Man of Steel Film Review
A New Beginning
Superman has had a long history on the big screen. However the character has never been the massive hit that his World's Finest partner, Batman, has been. Superman is the embodiment of hope and that the world can be a better place. With Man of Steel, we see the new start for the legend of Kal-El and how he comes to be the hero the world needs.
Director Zach Snyder, Writer David S. Goyer, and Producer Christopher Nolan all team up to bring the iconic flagship hero of the DC Universe back to the big screen.
From Krypton to Kansas to Metropolis
Man of Steel is more about the journey of a boy growing up than a superhero movie about fighting bad guys. We open on Krypton with the birth of Kal-El. Quickly we are introduced to Jor-El (Russell Crowe) as he begs the leaders of Krypton to try and save their race from extinction. However, his old ally General Zod (Michael Shannon) has other ideas. He wants to take over Krypton to save his people by his own means.
Krypton is something ripped straight out of Star Wars. The landscape is vast and full of wild alien wildlife and the creatures are strange but familiar. The shots of Jor-El soaring on the back of one of these flying animals are incredible. The movie gets off running with General Zod attacking Jor-El all through Krypton. Quickly, Jor-El blasts his son off of Krypton along with a Codex of Krypton's biological survival. General Zod, in his anger, kills Jor-El before his arrest. He is sentenced to the Phantom Zone, Krypton dies, and we are thrust across the universe with baby Kal-El.
The movie then follows the Batman Begins formula with us picking up with Kal-El grown into a adult. He is working odd jobs to get by and try and hide his powers. During the times when he is forced to use his powers or struggles with the decision to not use them, we are sent to flashbacks of him growing up. As a child, Clark Kent is having a hard time adjusting. His adoptive parents Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), try and help him cope with what's happening to his body. Jonathan tries to make keep the powers a secret, he doesn't believe the world could handle someone with his type of powers. He even sacrifices himself in order for Clark to hide his true identity.
When an old Kryptonian ship is discovered in the ice, Clark has snuck his way in as a worker to get a chance to discover who he really is. During this time we also meet Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who is a hard-nosed no-nonsense type reporter once again. She follows Clark into the middle of the ice he has melted with his lasers and in to the ship. It is on the ship where Clark is abel to activate the key Jor-El gave him when he sent him off. Clark meets his true father for the first time, or at least the spirit of him. He tells Clark his true history and gives him his Kryptonian uniform. This ship becomes his Fortress of Solitude in a sense when he needs answers.
Clark saves Lois from a machine attacking her and she doesn't know how to react. The Daily Planet won't publish her story, but she is determined to find out who he is. She refuses to believe she imagined it all. When she finally does track down who he is, Clark explains how the world isn't ready for someone like him. She decides to drop the story out of respect for him.
Suddenly, a terror message infiltrates the entire planet. It is General Zod demanding that Earth gives him Kal-El. Lois knows where to find him but she refuses to give him away leading to her arrest by the FBI and US Army. However, Clark decides to turn himself in to save the planet. The film quickly becomes a fast paced thrill ride.
From about the halfway point until the ending, it is nonstop action. First Lois and Jor-El find a way to escape Zod's ship and Superman saves her life. Then a major battle nearly levels Smallville. Superman and Zod's Commander, Faora-Ul, have a huge battle. They tear through an IHOP, 7-Eleven, Sears, and every other business in Smallville. The action is massive, there is no other way to put it. Superman and Faora match each other blow for blow. This is the first time Superman has had an equal foe and we see that he does struggle. He hasn't had to max out his powers before and is still learning to develop them. The US Army gets involved and the action only ramps up as humans are put into harms way.
With Faora defeated and retreating, Superman is determined to not be a threat and the Army gives him their full support. Zod begins to use his ship to manipulate Earth's gravity to turn Earth into a New Krypton. This leads to an epic final battle all through Metropolis. Every major character gets involved in stopping Zod's grand scheme. Superman and General Zod have a final battle that will be remembered forever. They rip Metropolis to shreds and leave a path of destruction that makes the 3rd act of The Avengers blush.
There is a moment during the ending of the film where Superman makes a decision that will leave viewer shocked. It will be the obvious discussion point of the film for everyone who sees it.
An interesting note is that he is rarely called Superman in the film. He is only addressed by the name two, maybe three times. It fits though because when you first meet an alien with incredible powers, you'd likely be more afraid and less willing to call him by a fun hero name.
The Stars Deliver
Henry Cavill gives a strong performance as Clark/Kal-El/Superman. He fits the suit well and captures the hope that Superman represents. He is the right choice to wear the cape. He has a charm that engages the viewer and great chemistry with his co-star Amy Adams. She finds the right balance between strength and vulnerability. At the end of the day, she is still human and caught between a battle of gods, for lack of a better term. She won't give up and her conviction glows through her presence.
Michael Shannon does great as General Zod. He is a villain where you can almost feel sympathy for him as his people die. That makes for the most effective villain when they truly believe they are doing the right thing. His presence on screen is always imposing and has the feeling of impending doom. Russell Crowe shines as Jor-El. He is a strong father that sacrifices everything for his son to have a chance at life. His role continues to develop and he does have an incredibly enjoyable and funny scene when he appears to Lois.
Kevin Costner gives an equally strong performance as Clark's other father, Jonathan. All he wants is to protect his son and help him grow up with these unusual powers. Diane Lane is strong as Martha and representing the only parental figure Clark has left. She has the firm strength to never give in, even when Zod's forces attack her.
Not Without Issues
The film does have some things wrong with it that detract from the overall experience. The plot seems to come together way too easily for Superman and Lois. It's almost as if Jor-El just appears and the solution is provided. It doesn't feel like Superman has to struggle to find a way to stop Zod's master plan. They just are given the answer to the questions. It would be nice for Superman to reach a deeper dark moment during his struggle. In many ways, Superman's real dark moment is the decision mentioned earlier.
The dialogue can be a bit clunky and cheesy at times. That is almost a trademark of Goyer scripts however. You know what you're getting if you've seen Batman Begins, or the entire Dark Knight trilogy for that mater. Zach Snyder is a great choice as director and he controls this massive film really well, but that doesn't stop it from being a very formulaic film in the story sense.
The Man of Tomorrow
In the end, Man of Steel is a really thrilling adventure. There is something in it for everyone. It is definitely worth seeing. The action is bigger than any superhero film before it. It's going to be tough to top it. If The Avengers was the benchmark, it's been knocked off it's perch. The battles between Superman and Faora and Superman and General Zod are worth the price of admission alone. Go and enjoy the Superman film we have deserved and the character has deserved for a very long time.