So I reviewed Man of Steel when it first came out. Not a fan basically. It’s not particularly bad, to be honest (Green Lantern is significantly worse) – but it is genuinely one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen. Some of the scenes are good, the performances are generally okay, and the cinematography is decent for the most part – but in terms of the story, structure and tone, it’s utterly appalling. Some of this stuff is pretty basic and could, I think, have been fixed fairly easily. So here are five ways that Man of Steel could have been drastically improved.
Sort the editing out
One of the most distracting elements of the movie is how choppy the narrative is. In the first 30 minutes the plot throws a shit-tonne of information at the audience. There’s an extended sequence on Krypton at the beginning that squeezes half a film’s worth of information into 10 minutes. After this, the story jumps randomly between Kal-El wandering around as an adult, and learning to use his powers and generally have a depressing childhood. There’s a difference between effective non-linear story-telling and pretentiously cutting between story-lines ever couple of minutes to give the illusion of complexity.
Fewer characters please
The film would have been vastly improved by having a much tighter story – the movie is stuffed with so many characters that many of them end up being utterly pointless. The Daily Planet posse serve no purpose beyond emphasising that Metropolis got the shit kicked out of it – as if that wasn’t already patently obvious from the fact that the central business district was smashed into grey dust. Weirdly, even Lois Lane seems a bit superfluous to the story – I’m pretty sure her character could have been cut from the movie with little or no adverse effect. And she is a core character! But here she is reduced to just standing around and having stuff happen around her.
Less obvious product placement… and symbolism
Complaining about product placement in Hollywood is pretty pointless – it’s just a fact of the industry. But when it is done this badly, it really takes the audience out of the movie. There’s one particular sequence in down-town Smallville that contains more product placement than I have seen in a long time. It’s like early-90s levels of product placement. Michael Bay levels. At least try and hide it, guys.
While you’re at it, take out the ridiculously heavy-handed Jesus symbolism. There are two incredibly unsubtle scenes where this happens and I honestly don’t understand why. I’ve never got a Jesus vibe from Superman – I mean I get the whole saviour thing and they play on the fact that he is effectively a god (and I imagine this is a big element of Batman v Superman)… but he’s not actually God, right? Calm it down.
Make more sense
I know that asking for a movie about a flying alien bodybuilder who shoot lasers out of his eyes to make sense might sound a little ridiculous – but this is more of story issue. I have no problem with films that take liberties with physics or history and things like that… I would hate every movie ever made if I did. I do have a problem, however, when movies break their own rules – things that they establish to be facts within the context of the story. Unfortunately, this happens all the time in this flick.
Case in point: it is established early on that Superman gets his powers from the Sun – this is a big part of the comics and is introduced here in the first 10 minutes. 33 years (Jesus age, incidentally) of living on Earth fundamentally changed his physiology, giving him the power of flight, laser vision – the whole shebang. But when he boards the Kryptonian ship, he loses all of this because he can’t breathe the air. What? How does that make sense? Later on, Zod removes his helmet and is immediately swamped with all of Superman’s powers and he learns how to use them within minutes. Why does that happen? He didn’t grow up on Earth, why does he get powers?
I always thought that a more interesting way of doing this would be that only Superman has those powers, because he is the only one who grew up on Earth. So he gets laser vision, flight, and it would make him far stronger than any human because of the 33 years of sun-bathing. The Kryptonian rebels, on the other hand, would get none of those powers, but would be way stronger than Superman because they grew up on Krypton – maybe it has higher gravity or something, I don’t know. This would have made the action sequences way more interesting – especially the big show down with Zod at the end, which got a little bit ridiculous to say the least.
Remember, it’s a Superman movie
I know this movie was produced by Christopher Nolan – the admittedly brilliant director behind the dark gritty reboot of the Batman franchise – but this film took itself way too seriously. That tone definitely suited the Dark Knight series (because Batman is a miserable sod at the end of the day), but it just doesn’t really work here. Superman movies need a sense of fun and they need to be a bit camp – it’s a guy flying round in his underwear after all. But there are no underpants-on-the-outside in this movie – and that should tell you everything you need to know. You can say what you like about Superman Returns – Bryan Singer’s fundamentally boring homage to the Donner era movies – but it definitely felt more like a Superman movie than this humourless drivel. Have him fly round the world and wave at the camera while he does it, catch falling women in mid-air, have him smile at people! Make it fun, for the love of God! To quote Kevin Smith: ‘Dude… it’s Superman!’ Cheer the fuck up!