“My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me… out of fear. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?”
Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of Superman. His near flawlessness, whether it be by looks or powers, always turned me off. And the fact that he hid his alter ego with a pair of glasses seemed just too silly for words.
I could never relate to the guy. Whereas Marvel has the formula for super human people you could kind of empathize with, Superman, aka Kal-El, was an alien put on earth by a dying human race. His powers are innate, he can leap tall buildings in a single bound, he’s faster than a speeding locomotive, yada yada yada.
Not a freak accident, Superman was put on Earth to make it better. Women love him, men admire him, and his square jawed facial features are like the perfect combination of kindness, strength and generosity. Superman is…super. So how can I identify with a guy when he’s just perfect?
And that’s where Man of Steel comes in. Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch, Watchmen) with a helping production hand by a one Christopher Nolan (I’d put stuff in parentheses here but if you don’t know who this guy is then you’ll never know), the latest film incarnation of Krypton’s last hope tries to ground Superman in a way that audiences will finally see eye to x-ray vision eye with DC Comic’s poster boy.
Not too extravagant plot wise, Man of Steel gives us the origin story of Superman again, although this version plays it to be darker and with more explosions. Kal-El getting off the dying rock seems to hold more weight too, as his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe, a commanding presence here) is risking life and limb to find an element that his son needs before he jets off. Once that item find its place in the right hands, Jor-El lets his son know he has a great future ahead. As baby Supes gets his escape, Krypton meets its demise.
The narrative then takes a jarring turn as we immediately cut to Kal-El (who I’ll call Clark or Superman from now on), much older (bearded too), on a boat. The film takes a unique approach to the major events of his back story, as the pieces don’t follow a linear path, but rather intersect here and there. It kind of is weird in the beginning how the editing works, but as the movie progresses, how the film worked in this manner grew on me, and I liked how they approached what I call the “greatest hits” of Clark’s life.
However, once the flashbacks hit their end point, the movie slows down considerably, which is both good and bad. Man of Steel paces along incrediblyuntil the halfway mark and then all of a sudden its begins slowing to a crawl as Superman’s opponent Zod (Michael Shannon), a former Krypton resident shows up. Zod looks to change Earth back into a place like his home planet and when he begins to take major action the movie suffers a bit. It does give audiences time to breathe after all the editing jumps but at the same time the movie could’ve used some heavy trimming.
The finale makes up for this pacing issue, thankfully. I’m sure many people will be turned off by the showdowns that wrap the film up but I dug the hell out the brawls, one featuring Supes, a Krypton soldier and Faora-Ul (Antje Traue), and of course, the Man of Steel and Zod. I would love to see the property damage calculations for these fights. Oh and keep your eyes peeled for horrible product placement during these battles. Ugh.
Aside from the pacing issues, I’ll have to mention the casting as some of the downsides of the film. Not too many problems here, but I felt Laurence Fishburne and Amy Adams as Perry White and Lois Lane, respectively, were just kind of there. Not phoning it in, really, but they just felt like one dimensional characters that could’ve been played by anybody. Just a small gripe.
On the plus side, Crowe is a stand out of the movie, and appears a lot more than you think he would, which is nice. It was a treat to see him carry this role made famous by Marlon Brando and make it his own. Excellent job. Continuing on, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent and Diane Lane as Martha Kent were absolutely wonderful, and even with their brief screen time, just were (I felt) the perfect choices for these type of parents who had to deal with raising a being that they didn’t know how to, in every sense of the word. There’s also a dramatic scene featuring one of them towards the middle of the movie, and man, it was a punch to the gut.
Michael Shannon is pretty awesome as Zod, he brings enough passion to the character to make you believe in ways. The rest of the supporting cast is good by my standards too.
And then, there’s Henry Cavill, whose shirtlessness made girls swoon and men go “damn! (in two types of context, who knows)” in the theater this past Friday night. Cavill has a presence that is very entrancing, It helps that he’s easy on the eyes, and has the look of a guy who, well, looks like he could be Superman. His mannerisms as Clark serve to be more empathetic, more troubling, and therefore easier to empathize with, but still, he has the ways of generosity, strength and kindness, just like the Man of Steel should. While Cavill will never match what Christopher Reeve put out, I think the approach to Krypton’s last son was supposed to be a touch different. Cavill, in this case, made it work very well, and showcased the goods for his own variation of Kal-El.
So did I like Man of Steel? I did. While not perfect, the movie has a lot of solid elements that keep it from crashing and burning. The performances help it immensely, as the pacing brings the movie down a bit. There’s something really good at work here, and if DC and Warner Bros. get their heads in gear, I could see a Justice League movie working in this kind of universe (or let’s just be honest, A World’s Finest movie would feed everyone’s appetites). However, as a stand alone product, Man of Steel doesn’t really soar, but for a disenchanted Superman person by nature, I’ll say this; the dude pulled it off with “flying” colors.
Rating: 8/10 or
Review written by Logan Fowler