Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

June 14, 2013

Why so serious?

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:40 pm

June 14, 2013

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Zack Snyder

What I missed more than anything else in Man of Steel is the old-school humor and charm of the 1978 Superman film, starring Christopher Reeve, that many of us grew up watching. The new reboot, directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan, is a mostly somber affair – which shouldn’t really be surprising if you think about it, given that neither is known for his lightness of touch. Both, in fact, take their comic book culture very seriously. So don’t expect a quick dash into the phone booth, or a cat that needs rescuing from a tree. No! Our hero doesn’t even put on the suit until well over an hour into the movie.

The film’s overlong prologue sees Superman’s father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) face off against General Zod (Michael Shannon) on Krypton. Their planet is on the verge of destruction, and Jor-El dispatches his infant son Kal-El to Earth, narrowly avoiding the clutches of Zod, who vows revenge even as he takes Jor-El’s life. Far from dazzling us with its Avatar like beasts and otherworldly production design, this early sequence is weighed down by some incoherent babble about a Kryptonian codex.

The next time we meet our protagonist, he’s a grown man. Clark Kent, played with admirable earnestness by Henry Cavill, is first seen making a rescue from a flaming oil rig at sea. What follow are a handful of moving flashbacks to his troubled childhood and his adolescent years where he struggles to come to terms with his special powers, even as his adoptive father (Kevin Costner) advises him to keep a lid on them because he believes the world isn’t ready for it.

Back in the present day, Clark is a drifter whose powers prove hard to hide, because people invariably get themselves into trouble, and he can’t stop himself from helping them. It doesn’t take long for Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) to discover his secret. But before she can go public with her story, along comes Zod with a cunning plan to turn Earth into the new Krypton. That’s the cue for a roughly 40-minute action finale in which Superman and Zod have a go at each other, virtually crumbling an entire city, and turning you deaf in the process.

What anchors this noisy, humorless film are some terrific performances by its cast. Russell Crowe plays Jor-El like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, showing up every now and then to dispense valuable life lessons to his grown-up son. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark’s Earth parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, bring warmth and depth to the story. Meanwhile, Amy Adams is a very different Lois Lane to the Margot Kidder version, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who can hardly be fooled by thick-rimmed glasses and a side parting. Her Lois is Superman’s emotional equivalent, and Adams brings both heart and smarts to the part.

As Superman’s nemesis, Michael Shannon makes a credible Zod, his motives rooted in the real and the relatable, rather than just being another villain with a plan to take over the world. Playing Superman himself, although he’s never once referred to by that name in this film, Henry Cavill brings his chiseled good looks and an inherent charisma to the role. Cavill isn’t required to flex his comic chops here (perhaps in the sequel?) but he doesn’t once trip as the brooding lost boy.

Man of Steel leans more towards Nolan’s angsty Dark Knight movies than Marvel’s playful Avengers. Yet it doesn’t have the great ideas of that Batman trilogy. What it does have – despite all its shortcomings – is genuine awe and wonder in the bits where Superman takes flight. For those portions, for the charming new leading man, and some solid special effects, it’s worth a watch.

I’m going with three out of five for Man of Steel. A little fun, a little lightness couldn’t have hurt.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. dude i was ur fan but after reading this review i cant disagree with u more. u must ve seen the old reeves superman movies but this one is one among the best. i ve read every single superman comic that has published. and trust me this serious take on superman is actually wat this generation can attach themselves too.for me this movie wasnt as great as the batman triolgy but it forms a solid base for a great franchise. it easily deserved a 4 out five considering how u gave yeh jawani hey dewanni 3 out of 5. this movie literally shows how the really man of steel wud ve felt abt this world and trusrt me its refreshing. get ur act together man.
    come on

    Comment by ashish — June 15, 2013 @ 12:29 am

  2. So you missed superman saving cats from the trees?
    Reboot = In serial fiction, to reboot means to discard all continuity in an established series in order to recreate a character, timeline, and/or backstory from the beginning.
    4/5 from me, plus I noticed four easter eggs. One with reference to batman which you didn’t. 😛

    Comment by steel of man — June 15, 2013 @ 2:24 am

  3. hey rajeev…. consider rating movies on a scale of 1 to 10… it doesnt look good when you rate Ra.one 2.5 and MOS 3….

    Comment by raavan — June 15, 2013 @ 3:36 am

  4. Haven’t watched it yet. But having read this review, I can see how you fell for the silly, shallow, pretending-to-be-hip one-liners and gags of The Avengers. And not to forget, the incoherent babble about Tesseract or some such shit and the mindless, tedious, CGI-laden mayhem that formed the second half of The Avengers. That, sir, was one ostentatious bore of a movie.

    Comment by Rush — June 15, 2013 @ 7:50 am

  5. Superman’s name was infact mentioned in the movie. Just saying. That apart, i found the movie wonderful. It wasn’t too gimmicky but the action scenes and the storyline, although it takes time to build up, is thoroughly enjoyable.

    Comment by Aditya — June 15, 2013 @ 8:29 am

  6. i agree with ashish completely

    Comment by tejas — June 15, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

  7. 3 out of 5 because of the lack of the humor of Superman 1? That’s the reason Superman has become a joke all these years. Good thing they took the serious route.

    Comment by Shashank Duggi — June 15, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

  8. u r right Rajeev. i watch movies based on your reviews and i wud rather say u r one f d best in the arena. Its basically ur review and u need not bother others commenting on your reviews

    Thumps up and Move on Rajeev .. we r with you !!!!! — a fan from Kerala

    Comment by deepak — June 15, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

  9. Rajeev Masand you have been the greatest critic i have ever known, but this review was a little bit disappointing. When you reviewed Hangover 3 there was a line you quoted in the end, it said “Keep your expectation in check and you will not be disappointed” and that is why i consider you the best. But in this review it seem you were too carried away with what Superman was in your childhood, but this is a fresh start and I think there is little times for jokes and fun when a new superhero is trying to save the world while fighting his nemesis. What you criticize in this flick is what i find to be the best part of this movie. This movie deserves at least 4 or rather 4.5 because of brilliant performance, subtle 3D effects and a great story.

    I am sorry i have to say this but I think you should watch this again and even change your ratings cause Man Of steel is next best thing happened to superheroes after Dark Knight trilogy!

    Comment by Yash Knight — June 15, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

  10. this is a very low rating , especially considering u gave The Amazing Spiderman 3.5 stars which was so repetitive being such an early reboot with one of the most cliche villain….also there is no mention about background music in your review , man of steel has such a wonderful score composed by hans zimmer which really adds value to the film…it deserves at least 3.5 ….and it wasn’t completely devoid of laughs , one cannot expect a reboot to have exactly the same tone as the previous series….

    Comment by kanv — June 15, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

  11. Hello Rajeev …..I agree with ashish…….

    Comment by Raghu — June 15, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

  12. “Playing Superman himself, although he’s never once referred to by that name in this film, Henry Cavill brings his chiseled good looks and an inherent charisma to the role.”

    You need to see the movie again. He is referred as superman in a scene where soldier tells the General that Superman is with them and General asks Superman???

    To this the soldier replies “That Alien sir”

    Comment by Antony — June 16, 2013 @ 12:10 am

  13. Completely agree with your review of Man of Steel. This is why i wait for your reviews every Friday. Miss them so much when they don’t.

    Comment by Yash — June 16, 2013 @ 12:49 am

  14. Just for the sake…that you had given the boring Go Goa Gone a 3….you should not have given the same to Man of Steel! Rest is matter of your opinion…in mine..it was a great movie! Action probably too much…but amazing reboot to the Superman series! Had the Nolan signature all throughout the movie!

    Comment by Mubin — June 16, 2013 @ 2:36 am

  15. The only thing which concerns me is that you mentioned this one movie with old Superman, The dark Knight & The Avengers in one single small article.

    Comment by Abhishek — June 16, 2013 @ 3:54 am

  16. It seemed quite long a movie to begin with. Lot of emphasis given on the origin to build up the story. Superman seems to get hulk smashed most of the time. The cons were that the movie seemed to jump quite a bit and there were logical gaps (yes, apart from the fact that this is fictional). The movie could have done better in terms of flow. I could not help but compare Snyder’s work to Nolan where the latter seems to be a master when it comes to weaving the flow of a movie. It could have also used more wit and humour in its script. The last fight sequence was pretty good. Overall, we all know that this movie had a lot of hype attached to it so one automatically tends to expect more. I would say its a decent one time watch

    Comment by Raj Juneja — June 16, 2013 @ 9:56 am

  17. I agree with the review..Rather a 2.5 star rating wud be good as the 2nd half was too stretched..
    Superman returns was a better one that this IMO

    Comment by KJ — June 16, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

  18. Rajeev i always watch ur review before goong any movie..after reading ur review i thought it will b ordinarry movie but but wait for it..it was thr best superman movie wid proper story..4 out of 5 ..u r wrong this tym bravo

    Comment by Chandan — June 16, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

  19. This movie deserves 3.5 out of 5

    Comment by vivek — June 16, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

  20. Hey Rajeev,
    I am also your fan, the way you review movies, I am big fan of Batman, but also Superman. I agree it was not as great as TDK Trilogy, but it was really epic and generation of today easily can attach with this Superman. I also saw reeves superman, but it was audience of that time, that makes him success, personally i didn’t so much like reeves sups. This is far better then previous.
    Also as ashish says, if you are giving jawani diwani, kind of bullshit 3 out of 5, you better think again before giving star to a sups movies. I am not watching indian movies these days because they all are waste of time, nonsense plot with nonsense acting, except few. Please Sir, don’t disappoint me, as i previously says, I AM BIG FAN OF YOUR REVIEW.

    Comment by Kishan — June 17, 2013 @ 8:13 am

  21. It doesn’t deserve three stars also. Two would have been fine. Such a waste for so much alteration. Nothing special i could find in this new reboot. I stick on to old superman screen played by Mario puzo. Current superman is fighting on left over sets of Inception. And the climax where General Zod finds his Nemesis so funny, it makes us think such a powerful villain dies so cheaply. Not even Bollywood movies have such a climax. Few moments are good like “You got yourself a suit” and few more cant remember.Director Zack has given Superman’s oh sorry his so called Man of Steel’s red underwear to his 300 heroes i believe…

    Comment by Sudeep shetty — June 17, 2013 @ 9:15 am

  22. Dear Rajeev, I’ve been following your show in CNN IBN for a long time now. . i agree with you on most of the times but i dont agree with your take on Man of steel . . Just because Reeve’s superman has humor and the older generations enjoyed it, we dont need to view this version of Superman with the same glasses. .

    I agree that this movie lacks the ideas of Batman triology but still i dont want to compare this movie with any others. . If i go with a binary ranking . . .I go with 1 of ( 0/1 )

    Comment by Udaya Sameer — June 17, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

  23. agreed completely rajeev.. we need to see superman save the world and answer calls of distress.. this seemed more of an alien affair than the classic superman.. what can be interesting will be the film that follows this as now hes settled in earth.. has a girlfriend.. has merged into the society as a journalist and humans look at superman as a friend.. in the next one.. he better entertain us more and save people from crashing airplanes or roller coasters.. the special effects in the movie were fantastic though and its worth a watch.. but not as much ‘fun’ as superman should be.. cheers!

    Comment by dj — June 17, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

  24. thumbs up for your review!!
    when we looked forward to a superman movie from Nolan, we did expect much more sensible stuff…
    with such a sensible batman series to his credit, he shouldn’t have chosen the unrealistic superman series as his next in first hand…

    what was the movie all about? .. aren’t we tired of this same old superhero going cheesy over some unknown girl (he was ok to hide his powers when his dad was getting killed, but couldn’t resist curing a girl who got hit by some minor injury ?? )

    the same old story and narration..only thing that’s got better is the special effects..

    what concerns me more is not the movie getting great reviews, but that happening even when its no better than the 2006 superman returns! (I dint mean that neither of them are bad, but the Nolan tag giving a ‘same again’ movie unnecessary hype is not fair)

    Comment by shyam — June 18, 2013 @ 12:04 am

  25. What about the interesting point?
    the BGM of the movie?

    Comment by Naveen — June 18, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  26. Sir I think this movie has satisfied our need of action in the superman movies , and the narration style was also good . The Only thing that i felt as the minus in the film was that during the action scenes i was not able to catch up as it was too fast but this cannot be considered as a big negative . And you mentioned about the fun element missing in this film , i think if it was included it would have spoilt the mood of the movie as there was a lot happening in Kal-El’s Life.( A lot of Bad things ) .I think the director wanted to show the more human side of Kal-El which was touching ( the father-son relationship ,the boy fighting hard to be a part of the human race)i think he did successfully.Hope that you read this and give a response

    Comment by Sidharth M Nair — June 18, 2013 @ 11:29 pm

  27. SIR can in anyway we make movies of such standards in the near future and is there any chance that we can make our films reach the international audience in a manner these hollywood films reach them .What do you think is the X-factor for this?

    Comment by Sidharth M Nair — June 18, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

  28. Honestly, I don’t think this movie deserved anything, It is as bad as a movie could be. I often asked myself, If they could spoil a classic like Superman? The answer to that lies in Zack Sydner’s Man of Steel. Not that I expected much from the director after his failed attempts at Watchmen and Sucker Punch. Yes, 300, a lucky fluke. But, overall, this movie is nothing but a bunch of buildings collapsing after the interval. And a dark Superman. I mean, Come on! How can you make Superman dark? The fight scenes on Kryton are unnecessary and Russel Crowe has been given more than the required footage. Its more of Earth Trek than Superman! I was genuinely disappointed with this, and especially with the fact that not once did I feel that goosebumps you do when a superhero takes his first flight, when a superhero covers that screen and you feel his excitement in your nerves. This movie was just dull, plain, illogical and overall a disappointment. I would give this movie 2 stars and only and only for its special effects.

    Comment by Rohan — June 21, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  29. stupid a** superman!

    Comment by Gururaj — June 21, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

  30. Disappointment. I think their only concern was to make something to look good in a 3D room. Where were the dialogues? The characters development? How tiring it was to watch more than 2 hours of only special effects… I won´t mind going to a movie just to watch Henri Cavil but It would be nice to have something more to look forward. Lets hope the sequence is better because this one is a movie to forget.

    Comment by Ana — June 22, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

  31. Why so serious?Mr.Masand just because superhero movies like Iron Man etc contain wit and humor doesn’t mean you forget the main story..Yes a little bit of humor is necessary but there are few funny scenes in case you forgot..like the one with lois lane interrogating ..
    The same case was with the dark knight rises..you said that tom hardy wasn’t as good as heath ledger..but guess what..everyone knew that..what heath ledger did was once in a lifetime acting role , it cannot be repeated..
    I think you should really start reading comics and understand the ‘real’ meaning of superheroes..

    Comment by Devanshi Dash — June 23, 2013 @ 3:43 am

  32. Hi rajeev..i agree with few of opinions mentioned above…this movie certainly deserve betterthan 3 rating considering movie worst than this u hv given 2.5 or sometimes 3 ratings .. Though i personally feel movie could hv been better but its keep u engage till climax action sequence where suddenly every thing become so loud and chaotic. Christopher nolan has gr8 sense for cinema and take forward this franchise to whole new level where legend of superman may even surpass what nolan has created in form of batman..:-)

    Comment by aditya — June 23, 2013 @ 7:08 am

  33. I think rajeev is right !
    nolan n david saw transfomers the other day n adapted it..
    if u see zod = sentinel prime , henry = optimus prime, saving earth , alien attacks .
    hollywood is out of ideas , this is like the 4/5 th movie earth is attack by aliens, primary weapons , like transfromers , avengers , n so on.
    i was dissappointed by hans usually his music is awesome .
    only good thing was done by Cinematography :Amir Mokri.
    repeating his work fr transformers!
    MAN OF SHIT ! i love superman more than wolverine, miss u brandon routh .

    Comment by oscar — June 29, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

  34. Just saw the film… yes it lacks some inherent humour , and not as playful as Avengers but surely a worthy watch.Music syncs with movie cordially.I enjoyed most of the portions and it seemed a bit overlong fight between Kal and Zod, But what if we see it as a whole new one but not a reboot.?
    Because comparison takes dig on both the sides and you have to get divided for the best of the 2 films (this and 1978).
    I do see Man of Steel as a worthy entertainer even if the age of Superman is 75…… 🙂

    Comment by Sasi_galaxy — July 3, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

  35. Rajeev , i am myself a purist when it comes to superman. Before giving such a review do look at the context of the superman movies. There is a lot of research put into hollywood films before the production.

    In case of superman, if you look at a few recent animated films and series like :-
    1. Superman vs the Elite
    2. All Star Superman
    3. Superman : Doomsday
    4. Young Justice
    5. Justice League / Justice League Unlimited

    Barring the old classic superman films, and the comics.. many of which are skewed, not going into Torquasm Vo (kryptonian martial art for telekinesis), & Horu-Kanu (kryptonian martial art for pressure points)

    All follow one rule : Superman Does not Kill!!
    It was bold of nolan n snyder to go beyond superman’s defined history, they showcased his internal conflict of battle between his darkside n light. Superman for the first time was shown loosing control. It was a bold move for them to move away from the generic lethal kryptonite, and mr. kent being aww so perfect.. with his fotress of solitude.

    Mr. Nolan’s Superman, was by far the most human one it seems. I do not think we should shrug his hard work under the carpet n give a measley 3/5 stars.

    Comment by Arjun Choudhry — July 5, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

  36. Here’s What I Thought!

    Comment by Sohan Surag — July 22, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

  37. The Christopher Reeve Superman films were absolutely awesome and the new take on Superman is also very good.

    Both have offered different visions of the character which is good, otherwise you end up with the same film. The only thing missing from Man of Steel was the classic John Williams theme.

    I give Man of Steel 4.5 out of 5 !!!

    Comment by Rehan — August 3, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

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