Man of Steel is here and as one of the films I was super stoked to see this summer, and the number of questions I had going into it were almost too many to count. Would Christopher Nolan’s influence on this movie be significant? Should Zach Synder have been given such a huge property to work with after a string of movies that fell terribly short? Would MOS make me forget about Superman Returns? Would it remind me of the first two iconic Christopher Reeve movies? Would this film hold its own with the likes of the Avengers hero movies? Is there anyway possible that this could be a complete dud?
The movie does a good job starting us off and setting the scene in conveying that somewhere far far away from earth the planet Krypton is dying. Top scientist and major badass Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is explaining to the heads of the planetary government that the planet will soon collapse in on itself and explode and that while the population is doomed to death Kryptonian culture can still be preserved if he is allowed to send The Codex (an old skull fragment which houses all genetic information of the planets citizens past and present) off the planet. The council refuses, but the meeting is interrupted when General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives and attempts to stage a coupe killing one of the council members. Jor-El escapes Zod, takes the Codex and embeds it in his newborn son, Jar-El, who after a brief but touching debate with his wife launches the infant into space towards Earth with the hope that gaining super abilities from the radiation of the Earth’s sun, he can become something great for humanity.
Zod attempts to stop the launch killing Jor-El in the process but is unsuccessful, when his coupe is put to an end the planetary council banishes him and his coconspirators to a place of nothingness called The Phantom zone. Before he is banished, Zod vows to escape The Phantom Zone, find Kal-El and The Codex and create a new Kryptonian society, one of his making.
Right from the start, you get that the tone of this movie is a serious one. The previous incarnations of superman have always had a strong element of humor, but you get no such comic relief here. From Jor-El’s desperation over the planet to the child/teen angst Clark Kent undergoes in flashback scenes scattered throughout the movie, it’s pretty clear that although Christopher Nolan didn’t direct it, the same realistic and gritty–sometimes downcast feeling we got from his Batman films is here and I can accept it. I don’t welcome it with open arms, but I do accept it.
All the primary players here are great. Henry Cavill looks every bit the part of Superman in the suit and cape, but more importantly has enough screen presence to not make me wish for Reeve. Sorry Brandon Roth, I loved you in Scott Pilgrim vs.The World but you’re not Superman.
Amy Adams is my current celebrity crush so as long as she doesn’t go on a coke bender, start shoplifting, and hide without her teeth in the bushes, I’m going to love whatever she does in her movies–including here as Lois Lane.
Conversely, nothingKevin Costner will ever do will get me to like him and his flat, boring and uninspired portrayal of Jonathan Kent is further ammo for that sentiment. I’m actually glad when his characters dies, but even then he can’t pull that off without looking like an idiot.
Diane Lane is an excellent Martha Kent and thankfully cleanses that horrible Costner-taste out of your mouth as the movie progresses. Michael Shannon however, is everything you could hope for from your villain. He’s no Terrance Stamp, but he conveys menace extremely well and makes it clear to everyone that he means business. Where this movie falters is with it’s secondary characters, seriously in a 2 hour and 20 minute movie we only see Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and Jenny Olsen (Rebecca Buller) for 10 maybe 15 minutes, which means when they’re in danger I could not care less.
One of the biggest problems with tackling the Superman franchise is that for a hero who is basically god-like in his abilities, finding a believable challenge for him is a big issue. In a lot of instances this means that his enemies rarely pose a physical threat to him, so they have to use their wits to figure out how to get an upper hand on him. Man of Steel does not take that route at all, and as a result you get to watch Superman beat the shit out of Zod and his people and get to see the shit beat out of him as well. Zach Snyder’s ability to choreograph and shoot action is on full display here and its impressive, most impressive. Never mind that the amount of collateral damage to human life being done during the fight scenes must be somewhere in the millions.
Speaking of millions:
Is this movie amazing despite it’s lack of secondary characters and grim, almost emo-esque tone? Yes. Does it belong shoulder to shoulder with some of the more successful recent superhero offerings? Yes! Does it harken back to the iconic Reeve entries? No, not in the slightest. This Man of Steel is something all it’s own that is compelling and good, but doesn’t feel any need to lean on it’s predecessors. I can easily recommend this movie (although I will mention that I was not impressed with it’s use of 3D).
Still. Go see Man of Steel.