subtle differences but the hero is still the same at his core. i haven’t seen the movie yet but from everything i have seen and read it just seems like a realistic take on a character i personally love. i have nothing against the donner films but people treat that like its the superman bible, its not and while i loved them as a kid after reading superman comics those movies were well they weren’t good and i can’t be the only person who thinks that. it’s time for a change and i personally can’t wait to see this movie. let it go

  48. That’s Kung Fu’s “Caine”! (not “Kane”).

    Signed,
    Herbie J Pilato
    Author,
    The Kung Fu Book of Caine (Tuttle, 1993)
    The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom (Tuttle, 1995)
    Consultant, the Kung Fu DVD Release

    • stefan walker says:

      agree they weren’t as good when you compare them to the comics. we did need this new superman movie.

  49. Rodney says:

    A review written well before the reviewer oven saw the film, this smacks of premeditated hate. No creative decision is lauded, no facet of the film is left untouched by this reviewers poison pen, no consideration that perhaps the world needs a supeman that isn’t a variation of the sainted Christopher reeve.

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