It is incredibly important to me that nothing in this review spoil the film in any way, so I’ve been overly careful not to discuss details at all or give away anything that should be enjoyed in a first viewing. If you’ve seen the trailers, you can read this and still see the movie without anything else being revealed.
Is it as good as fans hoped it would be?
I’m a huge fan of all versions of Superman and I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I went in with astronomically high hopes and they were still exceeded. It’s very rare for me to give any movie a 10 out of 10, but that’s exactly how I rate Man of Steel. There are one or two very minor plot holes that might have been fixed with a single line of text, but they’re inconsequential. I already can’t wait to see it again.
I have not been able to discuss it except with others who have also seen it, but I’ve been asked, “Does your love of Superman affect that rating?” Perhaps it does, but I’m also hypercritical of it for the same reason. It was just that good.
Does it properly honor the “canon?”
There are so many versions and continuities of Superman that it’s hard for me to consider many parts to be truly “canon,” but yes it absolutely does. If you’re already a fan, several continuities receive nods and passive references throughout. In some cases, it may just be coincidental since just about everything that can be done with the character has already been done in the last 75 years. I’m not sure how much is directly borrowed from older, lesser known stories and how much just happens to be similar.
How different is it from other Superman stories?
There are so many Superman stories that run the gamut from sci-fi to fantasy, horror, romance and every other genre imaginable. This certainly was darker than any previous film, but the term “dark” doesn’t apply as much as “realistic within its own bounds.” For example, I wouldn’t call this as dark as a story arc from the late 1993 comics involving a group of children who were brutally murdered by the Toyman. “Poignant” isn’t the same as “dark.”
Even so, the film explores certain themes that a Superman origin needs to and treats them in a new way. In terms of previous films, this is entirely new, but they have all been explored before in comics and TV, just differently. I expect that if Christopher Reeve were alive today that he would fully endorse Cavill’s take on the role.
Does the music stand up to John Williams’ score?
It does, but it’s not even close to a similar soundtrack. What we’ve learned to expect from Hans Zimmer is the unexpected. He has a signature style, and yet he’s like a chameleon with his music. The Superman theme is essentially what is heard in the third trailer, but it also gets hinted at in certain key moments. At a press conference, director Zack Snyder admitted that he asked Zimmer to keep the music “humble,” just like Superman. It’s a difficult direction to take, but the masterful Zimmer pulled it off.
Is Superman/Clark out of character?
Never. Certain key moments have already been spoiled online and some fans are upset about what they’re hearing, but it’s all about the context. There will be debates, but I stand by the side that Superman/Clark Kent never acts out of character. There were many moments in TV’s Smallville where Tom Welling’s Clark Kent did things that upset me as a Superman fan (and not just with Red Kryptonite suppressing his inhibitions). The Man of Steel version never does anything to make me think, “Superman isn’t acting like Superman.”
Are there weaknesses in the film?
There are, but they're mostly inconsequential. Obviously I can’t discuss them here, but the fact is no film is perfect (maybe Casablanca, but I digress) and this is no exception. The weaknesses that I caught simply aren’t a big deal. In contrast, Batman Begins is my favorite of the Dark Knight trilogy, but I would give it an eight out of 10 mostly because I didn’t care for Katie Holmes.
There are a lot of story beats to explore in the film, but they have to happen at a very fast pace. I don’t see that as a weakness, but I can see why someone might. Perhaps an extended version is in order for the Blu-ray release.
Do any of the actors appear to be miscast?
No way. For starters, Henry Cavill is just as amazing as we’ve been expecting. Everyone is perfectly cast, with Michael Shannon being a standout. Both he and Antje Traue are scary, powerful and the perfect duo for Superman to square off against in this reboot. I freely admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of Russell Crowe or Kevin Costner, but they both nailed their performances here.
The one that worried me slightly was Amy Adams as Lois Lane. I love Amy and I love the character of Lois, but I needed to wait for final judgment until I saw the finished film. She was excellent and absolutely the right one for the role. I’m glad I waited to decide my feelings on it.
Should I see it in 2D or 3D?
I saw the 3D, knowing it was done postconversion. As the trailers show, the entire film was shot in handheld and the current 3D cameras are too heavy to shoot that way. What it comes down to is if you’re a fan of 3D, you’re going to love it, but if you don’t care or prefer 2D, you won’t miss anything. Then, of course, there’s IMAX, which is its own experience, so if you have a chance for that I’d take it regardless.
Is it safe to see it with my kids?
I stand by the PG-13 rating and know plenty of parents who will show their younger kids movies rated that way. A handful of choice words are said, but nothing over-the-top or in any way excessive. The violence is certainly there and it’s often FAST, but there's little to no blood. If you think your child can handle the action in Lord of the Rings or something close to it, you’ll be OK. If anything, that excessively violent beat-down scene with the Kryptonite dagger in Superman Returns is something I’d be less likely to show a 10 year old.
Is there room to expand this to a Justice League film?
There is. This is clearly grounded in a reality that happens to include aliens with powers, so it’s not a stretch to bring in an Amazon, an Atlantean, a shape-shifting Martian and so on. I would rather see at least one Superman sequel first to explore the character more and help put the pieces in place for something larger, and then perhaps a team up with Batman. But more than anything, I want more Superman and I want it to continue to be this good.
If I’ve watched all the trailers and TV advertisements, have I seen the best parts of the film?