Movie Review: Man of Steel!
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner
Directed By: Zack Snyder
There are some MINOR SPOILERS HERE.
I can safely say that this is nothing like Bryan Singer’s attempt to reboot the Man of Steel back in 2006. By crafting their own take on Superman, producers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, along with director Zack Snyder, have reinterpreted the boy scout into modern times, and ask the question “what if Superman arrived today, in the real world?”
Snyder’s natural gift for directing amazing action sequences is in full force here. From the opening scenes on Krypton to the flat out jaw dropping battles in Smallville and Metropolis, Man Of Steel stands as the director’s best film to date, and a return to form after the misstep that was Sucker Punch. You may think you have seen action in a superhero film before, but you’ve never seen it like this.
Henry Cavill, in my opinion, was phenomenal as Superman. Starting off as a drifter unsure of himself in this world, his depiction of Clark Kent becoming the man he is destined to be very affecting, and he really sells home the ideas of loneliness and questioning that the young Superman had to have felt at some point in his life. In many ways, Clark’s journey is the opposite of Bruce Wayne’s in Nolan’s Batman Begins; where Wayne is wandering with the end goal of avenging his parents’ death, Kent is trying to figure out where he fits in the world, always wondering if he should he reveal himself, or remain in hiding for the rest of his life?
Other extremely talented actors surround Cavill. Diane Lane’s Martha Kent is strong and fiercely protective of her son. Laurence Fishburne has a great role as Perry White, editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, which is also where Amy Adams’ Lois Lane begins her investigation into the mysterious “Superman”. While I liked Adams in the role, there is a part of me that wishes her character was more like the comic book Lois, who’s not known for taking crap from anyone.
The standout supporting roles have to go to Clark’s two fathers: Jor-El and Jonathan Kent. Russell Crowe brings a sense of nobility to Jor-El, and his decision to send his only son away is extremely heartbreaking. His “ghost A.I.” that interacts with Superman later in the film was both cool to see, but also a little annoying, toeing the line with giving a little too much information to characters and appearing just in the nick of time (especially when he appears to Lois later on in the film to help her defeat Zod).
Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent, unlike Jor-El, isn’t in much of the film, but what he is in is fantastic. For some reason I’ve always loved the character of Pa Kent, and Costner definitely delivers in the scenes he’s in, offering guidance to his adoptive son, and trying to his best dealing with something far beyond his comprehension. The idea of two ordinary people having to guide a child who will become a god is something I find really intriguing, and Costner and Lane portray the frustration of having to shoulder this amazing responsibility really well. Their scenes with the young Clark are some of my favorites in the film, and also some of the most emotionally gripping too.
For our villains we have Michael Shannon as Zod, and his female sidekick Faora, played by Antje Traue. Both Shannon and Traue are fantastic in their roles. I especially liked Traue’s performance, which really sold the extremely cold nature that these surviving Kryptonians have towards humanity. Shannon’s Zod is intense and formidable, and his performance isn’t one of sheer villainy, but of a soldier who’s only trying to restore the people he swore to protect. His fanatical beliefs blind him to Superman’s pleas for peace, and lead to a conflict that is literally Earth-shaking.
If there’s one complaint I have about Man of Steel, it’s that the origin of Superman feels truncated. I didn’t feel as if there were enough scenes of the young Clark discovering his powers and learning how to control them. Then again, I can understand shortening this piece of the film since everyone and their mother is aware of Superman’s origin. The decision to tell a majority of his story in flashbacks was inspired, and I really enjoyed how they played with the now formulaic “origin story” movie, even if it seemed like Snyder was rushing some parts to get to the action.
Speaking of the action, my god. If you thought The Avengers was the be all, end all of superhero action sequences, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Man of Steel takes what Marvel gave us and cranks it up to 11. The sheer amount of destruction is insane, and gives a prime example of how powerful Superman really is. Critics of Superman Returns (including myself) who said they wanted Superman to punch something? You get it in this. And then some. Trains are thrown at our hero; Zod is punched through 5 buildings, and much, much, more. Sure the wanton destruction might make you wonder for a second if any innocent bystanders have been harmed, but then you see another incredible action sequence that throws you right back into the film.
There’s a shocking plot point towards the end of the film, one that is already causing a divide amongst Superman fans, including ones in the comics industry who have written him. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say that I think it works within the context of the film, and the fallout from it is incredible (not the mention that he has done this once before in comics). I hope the ramifications of it are dealt with in the sequel. We get a glimpse here, but I really think you could use it as a great inner conflict for Kent in the next film.
Man of Steel was everything I was hoping for action-wise, and while I wish there was a little more time put into the story, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t immensely enjoy this film. This is the film of the summer to beat, and a return to form for Superman on the big screen. The word “epic” is used a lot to describe things nowadays: from pizza to TV shows to clothes. But when it comes to Man of Steel, it’s the only way to accurately describe the action and scope of this film. While it’s not perfect, I feel it’s the best Superman film we’ve had since the iconic Richard Donner film from 1978. If Warner Bros. plays their cards right, Marvel Studios is going to have a lot of hefty competition in the future. With the origin now out of the way, I can’t wait to see what they do for the sequel.
5 super-punches out of 5