Man of Steel, the first installment in a rebooted Superman film franchise, is at once a breathtaking monument to the grand scale of storytelling befitting a character like Superman, and a monument to a new age in superhero storytelling. On some levels, that combination works very, very well. On other levels, it falls very, very flat.
I found myself awed by half of Man of Steel. When it was right, it was so right, firing on all cylinders. When it was off, it seemed almost idiotic, tone deaf to what Superman is and what he represents.
The best parts of the movie were captured by the father's of Superman, Jor-el (played by Russel Crowe) and Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner). Putting aside the fact that we really didn't need to see another origin story for the character, these two actors did all of the heavy lifting and made every one of their scenes memorable and stand up against prior iterations and the expectations of today's audience.
The retelling of the origin story seemed to be a symptom of the David Goyer script. There seemed to be a need, beyond all reason, to emulate the script from Batman Begins, tying the origin into the present and showing the definition of the hero coming from the circumstances. It was a winning formula for Batman Begins, but I don't think it quite worked here.
Perhaps my biggest complaints about the film, though, were about Henry Cavill and Amy Adams.
Cavill is a more than capable Superman. In fact, I think he was fantastic as Superman... But Superman isn't the whole part. And Cavill's Clark Kent was simply Superman in plain clothes. There was no rich dichotomy in the character and when he does, eventually, put on the glasses, there's not a hint of Clark Kent nerdiness.
Amy Adams plays Lois Lane in this film. I love Amy Adams. I love Lois Lane. The problem is that Amy Adams and Lois Lane are like oil and vinegar. They just don't come together. Adams as Lois falls very flat. Absent is all the spunk and strength of every single iteration of the character in recent memory, but she borders on being a helpless Mary Sue. And there's not a single good reason she's brought up to Zod's ship except that she helps advance the plot and inject Jor-el into the situation. Logic flies right out the window.
That's not the only place where logic fails... I imagine members of the military will cringe at how two military men seem to be everywhere, doing every single job there is to be done on their own. And the level of destruction in Metropolis borders on the absurd. It's like they saw the level of destruction in New York in The Avengers and just had to top it, even though there wasn't a single compelling reason to do so. Millions of people died in this movie, from Zod's plan, to collateral damage caused by Superman, and it just seems out of character.
Can we also admit to how ham-fisted the Jesus moment in the film was? It felt so awkward and out of place I couldn't believe it.
Perhaps I'm old fashioned and just prefer the dopey optimism of Superman in years past. Maybe it's my age showing. But when that optimism was tapped into in the film, I thought it was brilliant and beautiful and true to character. When that optimism was gone and we were left with a retread of Superman II by way of Batman Begins, I was a little bored.
I understand people wanted to see Supes punch stuff after he did relatively little fighting in Superman Returns, but this was bit too over the top for my tastes.
I accept that my opinion might well be in the minority, but I think there was something about what makes Superman a great character, Lois too for that matter, that just didn't make it up to the screen. And that's a shame.
Did I enjoy the film? Yes. Large swaths of it. Was it fun? Not terribly. It was gritty and trite for too much of the time.
But the film will do very well, and I hope the next will give us a more well-rounded Superman, one that feels less monotone overall.