Does Man of Steel Hold Up a Decade Later?

Julien Neaves, Editor

Poor David Corenswet. When it was announced that the Pearl actor would be the new Man of Steel in James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy he became the subject of memes comparing him to a “Wish” version of Henry Cavill. It’s not surprising though, as a large cross-section of the fanbase, including those with the pipe dream of a return to the Snyderverse, are still upset about Cavill being dropped as Supes in Gunn’s brand new DCU. And yeah, I think we should have had a Man of Steel 2 and I am disappointed that the British actor never truly got a fair shake. But sometimes you just have to let things go and move on. Though I am concerned with the recent announcement of not one, not two, but three other heroes in Superman: Legacy. Enough with the overstuffed cameos. Geez!

But getting back to Man of Steel, the film that launched the now defunct DCEU celebrated its tenth anniversary last month. Of all the DCEU entries, this is the one that most fans hold in high regard outside of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. But how well does it hold up a decade later? With a Krypton-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s revisit MoS in three heat vision blasts:

Blast #1 Super Stuff

Is he going to ask people to kneel before him? No? Dangit

Whether you love, hate or are indifferent to his comic book film adaptations, it is difficult to deny that Zack Snyder is a visionary director, and he excels at bringing striking visuals to screen. And his vision is on full display during the opening of MoS which is set on Kal-El’s home planet of Krypton. Now having 19 minutes of your film be backstory may seem excessive, but I so enjoyed this fantastic alien world that I did not mind one bit, penis-shaped pods notwithstanding. Heck, I would have watched an entire film set there. That was how much I was having fun with it.

And speaking of Krypton, three of the film’s best characters are Kryptonians, and I’m not even talking about Supes yet. Russell Crowe’s dignified and stately Jor-El is my favourite version of the character, and I loved him in both the opening and when he returned as a holographic version. “You can embody the best of both worlds.” So good. And Michael Shannon’s performance of the driven and single-minded General Zod steals every single scene. He is like a force of nature with so much presence and gravitas, and easily the best villain we ever had in the DCEU. And he is ably supported by Antje Traue’s sexy femme fatale Faora-Ul who brought great energy and menace to her role.

But what about Cavill?! Alright, keep your tights on. Rewatching MoS one can understand why he remains beloved as Superman. He has the look and physicality of the superhero and delivers both in the quiet moments and the action scenes. And those action sequences hold up spectacularly. The visual effects and sound editing combine to deliver some truly pulse pounding battles. Even when superpowered beings are not beating the crap out of each other the film still shines, with scenes of the suit reveal, Superman floating in space and sinking into a floor of skulls being standouts. And I must also give a shout out to Diane Lane for her very likeable portrayal of Martha Kent. You might even say I saved Martha for last. Sorry, could not resist.

Blast #2 Not So Super Stuff

I care about none of you people

And now we move on the negatives (I can feel the @s coming at me). While I thought Lane’s Martha was well done, Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent was kind of undercooked. His driving force is the protection of Clark’s secret, which one can understand, but the execution is just off. He seems callous when tells Clark that “maybe” he should have let the children on the bus die instead of using his powers to save them. His death in that poorly CGI-rendered tornado by refusing to let his son save him is supposed to this big emotional moment but it comes off as contrived.

Also contrived was Clark’s loner wanderings early in the film. From saving people on a rig from crappy-looking CGI fire to random truck vandalism, this feels more like the man of Adamantium than the Man of Steel. I know Synder was going for a darker take on the iconic character but none of this worked for me. Also not working for me for Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. Now Adams is a very good actress, but she was miscast in the role. She just lacks that fire and spark necessary for the dogged journalist or for a believable romance with Cavill’s Clark. She is more walking plot device than fully realised character.

The other Daily Planet staff are so thinly written that I could not bring myself to care when their lives were threatened during the damage of Metropolis by the terraforming World Engine. And speaking of the film’s final act, much has been said about the wanton destruction of the fictional city during Superman and Zod’s final battle. Heck, this was even a plot point in Batman v Superman. Now a seasoned Supes may have had the presence of mind to get Zod to a location with less probability of civilian casualties, but one must remember this a rookie version of the character, so we can cut him some slack. And I am also in the camp that did not mind him snapping Zod’s neck to save the civilians, though Snyder could have done more to explore the no-kill policy when presenting Clark’s past to give that moment more plot weight.

Blast #3 In Conclusion

What comes before “Crackle” and “Pop”? SNAP!

Overall, remains a highly entertaining superhero film. Sure, there are some characterisations and plot elements that don’t work, not all of the VFX are up to snuff and the message of hope does get muddled by this much gloomier take on Supes. But the positives do outweigh the negatives, including that the film does not bend over backwards trying to set up another film or an entire comic universe singlehandedly (looking at you BvS). And for pure popcorn superhero action and gloriously stylish visuals MoS delivers and then some. It definitely deserved a sequel and Cavill deserved more time in cape. C’est la vie.

Editor Jules’ Score: 7.5 out of 10

How well does Man of Steel hold up for you? And you can check out more from the Last Son of Krypton below:


Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.

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