Man of Steel
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne
Running Time: 2 hrs 23 mins
Release Date: June 14, 2013
PLOT: Clark Kent (Cavill) is from an alien planet and armed with super powers. He must decide if Earth will accept him, and also deal with another alien known as General Zod (Shannon) and his plans to take over the world.
WHO’S IT FOR? Everyone who likes big blockbuster superhero movies, which I think it technically everyone. If you’re addicted to the Christopher Reeves’ films, there might be too much change for you to handle.
EXPECTATIONS: I listened to the trailer a few times (yes, I close my eyes during movie trailers, or leave the theater). I loved the music and the father/son moments that I was hearing. It’s one of the films I was most excited for this summer.
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman: Call him what you would like, but Cavill definitely looks the part of having black hair, blue eyes, and a very impressive physique. I had never seen “The Tudors,” don’t remember him from Stardust and didn’t care for Immortals. So that was my Cavill experience going in. Coming out … I’m totally fine with him being our Superman for a while, but don’t believe a star is born. He can shout with anger to the sky, but because of the timing of this film’s release, it just had me thinking of Kirk, Spock and Kahn. Most of the emotional weight it put on the younger Clark, played by two different boys. Unfortunately I believe the flow of the film hurts some of the impact it is going for.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane: It’s really important here that they’re able to have Lois feel sorry for Clark, and want to protect him. Otherwise, she’s just drawn to the dreamy strong guy. It’s a little overwhelming with how much Lois is actually involved in this film. Sure, Superman does some rescuing, but clearly they made it a point to let you know that this damsel isn’t in that much distress compared to other versions.
Michael Shannon as General Zod: I love Shannon. Seriously, he can do almost no wrong. Playing his strongest character yet, this is one of his weakest performances. Zod is designed to protect the people of Krypton at any cost, even if that means getting his hands dirty. There is a moment early when Shannon gets to rage the line, “I will find him,” over and over. It was good, but I kept waiting for more, and just not getting it. I’m thrilled that more people will get to know Shannon, and he probably has a very nice paycheck coming, but he’s done better in the few minutes he gets in a “Boardwalk Empire” episode.
Russell Crowe & Ayelet Zurer and Russell Crowe & Diane Lane as The Parents: Crowe has plenty to do as this version of Jor-El and the beginning of the film truly feels other-worldly. He believes his baby boy can change the world (not his, but Earth). Luckily he’s along for part of the ride as a computer chip. Costner and Lane play Jonathan and Martha Kent. They are incredibly fearful about what could happen if people find out their son is an alien. It’s an interesting dynamic, and luckily, you can see Jonathan’s worried point of view.
Rest of Cast: Antje Traue is Faora-Ul, a butt-kicking baddie that I feel like we’ll see more of down the road. Laurence Fishburne is Perry White, who has nothing to do until he somehow becomes a leader everyone at the newspaper follows when Metropolis is under attack. It’s good to see Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton acting like a nerd. I like seeing Christopher Meloni in anything, because it just reminds me of how brilliantly funny he is in Wet Hot American Summer.
TALKING: Most of the humor is gone. Sure, there are a few moments here and there, but if producer Christopher Nolan’s influence is anywhere, it seems this is the spot. The looks reveal more humor than the dialogue, like when Superman is in handcuffs. There are long talks about the world of Krypton, and how everything like the World Engine and the registry of citizens works. Mostly though, this is about hope, change and what society is capable of accepting.
SIGHTS: The beginning on Krypton is absolutely epic. Unfortunately the childhood, and teenage years are told in flashback, and it doesn’t have a great flow. Man of Steel does prove that Flash could visually work as a superhero flick. The fight sequences are huge, fast, and impressive to watch, but eventually repetitive. The battle with Faora-Ul wins for me, simply because the ending is bloated and ordinary.
SOUNDS: It’s impossible to top John Williams’ Superman score from 1978. This is mainly due to the fact that we still know it all of these years later. Thirty years from now, there will probably be 15 more versions of Superman on the big screen, and with it plenty of other musical scores. The original had a chance to burn itself into our minds. With all of that said, Hans Zimmer comes as close as you can. The music definitely plays the biggest emotional role in the film, letting us know almost too soon if we’re supposed to be happy, sad, angry or excited. I will be writing, while listening to the soundtrack during these summer months.
BEST SCENE: I really did love Krypton. Mainly because I had no idea we were going to get any action moments on this planet, let alone flying beasts.
ENDING: There’s a big battle in Metropolis, then some one-on-one time with General Zod. After that, we see Clark settle into a job he’s pretty excited about starting. It immediately had me thinking about everyone who knows what Superman looks like, and if glasses are going to cut it. I know, it’s just a movie.
QUESTIONS: So, it was just random that the ancient scout ship ended up on Earth? Didn’t that start all of the wheels in motion? It felt like there was a lot of stuff thrown at us, and I’m not exactly sure if it all made sense, I’m mainly thinking about the codex. Did you notice the semi-truck oil tanker that Superman jumps over in his fight with General Zod? It said Lexicorp on it. I smell sequel villain.
REWATCHABILITY: I would sit through it again, but I feel like there would be chunks that feel like work. After all, it’s a long flick.
Take Thor, some Hulk, a little bit of X-Men, the ending of The Avengers or Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and don’t forget Obama. Add it all up and you’ve got yourself Man of Steel. The entire film feels familiar, beyond the Superman story, and I’m not complaining about that.
Getting Superman “right” is tough, and borrowing makes complete sense. Krypton reminded me of Asgard. The x-ray vision looks like Cyclops. Jumping like Hulk leads to flying. The ending is a boring, unsettling knock-off of every other blockbuster that must end with a city in ruins, and give us just a hint of 9/11. I don’t think Man of Steel has an agenda, but it is interesting to notice some liberal concepts clearly making a home in this plot. Clark is an alien who has lived in Kansas most his life, and he truly feels American. The government just has to trust he is up to good (and not no good). Krypton is destroyed because they depleted the planet’s resources. Superman brings the message of hope. I don’t mind any of this, especially since the concept of people destroying a planet shouldn’t have anything to do with politics.
Any issues I have with the film are more about the style in which Snyder makes his presence known. It’s an extended trailer or clip show of Clark’s life. The only time the film seems to slow down and stay in one place is during an action sequence. It’s like Man of Steel was a full TV season, but the studio said he just had to cut it together into a film. I never felt like I was on the journey with Clark/Kal-El/Superman. Instead it feels like Synder just wanted to show me some cool things.
Man of Steel has moments of greatness thanks to quality actors doing their job, and a visual style that works for the action sequences. Unfortunately it doesn’t put Superman back on top of our cinematic superheroes.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10