Man of Steel
Superman is simply the most recognizable, iconic character in the country. I read that the S-shield is the second-most known symbol in the entire world, after the Christian cross. He has been part of every medium there is, yet his film history is spotty. The first two movies are remembered extremely fondly, but they are also very old and a bit dated. The 3rd and 4th movies in the original series weren’t really liked by anyone. 2006 saw an attempted relaunch/sequel (remember, this was after a successful reboot of Batman with Batman Begins), and while I personally liked it, most people didn’t and I can see why.
Finally we are now getting Man of Steel, which might as well be called Superman Begins. “Godfathered” by Dark Knight maestro Christopher Nolan, but not directed by him, this is a ground-floor reboot. It changes a lot of what we know. Will people embrace it or keep pining for the Classic version they know and love? I don’t know if there’s an easy answer. It will differ for everyone. For me, I welcome changes. I never read Superman comic books, and the last thing I wanted was a reboot that told the same origin (I’m looking at you, Amazing Spider-Man). Thank goodness for the variety this movie offers.
An origin story does necessarily include Krypton, but holy cow, what a Krypton. The amount of imagination on display here is staggering. The basics are all there, but the additional detail is great and results in a much stronger foundation for the character, who is after all, an alien. This strong foundation of his home planet informs much of the movie, which takes a good look at Superman as a real character torn between his real planet that he never knew, and his adopted home, which hasn’t been too peachy to him.
Yes, this Superman movie dares to be thoughtful and character-driven. It’s not just a summer action movie. I mean, it is, but it’s got a lot more depth than most. For people who rail against shallow explosions, this movie will be a welcome relief. Except, you know, for all the explosions. After all, it IS a comic book movie about the strongest character in the world. There is so much destruction in this movie that it’s hard to comprehend. I wouldn’t dare say it’s “realistic,” but it seems an accurate depiction of what would really happen were Superman to unleash his full power. The only person who could stand up to his full power, of course, is a fellow Kryptonian–General Zod, whom you may remember from Superman II. Their battle is insanely big.
The cast is nearly great all around. Henry Cavill makes a terrific Clark Kent. He’s certainly got the physique, but also bring a vital warmth to the character. Michael Shannon is always stellar, mostly in indie movies, but he brings his usual quality here. Amy Adams plays Lois Lane as a real reporter, which is nice…but they also do something new with her character that I won’t reveal here. It might upset comic purists, but I liked it a lot. Kevin Coster as Jonathan Kent is great, possibly my favorite performance in the movie. Russel Crowe as Jor-El has more screen time than I thought he would and makes the most of it.
The director is Zack Snyder, from 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch. He’s definitely had a signature style, using slow and fast-motion for unique action scenes. I loved it; others haven’t. It doesn’t matter though because he abandons that style for this movie. Not a slo-mo shot to be found. The action is still easy to follow, which is really all I care about. I hate it when the camera shakes so much or is so rapidly edited that I can’t see what’s happening. In Man of Steel, you always know what’s happening in the action scenes. Besides the action, there are several emotional scenes that really come across as sincere and effective. They don’t feel like obligatory scenes between the action–they are just as important in understanding the character of Clark.
Ultimately, this movie is about Clark finding his way. Is he human? Kryptonian? Does he want to fight or be left alone? It’s a movie with serious themes surrounded in superhero action. It’s got something for everyone and I hope we get to follow this Clark through more of his life. Superman is back, and we’re all the better for it!