‘Man of Steel’ Reviews: Is This the Best Superman Movie Ever?

'Man of Steel' Reviews: Is This the Best Superman Movie Ever?

Most reviewers think Zack Snyder's interpretation soars

Director Zack Snyder promised a grittier and more realistic take on Superman with “Man of Steel” and for the most part critics are hailing his 21st re-interpretation of the comic book icon.

The Warner Bros. release hits theaters on Friday, where it is expected to dominate the weekend box office. Henry Cavill stars as the red underwear-less Superman, Michael Shannon is the menacing General Zod, Amy Adams portray's Lois Lane and Russell Crowe plays the biological father of the defender of truth, justice and yada, yada, yada.

Also read: Why Henry Cavill's Superman Doesn't Wear Undies Anymore?

“Man of Steel” scored a strong 71 percent “fresh” rating on critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and that number could soar higher still as more reviewers weigh in during the week. It's worth noting that the general assessment is in line with “Superman Returns,” which may have disappointed at the box office, but did garner a solid 76 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

See photos: 35 Star-Studded, Super Dramatic ‘Man of Steel’ Images of Henry Cavill & Cast

TheWrap's resident critical sage Alonso Duralde wasn't ready to elevate “Man of Steel” into the pantheon of all-time great comic book films, but he did praise Snyder's approach to the material and seemed genuinely excited by the prospect of future Superman adventures.

“This ‘Man of Steel’ flies, even if it doesn’t quite soar,” Duralde wrote. “Snyder’s direction feels far more assured than it did in the misfires of ‘Watchmen’ and especially ‘Sucker Punch,’ and now that the requisite first-movie origin story has been accomplished, the movie lays the ground for what could be some thrilling sequels featuring a Superman who’s both exactly what people want to see and a significantly different take on a well-established character.”

Also read: ‘Man of Steel’ Review: This Grimmer ‘Superman’ Might Not Soar, But It Flies

The New York Post's Lou Lumenick also seemed impressed by Snyder's darker interpretation  of the material, and praised the dimple-chinned Cavill as having the same charisma as the late, beloved Christopher Reeve.

For Lumenick, pairing Snyder's eye-popping visuals and rapid-fire editing with producer Christopher Nolan's more restrained approach to story-telling, reaped dividends.

“I’ve not been a fan of director Zack Snyder (‘Sucker Punch’') in the past, but under Nolan’s supervision he largely lays off the ADD editing and does a highly respectable, and sometimes inspired job of retooling the basic Superman mythology in ‘Man of Steel,'”Lumenick wrote.

Time Out London's Dave Calhoun groused that the film's final battle was a whiff, but praised the middle section of the movie that finds Superman grappling with his powers and responsibilities.

“‘Man of Steel’ feels both modern and traditional – a halfway house between the broodier Nolan way of shaking things up and the louder, bone-crunching style that director Zack Snyder established with films such as ‘300’ and ‘Sucker Punch,'” Calhoun wrote. “‘Man of Steel’ is punchy, engaging and fun, even if it slips into a final 45 minutes of explosions and fights during which reason starts to vanish and the science gets muddy.”

Maybe it was the film's heavy-handed Christ allegories that changed his mind, but the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy admits that his initial prejudice that this was a resurrection job best skipped, were brushed aside by Snyder and company's fresh take on the well-worn material.

“Zack Snyder’s huge, backstory-heavy extravaganza is a rehab job that perhaps didn’t cry out to be done but proves so overwhelmingly insistent in its size and strength that it’s hard not to give in,” McCarthy wrote. “Warner Bros.’ new tentpole should remain firmly planted around the world for much of the summer.”

For the Associated Press’ Jake Coyle all the much-vaunted realism translated into a ponderous bore. Would it have killed Supes to crack a smile, he wondered.

“Snyder’s joyless film, laden as if composed of the stuff of its hero’s metallic nickname, has nothing soaring about it,” Coyle wrote. “Flying men in capes is grave business in Snyder’s solemn Superman. ‘Man of Steel,’ an origin tale of the DC Comics hero, goes more than two hours before the slightest joke or smirk.”

The Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek saw a film that came tantalizingly close to being good. The performances were strong, as were some of the set pieces, but she wrote that the real problem is the comic book genre itself.

“These movies are no longer driven by characters, though they feature some of the best-loved figures in the universe (whether it’s Marvel’s, or in this case, DC’s),” Zacharek wrote. “They’re all about plot mechanics and increasingly elaborate special effects, though they pretend to tangle with the serious, life-and-death issues that end up being these movies’ big bugaboo.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/woop.dedoo.1 Woop DeDoo

    I clicked on this link from Twitter partly because the title of the article confused me. I just looked at Rotten Tomatoes ten minutes ago. The reviews are surprisingly mixed, and even the positive reviews aren't exactly glowing. So I'm very uncertain that it's better than even the first two Christopher Reeve movies.
    I WANT it to be, but….

    • McMacBack

      You obviously need to learn how to read. 50% of the positive reviews are calling it an epic masterpiece. Check out hitfix's review, or IGN.

      • J Barnhart

        So do you…on RT, as Woop has pointed out, the majority of the reviews are “meh, but the Batman guy did it so…”

        No “epic masterpieces”…for instance “[Snyder] does a highly respectable, and sometimes inspired job…” and that's good enough for “fresh”

        Oh there are a few “The world's greatest (whatever)…” by minor reviewers, trying to get theirs in first…

        McMac, in high-school, 60% is a C…in University it's a D, at least where I went to school. So depending on the source, RT considers a C+ to mean “you get credit for showing up, but don't try to get into the next level…”…Rotten.

        Back to my first point, we'll see what the major reviewers come up with. So far the ones that have weighed in have said “meh…it's okay”…combined with those early reviews, Superman has gone from 82% to 72% on RT…in one day…
        That keeps up…Rotten.

        • J Barnhart

          Oh and IGN is your example? I could go on about selling video games and not selling advertising because you won't promote , but I'll guarantee that several toy manufacturers give the exact same review…for the same reasons

          • McMacBack

            don't you have more J-Lo articles to comment on? Come on short bus, spread yourself out a little bit.

        • McMacBack

          60% is a C+ where you came from? WOW, low expectations, but based on your reply, I am not surprised. 82% is a C+ at any school that doesn't have short buses drop off the kids. But hey, your proof is it's gone from 82% to 72%? Look at the total reviews. There are 32 counted so far. A film like this will garner 140+ reviews at it's end. I could name multiple sites that call the film great, but I don't want to strain your brain with all those links.

          go check out Drew over at Hitfix, he is no “minor” reviewer. But I'm sure you praise the words of Indie Wire and other “up their own butt” sites

          • J Barnhart

            Now at 71%, 5 out of 4 Top Critics say rotten…your basing your “facts” on minor reviewers…like Hitfix and IGN…And Indie Wire is another, randomly picked example…but it was a POSITIVE review…by your standards AND RT, “fresh”…in other words, YOU are the one that seems to “praise the words of Indie Wire and other “up their own butt” sites”…Indie Wire is supposedly on YOUR side…with a “meh” review

            Apparently you can't use a computer well enough to find Rotten Tomatoes, the MoS reviews there, or the review that I quoted…can't “strain your brain” I guess.
            And since you didn't understand it…I said that at a higher learning level a 60% is a D…you think a D movie is good…LOLOLOL
            (I was suggesting that you were so immature that you hadn't figured that out yet)

          • McMacBack

            5 out of 4 say rotten? What??? Man, you are the worst kind of troll, idiotic and nonsensical. Seriously short bus… enough embarrassing yourself

          • J Barnhart

            pardon, 5 out of 9 (meant to write 5 TO 4…at the time)
            now 10 out of 18 say…fresh!
            Of course it's down to 65%…you were right about counting more reviews, happy now?…LOLOLOL
            Oh, and I drove to high-school…before you were born
            6% to go…now go do your homework

          • McMacBack

            SHORT BUS!!!!

          • J Barnhart

            60%…so close…
            I've been pushing you a bit and I want to apologize. I finally figured out the “short bus” thing. I'm told that where you go to school, those buses are equipped to deal with students with special needs…(This also explains your problem with grading) Just because you've been taunted by other people, don't let it get you down. “Short bus” means NOTHING to most people, including me.

          • J Barnhart

            And there it is…58%, ROTTEN…just like your opinions.

          • J Barnhart


          • dd

            Aah McMacBack, you went a school where 82% is C+? No wonder the contents of your posts then.

        • Ronnie Coleman

          Rotten Tomatoes hates good movies, they love bad ones. look up any good movie, it will be rated low, now look at ‘superman returns’ it has like a 80% approval on RT. they are paid stooges who hate good movies

    • McMacBack

      and many of the negative ones, aren't even negative. Indiewire gave it a C+ but RT counted it as rotten????

    • thardmail

      I loved the first two Christopher Reeve movies and have hoped for 2 years or more that this new one would compare. It does and I loved it just as much. It is very different but just as good as those two.

    • dd

      The first two Chris reeves movies are still the best. Even III is cool because of Richard Pryor and the Man from U.N.C.L.E, though the story was silly.

      The latest one is not even worthy of Superman IV.

    • Ronnie Coleman

      it was absolutely amazing, see it in theatres. it's a great movie, i like how i was actually interested in the opening, krypton looks beautiful and was a great scene. the fighting felt real, it wasn't fake , and actually looked like how superman would fight. this movie was 100x better than the crap superman returns movie. watch it, you wont regret it. critics dont know a good movie if it bit them in the butt. they gave a foreign movie in chinese a 10/10 (possibly the most boring movie ever) because it had a ‘artistic storyline’

  • Caley McGuire

    A film like this used to be special. . an event, even. Thanks to deep mining, the comic book genre has been overdone. They're all the same now and there's another one coming out again next week.

    • Graham

      I couldn't agree with you more, it was like seeing Transformers, Iron Man or any other major blockbuster film
      with fast moving LOUD action… the story line was as thin as paper, all show and no substance. It
      just was kinda cold and lifeless for me..
      You should leave a movie with some sense of an emotional attachment, these type of movies are dumbed down to appeal to a dumbed down audience.

      • Ronnie Coleman

        I thought the movie was beautiful, the scenery was absolutely amazing, dumb people will watch movies no matter how bad the quality of the special effects are because they can't appreciate art. the fighting in this movie was perfect, seemed real, everything flowed well. The only problem I have with this is that they relied too much on soldiers/government that wasnt really believable at all. what, did only the usa had soldiers to spare to stop world destruction? lol.

  • EaglesBecomeVultures

    btw, the 70% tomatometer is just thumbs ups vs thumbs downs

    The RT average score is 7.4 atm, which is higher than Superman Returns’ 7 (and higher than IM3's 6.9)

    (God I wish RT would just change their site)

    • roger

      I thought I saw an 8.3 on imbd.com, a gauge I usually go by.

      However, Parker's 6.1 was off in my book. I would have given it a 7+

  • JoeS

    As often with genre movies on Rotten Tomatoes, there is a huge divide as of now between their “Top Critics” and the more fan-based critics. The overall grade (as of this writing) is 71%, but among “Top Critics” it is a pretty poor 44%. And, the more-Top Critics minded Metacritic has the film at only 62%.

    So, if you tend to be more high-brow, you might not care so much for this film, but, Fans seem to like it.

  • http://twitter.com/JCAtom JC Atom

    Critics go in presupposing that something like this is bad. The comment that it was ‘hard not to give in’ kinda says it all. Many didn't want to like it in the first place.

    Critics are tainted and enjoyment seems to be the least important element to them. Or, enjoyment is the hardest thing for them to achieve on their own after all the movies they watch and then discuss and analyze the life out of.

    This is a comic book movie about a Moses/Christ figure. Not that the movie inserted those themes, they were there to begin with in the source material.

    They panned Watchmen ‘because’ it was a near-perfect movie version of a near-perfect graphic novel. They should sit back and relax on movies like these, which aren't trying to be high Art–which are there to inspire, awe, and mostly just entertain. Maybe they should let someone else deal with it if they're really going to bring that much baggage into a sticky, Coke and popcorn littered movie theatre.

    Watchmen did have very artistic elements in both the source material and the movie. But there were criticisms that it was too much like the novel–that it should have been changed up more?!? The whole idea was that Watchmen was in movie form.

    What's silly is how they treat movies like these as if they should be held to a college Humanities classroom standard.

    It's Superman!

  • darkie1973

    All I keep hearing from critics is how it's dark,… how there are no jokes,…. basically, how it's not Donner's Superman (although, I'm sure these same people would have been panning that movie in the summer of '78),…. get over it people! America ain't the same place in 2013 that it was in 1978. I don't wanna see Donner's Superman!! Didn't ‘Superman Returns’ pretty much prove that neither does anyone else?!

  • debrawells

    This movie is being so unfairly dismissed out of hand because it's not jokey, not light, doesn't have a chatty hero, has the birth mother of the protagonist “too old” and other specious evaluations.
    Every worthy story can be viewed from more than one perspective. The crafting of this introductory story has laid the foundation for a fuller treatment hereafter. Often the second film in a franchise has the bugs ironed out and outshines its predecessor: “X2”, “T2”, “Spidey 2”, and, especially “TDK”, are notable examples; some even say that Donner's “Superman II” was the better of the first two.
    Now that I have seen “MoS” with the negative points in mind (unbidden), and found most of them were often unfairly skewed, I'm going to see it again, free of baggage, and will probably appreciate it all the more.
    The Tomatometer is not the major arbiter of all things pertaining to film, though its reviews are often unfairly weighted. See this. Make up you own minds and envision the possibilities of where the story can now go.

  • Mark Badgerow

    I loved it….. gonna be hard to beat this movie this summer.

    • unmec kipass

      bziiiit *sponsored comment detected*

  • carmine

    The movie was pretty good…its 30 years up from the original Superman movies…I enjoyed it..however, the movie
    does has some dull moments to it…I was expecting more for 3D.. Batman was a lot better!

  • roger

    I saw it with my grandson yesterday and we both loved it.
    It was flashy and clever, cool and touching.

  • Jim

    Wow!! I have been a Superman fan for 30 years and this movie is easily the best of them all. Mr. Shannon gives an absolutely outstanding performance as General Zod (sorry Mr. Stamp). To Mr. Cavill I say, Bravo!! I can't wait to see it again.

    • unmec kipass

      I can almost see the “sponsored comment” label

      • dd

        Right on bro, a buck a post.

  • Dale

    For me, it's the worst. Same level as Superman III. But H Cavill is great.

  • Dale

    I wonder why his cape is so long this time — past floor length.

  • bronte austen

    what is “more realistic” than computer generated imagery? Toying with the iconic story line was out of bounds for me also. Where was Jimmy Olsen? I thought the cast was superb! But I read the original comic books and have seen every Superman movie. Something about this one just did not cut it for me.

    • Ronnie Coleman

      i guess you would prefer they use cardboard as mountain scenes as opposed to beautiful artwork and CGI, which is the most beautiful form of art. you're one of those losers who prefers boring movies with boring special effects, no fightings, just to have superman in underpants.

  • ad

    The ending with no one recognising superman was the most ridiculous thing i've ever seen. He even keeps real name. Poor story and I kept getting reminded of The Matrix Revolutions (also awful) and Independence day in places with the effects. Kevin Costner was good though.

    • guest

      Actually Lois Lane recognises him…she obviously knows superman is clark kent from her investigations….when he comes to the office,after he is introduced by laurence fishburne,she says”welcome to the planet” which obviously hints that she knows he is superman and of his alien origin

  • John

    The movie was ok. Honestly the final fight scene dragged on way too long and enough of the first person, shaky camera experience. I don't know about anyone else but many movies are moving towards this type of filming and its annoying especially when sitting in front of huge screen. It's downright nauseating!

  • Gula

    The fight scenes between the 2 supermen were annoyingly long. They went through buildings in all kinds of ways without one of them dying or losing a limb. No one bled to death—they're both supermen. One claimed to be a trained warrior. Then what? He died from a borken neck! Ridiculously laughable.

  • Mark

    This is just the start of the superman story, its why it shows at the end of the movie where his gonna be working at the daily planet.

  • Jackie Jormpjomp

    It's not 71% on rt. it's down under 60% now.

  • Craig

    Wait, did I miss something? I thought Zack Snyder directed the movie, but I swear it had to be Michael Bay.

  • leanton31

    Best super hero movie ever in my book!

  • unmec kipass

    Errr no its not, it's shitty as hell, its not superman, and everybody knows that. Unless they are paid to say nice things of course

  • Karl

    I liked the movie and saw it in Frederick, MD. My brother saw it north of Detroit and we both had one major complaint – it was way, way to loud. People literally had their fingers in their ears. For me also I thought the last big fight scene could have just been eliminated.

  • James Smith

    last time i checked these movies are supposed to be exciting and action packed….With a character like superman, you have to do something different and change it up and thats what they did here. The question is can they fine tune what needs to be tweaked in the sequel that will get people more excited. Superman is back.

  • Supe Fan

    This new Superman movie is not the best one. It's the third best one. Superman and Superman II will NEVER be outdone period! Man of Steel was good, yes, but it's not even comparable to the first original two. No one will ever top Christoper Reeve and Margot Kidders chemistry.

  • dd

    Love Superman. Watched all the movies. Had to watch this one as it was Superman, though I was rather disappointed with Superman Returns. Was worried cause Chris Nolan has a hand in it and the last 2 Batmans were not very entertaining.
    I should have stayed home, the least entertaining Superman since S IV, and even that still had its high points. Nolan should seriously considered taking anti depressants. He is sinking and loves to spend millions to take others on the trip with him.

    The good thing about the movie? Russel Crowe, Zod and the CGI. Bring back Chris Reeve for Supes though.

  • kcray34

    That's why I liked Ebert. Even though he was tough on a lot of movies he generally tried to be on the movie's side. He tried to enjoy it and didn't worry about “giving in”. The critics going after Man of Steel seem incapable of enjoying a movie (it is just entertainment after all) no matter how well it is made.
    And as for this Duralde guy, anyone who calls Watchmen a “misfire” has no clue about movies.

  • Ronnie Coleman