Man of Steel Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ aims for epic, and on almost every level it delivers. That is probably why it set a new best-ever opening weekend record for June. It has grossed $125.1 million by its first Sunday in theaters. Audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and yet the “professional” critics have been less kind. That is because ‘Man of Steel’ is about big ideas, and many critics have small minds.

A snapshot of some of the worse reviews indicate critics wanted something “fun,” which is probably a euphemism for “This isn’t anything like Christopher Reeves’ Superman.”

  • “Skimps on fun and romance.” (Newsday)
  • “There’s very little humor or joy in this Superman story.” Richard Roeper
  • “Man of Steel (has) a cold heart that no amount of spectacle can compensate for.” (Art House Film Guide)
  • “Where’s the fun?” (Movieline)

Could Zack Snyder have made a plucky Superman film? Sure. But that’s not what he wanted to do. He wanted to explore what it would really be like if someone like Superman walked among us. How would it affect him? How would the world react? Would it be a blessing or a curse?

Here’s what I said upon the release of the first trailer:

The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.

If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.

That is exactly the movie Zack Synder has made. It’s a movie about finding out why were put on this earth and what our purpose is. It’s about first knowing the difference between right and wrong — and then choosing the hard right instead of the easy wrong. It’s about having faith and hope and trust in our fellow man, but acknowledging that we are all fallible. It’s about a hero who we call Superman, but it’s also about the hero inside each and every one of us. ‘Man of Steel’ honors the individual, but stresses the importance of selfless service and the commitment we have to our family and our community.

The critics who say this movie has no “joy” are the ones who sound like they’re from another planet. ‘Man of Steel’ is one of the most uplifting superhero movies I’ve seen in ages, and it’s made better by a cast of actors who all basically knock it out of the ballpark.

Diane Lane is fantastic as Martha Kent, and the scene it which she soothes a young Clark as he struggles to understand his powers is pitch perfect. The tenderness she shows reminds us all of our own mother’s best moments — all heroes in their own right.

Kevin Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is equally as impressive. He understands that work is a virtue. He has strong hands and a dirty shirt from his labor, but his heart is pure. He does his best to instill honesty and integrity in his boy in an imperfect world. And, even as he wrestles with moral conundrums, he gives his son a road map that will help him navigate life’s most difficult terrain.

Henry Cavill is Clark Kent. He is not Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent — nor should he have been. Director Zack Snyder knows that when you start asking questions like “Who is Superman?” that you are also asking “Who is Clark Kent?” and “Who is Kal-El?” And the answer is that at his core he is pure, he is strong and he is kind. He embodies courage and selfless service. He represents our highest ideals — the ones we know we can never fully attain, but die honorably trying to pursue. How Clark’s essence manifests itself on screen will very from actor to actor, but Henry Cavill’s Superman does the character proud.

‘Man of Steel’ has its flaws, but one of them is certainly not the absence of joy. Zack Snyder knew exactly what he wanted, and everyone from the actors on screen to the special effects guys gave it to him. Love it or hate it, ‘Man of Steel’ is the finished product born out of a very clear vision of what a modern Superman movie needed to be in order to succeed.

At a pivotal point in the film, Clark realizes that as impressive as his powers are, he has not even begun to tap the well of potential inside of him. It’s a powerful scene — one in which millions of viewers will likely reflect on their own efforts to harness the greatness within them. That is a joyous thing. That gives us reason to smile, and hope for the future of all mankind.

Don’t worry about the critics, Mr. Snyder. People around the world have now listened to the words of Jor-El and know that while he was speaking to the character Clark, he was also speaking to them: they too can “accomplish wonders.” And for that, we are thankful.

Man of Steel Henry Cavill

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

41 comments

  1. I haven’t seen it yet, but Mark “Go F*** Yourself” Waid is one of the outspoken critics of the film. He was pummeled on Twitter this weekend as a result.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword. 😉

    1. Hmmm. I’ll have to check that out.

      There are certain criticisms of the movie that I can understand (e.g., Synder being a little heavy-handed with destruction), but I think too many people are unfairly comparing this to the original, or some sort of weird level of excellence they’ve concocted in their head that no movie could measure up to.

    2. Well, if Mark “Go F*** Yourself” Waid hates it, then it’s probably a good movie! I haven’t seen it either, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if their criticisms were a bit unnecessary and if they were comparing it to the original 1978 film. The original films were bogged down by their constant use of Luthor as a villain (except in the second film) and his plots involving either destroying California or developing Kryptonian real estate or creating Nuclear Man to fight Superman.

    3. I don’t know how anyone could hate this film. I just don’t. I could understand having certain beefs with, say, the sheer amount of destruction on screen in the last 20 minutes. We can have a debate on that. But hands down this is a solid summer action flick. There’s no way around that.

      Like I said, I think some people wanted this to be some sort of summer blockbuster game-changer. It’s not. Very few films are like that (e.g., Star Wars). I think Snyder was given an incredibly tough task, and I think he did a respectable job. I’m really looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Good to hear that Man of Steel fulfilled your expectations. I can’t wait to see it. In contrast to the critic reviews, I’ve heard many accounts of how the film is the best superhero film in years and so forth. Some of the more passionate statements have even cited critics’ lack of credibility in the fact that Iron Man 3 and Superman Returns have better reviews. Whatever the case, I’ve heart that Warner Bros. has already planned a sequel, thanks to the stellar box office performance, which is good news.

    1. Professional critics are generally useless. Sometimes I can read a bad review and know that I’m going to love it. Case in point was Snyder’s ‘300’: They weren’t too keen on that either. There were some really bad reviews that made me say, “Can’t wait to see this movie!” For whatever reason they don’t seem to like him and judge his work by a different standard.

    2. Yeah, they are pretty useless. I never listen to what these so-called “critics” say and just go to the movie and form my own opinion say afterwards. The bad reviews just make me want to see that much more. I can say that about a ton of movies I wound up enjoying.

  3. I liked the film immensely. It was a real summer blockbuster. I too was surprised at the critical response, but chalked it up to them wanting and expecting a different movie than what they saw. It wasn’t the movie’s fault. I felt like a kid again watching him fly and fight, and even felt a rush of emotion when Jor-El was holding his newborn son, talking about hopes and dreams for our children. (Hit home for me)

    My only quibbles were Snyder’s overuse of the shaky-cam effect and Zimmer’s soundtrack. The soundtrack *was* rather joyless with it’s obnoxious drum circle and his lazy, two-note main theme (shades of Batman and Inception, anyone?). Dude is getting lazier and lazier with each Nolan film. Shame. Gladiator was awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I love it to work out to the Man of Steel soundtrack (it is fun), but it just didn’t fit the movie. There wasn’t even a Lois Lane theme and only a few weird noises for Zod, before returning to a cacophony of drums. I wanted sweeping, grandiose themes–not necessarily Williams iconic score–but something other than simple two-note legatos. But… I digress.

    Regardless, Man of Steel was a great summer popcorn flick. I’m excited to see this Superman screen again.

    1. Interesting review, Lightbringer. I can’t say that I can really argue with any of your points.

      For whatever reason, critics do not like Snyder. How can “This is the End” get 85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but ‘Man of Steel’ gets 56% rotten? Give me a break. Snyder is held to some strange standard because they don’t like his style. Well, too bad. A lot of us do like it.

      The critics who always dump on Snyder remind me of the film school students I met at USC. If it was remotely popular, they hated it. If it made money, it was crap. They only liked movies that were weird an obscure — not because the movie was any good — but because they were in the know on something the rest of us weren’t.

      I really enjoyed the scene where Clark’s mom was soothing his nerves in the elementary school. When Zod attacked her later in the movie it made Clark’s reaction that much more awesome. The fight scenes were great, but I think there were little moments throughout the film that really made it for me.

    2. How does “This is the End” get better overall reviews than Superman? I don’t get it. I think that looks like another lame stoner comedy film.

      I also knew people who would hate movies that were popular and liked obscure films just because they were obscure.

    3. Very nice points you’ve made, Lightbringer.

      Your theory of why critics reviewed the movie so poorly makes sense and I agree, but it shouldn’t excuse the critics in any way. The fact that they let their personal feelings interfere in what should have been a mainly objective review is just wrong.

      I’ve read that Snyder made use of the shaky-cam effects because he wanted a realistic feel, and wanted to make viewers feel like they were actually there. While I haven’t seen the film, I don’t think I would like it either. Its use in the Hunger Games only gave me a headache and made me strain my eyes rather than imparting a sense of realism.

      I’m a big fan of both John Williams’ and Hans Zimmer’s Superman themes. Williams’ is iconic, nostalgic, and a classic that can never be replaced. I felt that Zimmer’s theme compared against Williams’ fairly well though, especially for the more modern and emotional feel that was being aimed for in the new film. This assumption was based off solely the trailers, however, which I felt used the theme excellently. When I actually see the film I might find it lazy as well.

    4. Don’t get me wrong. I like the score. I work out to it. But, it doesn’t fit The Man of Steel to me. The issue with Zimmer lately is that his themes (if he even has any) are emotive, but are not musical. Can you hum anything from Inception? Dark Knight Rises? Superman? No, you can’t. Maybe you can make the “braaaaang, braaaaang” noise for Inception.

      I can hum Elfman’s Batman theme, the Indiana Jones theme, Star Wars, Superman, Gladiator (to some extent), and a host of others. A good soundtrack stays with you long after you leave the movie. And Superman is all about hope–he is the last hope of a dying Kryton and a beacon of light for humankind–and Zimmer’s soundtrack let me down. Barely any of it is hopeful. Dense drums and lazy two-note motifs. I expected a few memorable themes for Supes, Zod, and Lois. Nada.

      Loved the movie despite it. Just wish Nolan would let a talented composer actually create new, daring, and memorable material for a blockbuster such as this.

  4. I respect Mark Waid a lot. He’s a heck of a writer. Superman: Birthright was fantastic. As was “Irredeemable” and his current run on Daredevil. KIngdom Come was epic!! That said, I don’t see what the fuss is over the end of the film. Does everyone forget that in the Reeve films Superman did the exact same thing…to the exact same villain? For the same reason? Different method, but same results and same motivation.

    1. I thought the all-star drum circle concept was interesting, but the problem with a all-star drum circle is that to get them to show up, you need to use them. Then you end up with an entire soundtrack chock full of ear-splitting drums.

  5. the CGI fight scenes were crap, the shaky cam shit was atrocious. the Lois Lane finding out thing was absolutely gut wrenching, and the kiss was unnecessary, they had no romantic interest in each other at all. the faults of the movie lie more with David S. Goyer’s piss poor script than anything else. Snyder did deliver the film he wanted to, i saw the Walmart advanced screening and it comes with Snyder talking before the film starts about what he wanted to achieve and he did succeed, but Goyer’s script was god awful.

    1. Fair enough, but on many of the websites I’ve frequented that’s how it comes across to me — old guys who grew up with the original who are going to dump on anything that isn’t explicitly trying to channel Reeves’ Superman.

    2. Really, I think their problem with Snyder’s Supes is the same problem folks like you and I had with how Superman was during the New 52. The same problem you and I have with libs.

      That is, FUNDAMENTAL change. Granted, MoS Supes wasn’t NEARLY as bad as New 52 Supes, and I’ll give credit to the creative team for showing that Superman was not a hardened asshole when he killed Zod like all of the Marvel heroes would have been and I do give them props for making some of the best fight scenes (if not THE best fight scenes) in a Superhero movie that reminds me of all of the epic animated fights of the DCAU and other animated DC stuff , but, really, that’s all piece-meal to that issue that Snieder and Co., the libs that they are, fundamentally altered him a bit too much…to say nothing of how rushed the story was and how drawn out it was in many places.

    3. Yeah, I guess my biggest gripes with the movie was they really didn’t establish “Clark” enough, (which I think they’ll do a lot of in the next movie), and the final fight scene being way too long. I love an epic fight scene, but it was so over the top that it become a bit ridiculous. Although, as I’ve said before, I’d rather err on the side of too much action for a Superman movie than too little.

      With that said, my issue with many comic fans is that sometimes they fail to realize that movies are a different medium. They have unrealistic expectations about what should and shouldn’t be included in a movie when … it simply isn’t the same as a comic. Synder knows this better than anyone, having actually pulled it off with ‘300’ and ‘Watchmen’ rather successfully. I’m always impressed with his ability to stay true to the original work’s core being while making changes necessary in order to resonate with a (global) movie audience.

      Webshooters vs. organic? Superman underwear suit vs. no underwear suit? Giant space alien ending vs. nuclear Holocaust? Superhero movies are a minefield of those sorts of questions that need to be answered. I tend to give directors a little more slack than some of my other friends.

    1. I’d say the scene in which Lois first comes across Superman was rather hurried and a bit clunky. They got from point A to point B and it was forgivable, but I didn’t like the way they did it.

    2. I’d have to watch the scene again, but I don’t believe those people could have gotten out of the way. Have you ever been paralyzed by fear? I have to imagine seeing Superman and Zod go at it — up close — might do that to a person.

      Also, the point was that there was no way Zod was going to stop. Superman realized this after half the city was destroyed and they were still fighting. Because he’s still coming into his own — as Goyer says — he’s just not capable of flying Zod to the moon, etc. There was no other choice. He had to kill Zod or be killed. That’s why it’s awesome.

    1. I wouldn’t call myself an ardent Superman fan. In fact, when I was a kid I didn’t like him very much.

      Sorry man, but it looks like I’ll have to agree to disagree with you on this one. “Clark’s” life was sort of hurried, but the little glimpses into his life that Snyder did show were incredibly powerful and touching. I think they did what they needed to do in order to get the film moving where Snyder wanted it.

    2. I dunni man…I’m torn about this film…at the time when I saw it, I was like WOOO, but, after time has passed…I dunno…

      I guess I’ve just been taking a lot of shit as a Superman fan for so long that, when I saw it, I was more nervous about whether Hollywood and the audience would like it than my own personal feelings about it which I admit…I’m not sure whether or not I feel I liked it, I was mixed, or I didn’t like it.

      I’m confused.

    3. That was the rub: Snyder needed to make a movie that was a success, but he also had to stay true to the character. Hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake. If he failed … when would another Superman movie come out?

      He had a very difficult task and I think he did a commendable job.

      There’s nothing wrong with being confused. If you’re torn, then that means that the film is making you think harder about the character, who he is, what he represents … and heck, even the culture at large. If you’re thinking deeper about all these things, that’s a good thing.

    4. He did better than most, I’ll give him that.

      Oh, I already know who he is and what he represents and know how fucked up the culture is brah. I’m just concerned that this depiction of Superman was just a few points shy of being close enough to who he truly is, that people will get the wrong idea about who he truly is, that little bitches will still whine about how supposedly “over-powered” he is yet still try and make arguments for characters they like going against him on battle forums, that the number of people that like him is small even after MoS, and that he’s getting shafted to a Street-Leveler like Bats…again…in something that was supposed to be his own sequel…

      Speaking of Hollywood and Comic Movies, what IS IT with the lack of decent Cosmic Stories…if ANY Cosmic stories?

    5. It will be interesting to see how they deal with the Superman vs. Batman dynamic. While I’m excited for the movie, I did think it was a little weird that they were kind of taking some of Superman’s spotlight away from him. I suppose for the most part it’s because they want to get Justice League going…and throwing Batman in there and establishing a “new” Batman in a ‘Man of Steel’ sequel was easier than getting a post-Nolan quickly out of the gates.

  6. Like I’ve said though, I will give him props that he’s not New-52 Supes and that he actually DOES have restraint from killing right away and has remorse when he kills, unlike most of those Marvel movies.

    Seriously! CAPTAIN AMERICA KILLED BRAIN-WASHED DUDES!

  7. Late comer, but since I just watched it I’ll chime in. Usually think comics and their movies are pretty lame but I loved this character. Some cheesy script, but nevertheless left me smiling. Plus, I kinda think he’s hot. Sigh. Really? At the very end of the film?! Can’t wait to see the next.

    1. I’m comfortable enough in my skin to say that Henry Cavill is a handsome man! 😉

      Thanks for taking the time to add your two cents, Eve. I’m sure I’ll be blogging on the next film, so you’ll have to let me know what you thought of “Bat-fleck.”

  8. I finally watched the movie. It was pretty good. While not perfect, it was the best Superman movie since the first two Reeve movies and I think it was a good way to start a DC Cinematic Universe. I look forward to the sequel.

    1. Strangely I didn’t enjoy this film. I didn’t hate it but I found the film disjointed.

      The ides were there but I didn’t feel they were well executed.

      On the other hand I had no problem with Superman killing Zod.

      I rank this 3rd out of the Superman films I have seen (have never seen Returns)

    2. You’re not missing much if you haven’t seen “Returns.” Brandon Routh did a really good job imitating Christopher Reeve, but I found the movie underwhelming.

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