Man of Steel Review

“One day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it’s going to change the world.”

-Jonathan Kent

Superman has always been evolving decade to decade as he has adapted to whatever society has most needed him to become. Despite the fact that he is easily the most iconic superhero in history, it seems he has fallen out of the public eye in the last decade because he simply hasn’t had a movie that nails exactly why we should care about him. By this point the most famous superheroes have made their big screen ventures and sadly 2005’s “Superman Returns” failed to capture the imagination or leave much of an impact on audiences. Just when things began looking bleak for the boy scout, “The Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan was brought on as producer to reinvent the character in ways we’ve never seen before. Does Man of Steel bring Superman to a new generation with brilliance, or is this just the latest outing in a string of lukewarm attempts to bring back the last son of Krypton?

Man of Steel

By this point, we all know Clark Kent’s alien origins and coming of age tale through the various TV  and film projects like 1978’s “Superman”, WB’s “Smallville”, and “Superman The Animated Series”. After an action packed intro detailing the final days of the doomed Krypton and Jor-El’s(Russell Crowe) attempt to save it, we follow the last son of Krypton on his journey to earth. Once he arrives he is found by Jonathan(Kevin Costner) and Martha(Diane Lane) Kent where he is named Clark and raised as their own. Years later we are introduced to a grown Clark(Henry Cavill) who is desperately searching for answers to who his people were. Instead of revealing himself to the world, he hides among the people of earth as its secret savoir. Hot on his trail is Pulitzer winning Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane(Amy Adams) who has been tracking his movements all the way into the arctic. Not long after Clark finally begins to get closer to discovering where he’s from, a Kryptonian war zealot named Zod(Michael Shannon) arrives on earth and threatens to make war if Kal-El does not turn himself in. Clark finds himself caught in an internal struggle to choose between his heritage and his home as he faces stakes that put the whole world at risk.

Man of Steel may not reinvent the major beats of the origin story but rather puts a whole new angle on a story we already know. This movie works like less of a superhero movie and winds up looking and feeling more in the vein of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” than it does “Iron Man” or “The Avengers”. Christopher Nolan‘s story is aiming to focus less on the Superman we already know and more on how this world would react if such a man actually existed. What if aliens existed and lived among us and what would we do? These are the questions the movie spends most of its time exploring and the result is a more thoughtful sci-fi type of superhero movie unlike anything we have seen before.

The premise may be fresh and intriguing, but it’s the introspective character study of Clark/Kal-El that makes this movie really hit home in a way that I don’t think the character ever has on the big screen before. His coming of age story is told through a series of very effective flashbacks(do it Lostie style!) that are weaved into the events of the main story. These flashbacks that present Clark’s most pivotal moments are easily the most memorable and emotionally satisfying parts of the movie. It’s a huge testament to the script and actors when a film filled with huge spectacle, gigantic fights, and chilling scenery are led by intimate father/son scenes between Jonathan and Clark. These short but poignant memories remain the most moving and unforgettable scenes of the movie.

Henry Cavill leads the excellent cast by making the character his own without straying too far from the roots that has made the character iconic. He’s ripped, heroic, and even knows when to crack a joke or two. Kal’s two fathers played by Kevin Costner and Russel Crowe both deliver several scene stealing moments that will likely be the most iconic of the film. Michael Shannon’s deftly evil Zod may be the big bad of the film, but it’s one of his soldiers,Faora(Antje Traue) who gets some of the most ominous lines of the movie.The rest of the supporting cast is well rounded out by Amy Adams, Diane Lane, and Laurence Fishburne as hard-nosed Daily Planet Editor Perry White.

Movie fans who were disappointed with the lack of impressive action in “Superman Returns” will be glad to know that this movie packs quite a super-punch to the chest. The first two acts may be more deliberate in its slower pacing, but the final third of this movie goes off the rails and delivers some of the biggest non-stop action I’ve seen in the theater all year easily rivaling the scope we saw in last year’s “Avengers”. Just when you think things can’t get more bizarre, buildings are leveled, bodies are broken, and even the Sears is destroyed(not a fan of product placement? Me either).

The Zack Snyder directing this movie is a very different director than who we’ve seen before, and the movie is better for it. He has stripped away his signature slow-mo, pop music, and over-sexualized female leads in favor of a much classier direction that is able to capture the seemingly small and heartfelt details among the loud and epic destruction. His eye for visuals is as strong as ever in this movie which is beautiful in both is bleakest and most exciting moments. Zack Snyder may never be remembered the way Richard Donner has been, but he has done an outstanding job at delivering an exciting and imaginative story that both fans and skeptics declared impossible.

Man of Steel delivers an origin story that feels both new and old with it’s fresh take on the age old premise. It may falter in some of the smaller details, but the overall picture painted by the end of this film is huge, colorful, and emotionally engaging piece of spectacle. It brings all the explosive goods we’ve come to expect from a summer blockbuster, but much like Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” or Snyder’s own “Watchmen”, it gives us deeper ideas to reflect on and wrestle with when its all said and done. It may not be without flaw, but it’s definitely the best Superman film to grace the big screen in at least three decades making this the movie event to catch this summer.

Man of Steel 2

Story: 8.0

We’ve heard this story all before over and over again, but we’ve never heard it quite like this before. This retelling of the origins of Superman are far more sci-fi and cerebral than any other rendition out there and it makes for a fresh tasting movie.

Characters/Acting: 9.0

The nonlinear storytelling used to reveal Superman’s most significant moments growing up was very effective and delivers a character you feel like you really know. The other characters all serve as support to Cavill’s Superman coming to terms with who he really is. Acting in this movie is really top notch with each performer bringing their A-game.

Presentation: 9.0

Zack Snyder brings a thoughtful sophistication to his direction that we’ve never seen before. He delivers not only on a visual level, but also on a deeply emotional level with the Kents. 

Overall Effectiveness of the Film: 8.5

This movie successfully gives this generation its own Superman, and while time can only tell whether or not Man of Steel will be remembered, the movie put together here is something fresh, edgy, and character driven. It brings the loud action and huge set pieces, but it also succeeds on the most important and fundamental level: Character.

Overall Score: 8.5


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