'Man of Steel' review: Exciting, fun, if structurally flawed Superman reboot
The most substantial Superman film to date is exciting, but not without some serious structural flaws.
In short: While Clark Kent wanders the globe, searching for his place in the world, a dangerous threat arrives to Earth looking for Kal-El, one of the last of his alien race. (watch the trailer)
'Man of Steel' presents Superman as a symbol of hope - the real protagonist is an adopted alien known as Clark Kent whose given birthname is Kal-El. This distinction is critically vital as 'Man of Steel' is primarily an immigrant's story with a central conflict of home versus heritage.
Superman's alien background creates his conflict, but his search for purpose is what pushes Clark Kent/Kal-El toward his destiny. This deeper, more meaningful core elevates 'Man of Steel' above other comic book characters who simply wear a spandex suit to fight bad guys.
But comic geeks rest assured, there's more action than all previous Superman films combined. This iteration of the Man of Steel is a being of raw power - and (thanks to modern effects) Superman now has extensive powers far greater than any of his previous incarnations. Even if previous cinematic versions of Superman lifted continents or turned back time, this Superman is forced to use all his abilities (strength, speed, heat vision, flight) in violent combat - a first for any Superman movie.
As Lex Luthor and kryptonite are left out of this movie, Superman finally faces villains who pose a very serious physical threat to him. He must defeat a squad of aliens as powerful as he is, which makes for some brutal and devastating battle/fight sequences.
The unfortunately hard-to-ignore problem with 'Man of Steel' is its incredibly jagged storytelling.
Many scenes feel abrupt in their transitions from one scene to the next. The movie's general narrative is clear, but plot points are slammed together with little to no room to breath. Compacting plot points too densely together shift priority from character development in favor of hitting necessary plot points. While this usually makes for more exciting, action-packed film - it comes at the cost of making the movie feel rushed and, at times, jarring.
Most of the movie is a series of events that do not smoothly flow from one scene to the next. The obvious reason for this clunky storytelling is 'Man of Steel' attempts to cover a lot of ground: Krypton's destruction, Clark Kent's childhood, his global wandering, Kal-El's alienation from humanity, the emergence of an invading alien threat and Clark/Kal-El's rise as Superman.
Coarse storytelling is a problem for any film that covers so many themes and vacillates between thoughtful immigrant story and 'everything blows up' action blockbuster. These contrasting themes and plot points never flow well between one another.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is no post-credits stinger scene, ala the Marvel films. But eagle-eyed viewers can catch fleeting glimpses of the larger DC universe as equipment bearing the logos of Wayne Enterprises and LexCorp appear periodically.
Final verdict: 'Man of Steel,' although imperfect in its execution, succeeds in finally realizing the Superman movie comic fans have wanted to see for more than 60 years.