As I am sure many of you reading this article are aware, both critics and fans are evenly divided when it comes to how Man of Steel holds up as a film. It currently sports a 56 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with an 82 percent approval rating from audiences.
None of this is helped by the fact that writer Mark Waid, whose Superman story Birthright served as the basis for Man of Steel, has come out against the film, saying in his blog post that the film was “Utterly. Joyless.”
So why the great divide among fans, critics and even professionals in the comics industry? After looking through five other reviews of the film, four of them being professional reviews used by Rotten Tomatoes in determining its current rating, I now present to you my theory as to why reactions to Man of Steel have been so polarized.
The biggest factor lies in what the viewer was expecting going into the film. Many people were worried when Zack Snyder was announced to direct, with Christopher Nolan, fresh off The Dark Knight Rises, as producer and co-writer. As anybody will tell you, Superman is not Batman, as such the dark, brooding style of Nolan’s trilogy wouldn’t work as well with the more upbeat Superman.
On top of that, we also have audiences that view the Superman films from the 80s through nostalgia goggles, constantly citing Christopher Reeves as the best actor who has ever donned the cape and tights of the Man of Steel.
In the case of the future of DC’s cinematic universe, many people are citing Christopher Nolan’s lack of emotional involvement as a point of concern, as well as a primary factor for why Man of Steel turned out the way it did.
It’s a problem that can be found as early as 2008, with the sudden death of Heath Ledger, who played The Joker in The Dark Knight. Nolan was reluctant to make a third film as he and Ledger has become good friends during The Dark Knight‘s production.
However, when he wanted to make Inception, he struck a deal with Warner Brothers so that they would finance Inception in exchange for a third film. This led to The Dark Knight Rises, which people describe as a film with good casting, but too many underdeveloped plot threads and noticeable plot-holes.
Even after going on record that The Dark Knight Rises would be his last superhero film, Warner Brothers was keen on having Nolan write and direct a reboot of DC’s other iconic superhero, with Nolan staying on only as producer.
It should be noted that even at the press screening of Man of Steel, while Nolan was present, he declined any and all interviews on the red carpet, fueling further speculation about his lack of investment in the DC cinematic universe.
Moving forward, Nolan will either have to double-down on the franchise, or Warner Brothers will have to take the reins away from Nolan and instate an executive to oversee quality control and continuity like Kevin Feige does for Marvel.
As a result, you have audiences that are expecting a darker, more artistic take on Superman a la The Dark Knight, as well as having audiences that expect a return to the more light-hearted and campy styling of the Richard Donner films who seem to forget that Warner Brothers already tried that back in 2006 with little success.
Coming out of the film, you’ll find that it didn’t really deliver on either front. It was definitely a darker story as opposed to the Superman films of the past, but it didn’t perform an extensive character study like Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy either. Pre-established biases for Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan aside, audiences are left with a confused reaction as a result.
However, the biggest reason why there are people coming out in favor of the film is that they aren’t necessarily attached to the notions and expectations of the two aforementioned audience types, with the conflicting word of mouth only piquing their curiosity further.
While the overall verdict is that Man of Steel has some missed potential with the internet abuzz over the amount of collateral damage seen, it is still meeting with moderate success at the box office, with its current gross being over $129 million. All people can do at this point is watch to see if it will make any more money domestically as well as gauge its performance overseas.
Interesting Reviews from the ‘Man of Steel’
SLCC Globe Review: It may not be the Superman we know, but that’s the point
Richard Roeper’s Review: Man of Steel
Mountain Xpress Review: Man of Steel
Detroit News Review: Modern Superman myth gets a visual upgrade in well-made ‘Man of Steel’
The Atlantic Review: Man of Steel: The Dark Knightification of Superman
Review by Dylan Moses Griffin (Courtesy of Tumblr): Man of Steel