Movie Review: Man of Steel

2013_man_of_steel_movie-wideSuperman has finally made his return to the big screen it’s awesome. Director Zack Snyder and producer Chris Nolan bring us a Superman revised for the 21st century. The most logical thing to do is compare this to Nolan’s Batman trilogy but doing that would be wrong. While still a comic book movie, “Man of Steel” has more sci-fi elements than ever before for a Superman flick.

If you’ve ever watched the television show “Smallville” you can understand the theme of MOS. Leave out all the CW teen drama and wrap it up in two and a half hours and you have the same product, an alien trying to figure out his place on earth and why he was sent here in the first place and what’s going to happen when he steps into the light.

Clark must choose which world he belongs to when the villainous General Zod shows up on Earth looking make things highly uncomfortable for all the planets inhabitants. A lot of chaos ensues their first encounter.

MOS is the best Superman to come out since the 1978 Donner/Reeve films but then again we only have Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns” to compare it too. Snyder leaves the campiness of past films behind to make this Superman feel more grounded in reality, however impossible that may seem. There are moments in the film when you think that’s exactly what I would do if I saw two super powered aliens fighting.

One of my favorite aspects of this movie is that a lot of the movie rests on Clark Kent actor Henry Cavill’s massive shoulders. I can barely remember anything Brandon Routh said in “Superman Returns” but Cavill is left to show every emotional state of Clark as he goes from wandering loner to learning how to be the world’s greatest super hero. And oh yeah, dude is seriously ripped for this movie.

Amy Adams portrays a toned down Lois Lane from previous incarnations. Lois has always been loud and somewhat obnoxious but still lovable. Lois is still all of that but taken down a few levels. There are moments in the movie where you get these sentiments from her. Although a major plot point of the movie might have some ready to riot, it does show off Lois’s superior investigative journalism skills.

Zod-Man-of-SteelI’m going to be quite honest, I’m not familiar with Michael Shannon. Never seen him in anything else. Shannon does a marvelous job capturing General Zod’s menacing demeanor without going overboard. This isn’t the same megalomaniac we’ve seen before, this Zod has a sympathetic purpose to him which Shannon delivers masterfully. We’re given more of a backstory to Zod in this movie which shapes the character not seen outside of the comics.

Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner star as Clark’s fathers, Jor-El and Jonathan Kent respectively. These two men are part of the reason I was excited for this movie. They both steal whatever scenes they are in throughout the movie. Crowe has an extended stay too, not a brief cameo like in the 78 movie which is excellent. Costner is easily believable as a “salt of the earth” farmer who is trying his best to raise a son who he believes will change the world. Crowe is at his best delivering the lessons to Clark that will help define what his role is on our planet.

The only other movie I’ve seen from Snyder is “Watchmen” and I enjoyed it immensely. “Man of Steel” is his biggest hit to date and he really nailed it. There’s a lot to cram into an origin story for Superman and Snyder does it wonderfully. Not only that, he brings us our longest look at the doomed planet Krypton that we’ve ever seen in live-action. It’s this setting that helps drive the movie along and explains Zod’s and Clark’s purpose. Although the movie is two and a half hours long, it never drags. Snyder keeps the movie chugging along at a curt pace. I’ve read reviews where it was felt that the pace of the movie kills some character development. I’ve never felt that but that might because I’m a huge Superman fan and have a good idea how these characters live already. There are moments thrown in the movie where you’ll say “that’s so Lois” or “that’s something Clark would do.”

Gone with the campiness of previous films is the iconic John Williams score. Hans Zimmer produced the score for MOS and it fits the tone of the movie wonderfully.  There are a lot of horns and things like that used in his music and I find that amusing. It makes me think of royalty. Superman is kind of like the king of the super heroes because he is the template for which every other hero is based off of.

The key ingredient that most other Superman movies lacked are front and center here, huge action sequences that show Superman kicking all kinds of ass. The two big fights take place in both Smallville and Metropolis and both venues pay the price for having super powered beings settle their differences in them. Watching Superman fight without any boundaries is refreshing. Due to technological limits or shoddy writing, we’ve never been able to see Superman really unleash his powers and lay down the law like he’s famous for. Clark’s fight with Zod is amazing to watch and shows just how scary having someone like Superman around can really be.

Man-of-Steel-Jor-El-300x200There is one thing that did bother me a bit about the film though. “Man of Steel” isn’t the inspirational, uplifting Superman story that most were expecting. Part of that is the movies own fault due to the way the trailers were presented. And while the movie does drive the point home that Clark is supposed to be some kind of savior, that’s exactly the problem. It’s never presented subtly but it feels like it’s stuck in there because it’s Superman and this is what he’s all about. They even have the Jesus pose in the film. I’m fine without the lay-it-on-thick savior stuff but I didn’t like that it was shoehorned in the film.

The climax of the film is definitely up for discussion, pretty sure you can Google it to find what out I’m talking about, yet I’m pretty good with it. It shows a never before seen side of Clark that opens up endless doors for the future of the franchise.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie greatly. I saw it twice within 10 days. It’s a great start to what hopefully turns into a Superman trilogy and a shared DC universe.

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