Peter Suderman Reviews Man of Steel


Man of Steel via Warner Bros.

Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews this summer's big-budget Superman reboot, Man of Steel: 

Richard Donner's "Superman" arrived in theaters in 1978 with the tagline, "You will believe a man can fly." The tagline for "Man of Steel," which reboots the Superman character in grand, big-budget fashion, could be, "You will believe a man can punch."

"Man of Steel" features an awful lot of punching, even for a superhero movie. That's especially true in the film's second half, when the super-action — as well as Superman himself — really starts to fly. This isn't a bad thing; indeed, it's one of the film's biggest strengths, because this is punching like you've never seen it before.

Mr. Snyder works awfully hard to innovate in the already crowded superhero-punching space, and it pays off. The movie is part origin story, part coming of age tale, with Superman (Henry Cavill) facing off against a squad of baddies from his home planet of Krypton, led by General Zod (Michael Shannon).

This gives Mr. Snyder the opportunity to pit Superman against a fleet of other supermen. The metahuman fisticuffs between the big red S and his Kryptonian counterparts have a startling speed and power, with hits that send their targets flying over miles of territory, through building after building, at fighter-jet velocity. These are action scenes meant to suggest the limits of human comprehension. When it works, it's genuinely awesome — the sort of fist-pounding super-spectacle that a lot of big-budget summer movies aim for but few achieve.

It's also surprisingly gorgeous. Mr. Snyder's sun-speckled imagery is both epic and elegant, with magic-hour skies and artfully wrecked cities providing the backdrop to his biggest and most breathtaking sequences. If not for all the destruction, some of his wider shots could be paintings of fantasy-land vacation resorts. There's a sublime grandeur to his Herculean throwdowns; it might be the most beautiful punching you'll ever see.

Read the whole thing in The Washington Times

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  1. Spoiler alert: Lex Luthor did it.

    1. That’s a spoiler for the sequel.

    2. I heard it was Khan.

  2. The critics overall seem to be down on this — too much action (who wants to see a super-powered super-being in action when he can crack jokes and romance the ladies?), too dark (how about some witty one-liners while you’re trying to save the Earth from total annihilation, Supes?), too soon to tell us about his backstory from Krypton again (after all, it was explained briefly 35 years in the original Superman film) and too much CGI (couldn’t you find some real super-beings and destroy some real buildings?).

    SOunds like it will be good.

    1. The only turn off for me is the possibility too much time will be spent on the back story. That is exposition entirely unnecessary for Superman. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to it.

  3. If the Superman punching scenes are anything like the Neo/Agent Smith scenes from the third Matrix movie, I’ll pass. My knowledge of Superman is limited to the first two movies and Superman Returns, but I find him to be an uninteresting superhero. He’s either invincible or completely helpless. It’s boring.

  4. Just what I’ve been waiting for – ANOTHER Superman movie! The only thing that could top this would be another Nightmare on Elm Street movie.


    That is all.

    1. Really? When you think about it there have only been two decent Superman movies and while they both benefited greatly from the presence of Christopher Reeve, neither has aged well and are just goofy and nostalgic even if a lot of fun.

      We should all welcome a more serious take on Supes, who is a lot more complex than people give him credit for.

      1. What’s this “we” stuff, Kemosabe?

        I HATE “Superhero” movies.

        See you at Comic Conn!


      2. When you think about it there have only been two decent Superman movies and while they both benefited greatly from the presence of Christopher Reeve, neither has aged well and are just goofy and nostalgic even if a lot of fun.

        Agreed–if the second one in particular came out today, the nerds would be apoplectic about the hammy acting. Margot Kidder is almost as bad a Lois Lane as Kate Bosworth was. It’s only loved because most of the people obsessed about it were kids when it came out.

        1. I recently rewatched Superman II. Kidder’s Lane is pretty good. She foremost has presence, something Bosworth never did and second, Kidder actually creates a Lois who seems alive with faults and sharp edges.

          There are hammy Lois-in-danger scenes where she goes completely cheesy or Lois trying to prove Kent is Superman but that’s the result of a script based on 50 years of comics. Not her fault.

        2. OTOH, I didn’t really appreciate the main accomplishment of The Adventures of Superman until much later. It wasn’t really good overall because of the limitations they were under in a show pitched to kids, with a budget to match. But what it achieved was an excellent rendering of the feel of a comic book. The way the shots are blocked, the editing, the entrances & exits and timing of speeches are if anything eerily similar to a series of frames.

          They knew what they were doing, and produced the best schlock they could. Reeves unfortunately underplayed the role, possibly because he really was as bored by it as he looked. The rest of the cast was fine, though, and the writing was very good even though they were pretty well forced to produce unengaging stories.

    2. Can’t wait for more Spiderman! Hopefully they’ll go over just how he got his spider powers one more time!

      1. Actually I’m still holding out hope that they’ll do a completely uncompelling, PG-13 and therefore bereft of any of the violence and torture he was subjected to at the hands of the Weapon X program, version of the Wolverine origin story. Preferably one where he gets played like a fiddle into voluntaring for the adamantium… wait, SHIT!!!

        Nevermind. /sarc

  5. I’ve always been a big fan of Superman so while I will definitely see this, I was skeptical of whether or not Zach Snyder could pull it off. His directing style is claustrophobic and it seems like he just doesn’t have much of a vision of his own since all of his movies have been remakes or adaptations of other people’s work.

    That being said, Michael Shannon is General Zod, how is that not worth seeing?

    1. shall we get off your lawn now?

      1. No need to be bitter because the only superhero Canada ever produced is the lame ass Wolverine.

        Who wants to fight truth, justice, and the Canadian way?

        1. Who wants to fight truth, justice, and the Canadian way?

          People from Quebec?

        2. Gordie Howe.

          And I’m not into hockey.

  6. Now, if they made a movie about Punchmaster, I’d go see that.

  7. Zod was discovered in a hypersleep capsule by NSA who thawed him out to work for them under the name John Harrison, but Zod betrays them secretly building a giant battleship and then hijacking it in the third act (after fake surrendering in the second act).
    Meanwhile superman is having relationship issues with Lois after he discovers (awkwardly) that he is actually attracted to Jimmy Olsen.

  8. PLUS a hilarious cameo by Krypto, the superdog (voice of Seth MacFarlane) who balances the terror and violence with fart jokes and licking his superballs.

  9. But do we ever find out if Superman’s punches can best Kickpuncher? Or is that saved for the sequel?

  10. One of the great ironies of the modern age is that the complaint about mass culture causing young girls to develop unrealistic body image standards has been rendered irrelevant by mass culture now leveling the score by doing the same for boys.

    There’s gay porn directors looking at that pic and saying: “C’mon guys, dial it back a notch.”

    1. dunphy makes him look like a punk ass bitch, although he hasn’t been able to do much bench work since he tore a pec chasing down that robber who was fleeing the scene. hth

      1. need i provide video? I do OLYMPIC STYLE WEIGHTLIFTING.

        Very rarely do OLers do bench in training, and never in competition. Some coaches consider it completely verboten

  11. Terence Stamp is pure class. Once he plays a character, it’s hard to imagine anybody else embodying that Character – speaking of Zod, here.

    However, this is imo one of the best Zod replacements I’ve ever seen!

  12. hits that send their targets flying over miles of territory, through building after building

    In other words, it’s a moving version of World’s Loudest Comic.

    Nobody on screen could punch like Popeye, though, especially the twister punch that got used twice.

    But if you want actual good stunt fighting in Superman, you can’t do better than the serials with Kirk Allyn. You can slow those down as far as you can, and even the profile in-two shots look good. Those fists are missing by just a few inches. In the 2nd of those serials, Atom Man and Superman, Lyle Talbot nails the Luthor character; he just oozes superciliousness and contempt. Too bad all the other principal actors in that one (including Allyn) just mailed it in, even though they performed well in the 1st serial.

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