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Man of Steel Film Review and Special Comment
Warning: Review contains spoilers.
It's been a long time coming, people have been clamoring for it, and it has finally arrived. A modern, intense, emotional, and superpower action packed reinvention of Superman on the big screen, and it was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be. In my opinion, it surpasses the classic Christopher Reeve 1978 Superman, and it's sequel, as the best Superman film ever done.
The film can be summed up in three separate parts, the destruction of Krypton, Clark's journey towards becoming Superman, and Superman's fight to earn the world's trust and status as the great hero he's always been throughout the characters history. The beginning of the film shows the birth of baby Kal-El, General Zod's attempted coup, and the destruction of Krypton. This sequence has great drama and action as Jor-El tried to save his child and stop Zod from taking the Codex, which could help rebuild Krypton on another world. Zod is imprisoned in the Phanton Zone after killing Jor-El, and Lara is left alone as the planet is destroyed.
Once Kal-El arrives on Earth, his journey to become Superman is shown through a series of flashbacks as Clark remembers moments from his childhood as he leads a nomadic lifestyle in order to keep his identity a secret. Eventually he overhears that the military is investigating a strange craft in the ice and he goes to find it. Once he does, he reveals his identity to Lois Lane, who followed him, and discovers who he is after speaking with his father, Jor-El. He then dons the famous suit and becomes Superman.
Once he does, Zod arrives on Earth and intends to turn the planet into a new Krypton by changing it's atmosphere, destroying humanity, and using the codex to repopulate the planet with Kryptonians. Superman spends the rest of the movie defending the planet in order to earn it's trust and become the great hero he's supposed to be.
The story they chose for the movie was fantastic and very well done. The filmmakers tapped into the realities that someone like Superman would face if someone like him were to enter our world. Tapping into the personal struggle that comes along with the power that he has was also a very good way to go since it made him easy to connect with on a human level. Just because he has all of these god like powers, doesn't mean he that he's free of human struggles. Clark struggles with his powers, struggles with his lack of identity, and struggles with the knowledge that the world might try to kill him out of fear if he reveals himself. To see him take that leap of faith and choose to put on the famous suit was necessary for him to fulfill his purpose. This was the Superman that we've always wanted. We wanted a more complex Superman that we could connect with on a personal level and we got it.
All of the personal drama and soul-searching led to the bone-crunching, intense, building crashing action once Zod and his followers arrived on Earth. The action sequences were fantastic and finally delivered the super-powered action fans have wanted to see on screen for years. The standout sequences were definitely the fight in Smallville, and Superman's climactic fight with General Zod across Metropolis. Gods collided on screen and delivered some of the biggest, and coolest, action we've ever seen from a superhero film.
The performances were great as well. Henry Cavill was wonderful as the Man of Steel and delivered a performance that captured everything great about Superman and even challenged long held beliefs that have been in place for decades, such as being forced to kill Zod when Superman has always been against killing. The emotional weight of that scene was brilliantly captured by Cavill as he pleaded for Zod to stop and screamed in horror when the reality of having to kill him set in. Michael Shannon was also great as Zod. He portrayed a character that was bred to be the cruel warrior that he was. Even though he was that way by design, Shannon brilliantly played a character that had to be stopped. Amy Adams also did a great job as Lois Lane. I loved that fact that Lois knew Superman's identity throughout the movie after finding the scout ship. It added a different dynamic to their long relationship. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were great as Jonathan and Martha Kent, Laurence Fisburne did a good job as Perry White. Antje Traue was effectively menacing as Zod's second in command, Faora, and of course, Russel Crowe was awesome as usual as Jor-El. It was nice to see him have a lasting presence through the movie as an artificial intelligence being. Ayelet Zurer was also good as Lara in her brief appearance at the beginning of the film.
I also believe that as good as this was, the foundation has been laid down for an amazing sequel should the filmmakers tap into the potential they have left to explored. The destruction of the movie, Superman having to kill Zod, and the fact that his presence was acknowledged in the final action sequence all give way to Lex Luthor being the main villain for the sequel. It would be very easy to introduce him as the public opposition to Superman's appearance. He could easily talk about how he can't be trusted because he and his people leveled the city, and Lex is the one who should be counted on for his efforts to rebuild it. He could talk about how Superman is merciless and could kill anyone just like he killed Zod, all while he'd be hatching his own plot to kill and take power for himself. Another story aspect could be Superman trying to hold back the use of his power because of the destruction his battle with Zod created throughout the city. If they include another villain like Metallo, then it would be interesting to see how Superman tries to stop another powerful enemy while trying to prevent the destruction caused in the last film. In addition, now that Clark is working at the Daily Planet, and Lois knows who he really is, it would be really cool to see Lois try to help Clark adapt his mild-mannered persona in order to prevent detection. There is so much potential for the next movie to be even better than anything we've seen already. I can't wait to see how everything plays out. I'm glad Superman is back and I'm especially glad that all of his potential is being tapped into by Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer. They deserve all the praise they can get for bringing Superman back to greatness on the big screen.
I'd like to take this opportunity to address the hypocritical criticism this film has received by some out in the media. First of all, some critics out there have criticized this movie for not being the Superman that he was in years past where he was "light-hearted" and "fun." Some even clamored for the time of Christopher Reeve even though 2006's Superman Returns was criticized being a Christopher Reeve rehash. The audience wanted something different. Christopher Reeve's classic original film and great sequel are two of the greatest movies of all time. They will always have a place in history, but it was time for something different. It was time for a more complex Superman that actually has to face the challenges his presence on Earth brings to the table. It's no longer as easy as previous origin stories or incarnations of Superman have made it out to be. For Superman to give us hope in the modern world, he had to earn it. That's what this movie was, Superman earning the status he's had for so many years. By making him a more complex character through having to struggle with his powers made him easier to connect with for an audience that no longer accepts the straight-laced hero of yesteryear. There will always be a place for a hero like that, but it's harder for audiences to accept it if there are no personal challenges on the way. It's not fair to desire something, get exactly what you're looking for, and then complain about it.
As for the action in the movie. If you're not going to criticize the level of destruction in other movies like the Dark Knight Trilogy or the Avengers, then I believe that you have no right to criticize the level of destruction in this movie. If this is part of the recent trend of criticizing violence in movies in the wake of recent tragedies, then it needs to stop. Don't start complaining about something because you're afraid of being criticized for glorifying violence. Action movies have been around for a long time and they're not going anywhere. The PC police need to get over it or don't watch. There was even an attempt to criticize the tornado scene as being insensitive because of the recent tragedy in Oklahoma. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! We really need to re-learn how to separate entertainment from real life again or the entertainment industry is going to be destroyed. If anyone has ever picked up a Superman comic then you'd see that the level of destruction in this movie is present ALL THE TIME in the comics. When a super-powered being is going up against another super-powered being, there will be destruction. This has been in all comics, not just Superman, for decades. To criticize it now is ignorant, hypocritical, and uneducated in the source material. Christopher Reeve and Terence Stamp leveled Metropolis over thirty years ago too, I don't hear very much criticism over that. The Avengers trashed Manhattan last year, no criticism, Gotham City was torn apart in Nolan's Batman trilogy, no criticism. Even the Transformer movies, where everything in sight is reduced to rubble, didn't receive this level of criticism for the action.
People need to stop being hypocrites, plain and simple.