Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by David S. Goyer
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, and Russell Crowe
A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
This is getting very opinionated reviews, and I should warn you up front that I’m playing the Kryptonian devil’s advocate. Gone are the cheeky Chris Reeves one-liners about Lois’ panties. Gone are the disjointed Brandon Roush plot killers, gone is…Superman’s unwavering sense of global accountability? In its place, Goyer and Snyder deliver a gritty, brooding, New 52-ish spin on our favorite iconic caped crusader. Skipping a hashed out, hard to improve on, Smallville origin story, Man of Steel, instead, tells us the story of Clark’s life in a series of flashbacks. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner portray Clark’s loving Earth parents who only want what’s best for their unexpected alien son. They know he’s going to be an outcast, a weirdo; something to be feared out of a lack of understanding. Johnathan even mentions the huge burden Clark must live with until he’s free to announce himself and his power to the world. We see young Clark doing what his inherent will won’t let him turn a blind eye to, regardless of the public disclosure of his hidden power. He’s saving the kids on the school bus from drowning, he’s rescuing oil rig workers later in his adulthood; he can’t avoid his life’s calling, and that makes for a cool angle for a new Superman movie.
Russell Crowe makes an awesome Jor-El, even delivering the character’s monologue from Grant Morrison’s beloved All-Star Superman comic. As we watch the impending end of Kal-El’s parents and home planet, I was touched by the pain and reluctant hope his parents had to endure. It didn’t take long for the film to show me just how new and cool Krypton’s alien technology could be. It’s a narrow line filmmakers have to tread when it comes to satisfying hardcore comic fans along with summer multiplex goers, and Man of Steel seems like it’s doing both. Krypton is dying, duh, and after depleting its natural resources, it’s doomed. General Zod, a man born specifically to command the planet’s armed forces, attempts a military coup, only to end up killing Jor-El and finding himself banished to a terribly foreboding Phantom Zone. He, of course, vows to find the escaping infant no matter where he travels. The destruction of his home planet aids in his escape, allowing the recently banished to eventually find the 30-year-old native Kryptonian. I admit that I didn’t care for Zod as the bad guy when the news broke, but Michael Shannon was fantastic as the hardline patriot. Man, this is shaping up to a long ass review already.
Henry Cavill was born to play Superman. His musclebound physique and square jaw were light years away from Reeves or Roush. No disrespect to Reeves, I love love love Superman 1 & 2. The British-born Cavill looks and sounds like the man of steel should. He embodies the gentle demeanor we all expect, and makes for a great hero when it comes time to embrace all of his ridiculous power. I had goosebumps when heat vision was used as a weapon for the first time. In some regards, this was the Superman film that geeks have waited their entire life for. The hyper-fast fighting style was bad ass, showing us just what brawls should be like when these characters drop their planetary gauntlets. The last hour of the film felt like an insurance agent’s nightmare come to life.
In Superman’s vow to save lives, I have to wonder how many people perished from toppling buildings, cars used as weapons, explosions, and missile like impacts from both Zod and Superman being pummeled through offices and homes. If anything needed to be scaled back, it was the amount of sheer carnage in the end. Most fans sat hypnotized as streets and building crumbled under fists and fire – Metropolis took some damage and then some.
Now, the thing most people are crying foul over is how Supes deals with his new enemy. It becomes very clear that Zod can and does justify his carnage and murder for his cause. He’s very open and insistent about it. Superman realized that in order to save lives (if anyone lived through the Metropolis beat down), he must do the unthinkable and kill Zod – and kill he does. Super muscles flex and a bone-rending crack spills from the theater surround sound. I heard people gasping, uttering soft several hushed responses like “No way,,,” from the crowd. Way. Much like the DC Injustice story in which an ultimately pissed off Superman punches The Joker’s heart out of his body, Clark must act so, and break his own law of never killing. Hey, this is some interplanetary mad man, he deserved to die, and Superman was 100% justified in his actions. To me, he serves his character even better by doing what he has to do to save lives. I never had the feeling of anger that some folks openly expressed about this wholesome red and blue-draped goody good. Zod was insane, ready to trash the planet, and no cage would hold him, death was the only option. Get over it.
Sydner’s visual style of storytelling worked perfectly for me. The look and feel of Clark’s codex and other Kryptonian designs were simply amazing. I loved what they did with this old character and that will hopefully translate to a solid JLA film. With Batman already in a great place, Superman is certainly a boon to the new DC universe unfolding on the big screen. Don’t cock this up, Warner Brothers. All in all, I would rate this 4.5 out 5. I loved it and I plan on seeing it again soon. Bravo, DC, bravo.