Saturday, July 6, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

As always, I must warn of spoilers galore in this review.  So although I think it likely that I'm one of the very few left who haven't seen this movie, I must warn that if you fall into that category you skip this.  However, if you're one of the many, MANY who saw this weeks ago when it came out and are interested in my take, read on.

I was a pretty huge fan of the original Superman starring the unbeatable Christopher Reeve (whose brilliant career was cut way too short).  He was, is and will always be Superman to me and I don't think anyone can ever replace him.  Thankfully, the creators of this film didn't try to.

Yes, it is still an origin story but it's a completely different one.  Kal-El is still sent off from Krypton, but under rather different circumstances than we've seen before.  Here, rather than the imminent destruction of the planet sparking his emergency exit, it is a coup staged by General Zod that leads his parents to high-tail him off the planet.  Shortly after his escape, Zod is sent off to the Phantom realm as we originally saw in the 2nd Superman film.  Krypton does eventually implode, at which point Zod sets off to find Kal-el.

Meanwhile, back on earth, we are exposed to a rather different image of Clark Kent then we've previously seen before.  Here, rather than the geeky reporter of the Daily Planet we have a scruffy vagabond drifting from place to place like a lost soul.  Of course he can't keep himself from rescuing people, but he's clearly doing it out of moral obligation rather than out of his role as a hero, cause he's not playing that role yet.  Plus he always ends up leaving shortly after to keep his super strength and indestructibility a secret.  It is a lonely, rather bleak look at the hero we haven't seen before.
Juxtaposed with this are flashbacks from his childhood in which we see the shaping of this young man by his truly noble parents.  I'm not normally a big Kevin Costner fan but I have to say that he totally worked as Jonathan Kent.  He beautifully portrayed the struggle of a man trying to raise a son clearly destined for greater things whilst still protecting him from the planet he fears would attack him for the same reasons.  And Diane Lane plays Martha just as sweet, gentle but ultimately strong as we've ever seen her.  And I must give mad props to all the kids who played the growing hero- each one was able to depict pretty raw emotions in a variety of really demanding scenes and I wouldn't put it past any one of them to grow into serious actors in the future.
These flashbacks don't just take place in the beginning of the movie as they showed in the original, they pop up throughout the story.  Each one depicts a particular lesson, struggle or defining moment in young Clark's life and each one is shown in conjunction with something he's facing in real time as the story progresses.  I have to say I wasn't really feeling this mode of storytelling in the beginning of the film since I felt like i was missing something.  But as each one unfolded I found myself appreciating it more and more and by the end it proved one of the most interesting and well-done elements of this movie.
Perhaps it's because I'm sentimental, perhaps it's because I'm just way into canon but I found these flashbacks and the quiet moments between Superman and Lois, or his father (who, again, I have to say was masterfully played by Russell Crowe) or Zod to be the most memorable.  It's those that made this film for me.  All the special effects and epic battle sequences were, by comparison, almost tedious.

But, to be fair, it is Superman.  If something's not blowing up, or a city's not in life-threatening danger then how would we know what we're watching?  Sigh.

Not that the special effects aren't good.  The sequence where he first learns to fly made me so happy I almost teared up (mainly because flying, to me, seems like the greatest thrill a person could ever experience.  Seriously- every time I get a quiz asking which superhero I'd be I say Superman for this reason.  And of course if I could have any superpower it'd be flying.  But I digress.  It was gorgeous, is my point.)  And Krypton has never looked so good.
But when they're destroying Kansas or Metropolis it gets a bit tedious and starts to blend in with a sea of other action movies that end up destroying several city blocks.  (I tell ya, those Hollywood types just can't destroy enough cities!  Sheesh!)  It's here that I have to echo others' complaints of the fight scenes just going on way too long.  They could have cut a good 15 minutes of that out and we wouldn't have been any worse off.

But to be fair, what makes a good fight scene is the people fighting it.  One pits superman against Ursa and a faceless Zod underling- both of whom are painfully flat throughout.  The other pits Superman against Zod himself and that, thankfully, was worth watching.

It's here that I have to take a moment and apologize because I'm about to go a little fan girl on you all.  Eh-hem.  HOW EFFING AWESOME IS MICHAEL SHANNON?!?  Any of you who have seen Boardwalk Empire (which I love so, so much) know what I'm talking about- the man is sheer brilliance!  He does zealots better than any human being that has ever acted.  The singlemindedness, the restraint, the rage boiling under the surface that explodes in unimaginably brutal violence- he's just brilliant at that.  And this Zod taps into every one of those characteristics.  I know I'm biased but I have to say that, in my opion, he stole the whole damned movie.
Ok, rant over.  A couple more points before I end this: the music was great.  Nowhere near the epic score from the original which is as distinguished as the sound of Jaws, Star Wars or Harry Potter, but still great.  Henry Cavill was wonderful and did the role of Superman proud.  Amy Adams was a wonderful Lois Lane- full of spunk but also gentleness but seeing her in this role makes me long to see her in something totally different for a change, you know?  It's a just a little too familiar.  I heard a rumor that they're going to finally make a biopic of Janis Joplin (something they've been trying to do for years) and that she's slated for the role.  I would LOVE to see that.  Cause her sweet yet spunky act has been a little played out.

All in all, I kind-of loved it.  And assuming they do make a second installment in this franchise (which I suspect they will) I will happily go see it.  But they better get a damned good villain to make up for the loss of Zod. 
I know, I felt the same way.


  1. The ending did go on and on and on...
    The movie is based on the new series of comics rather than the original. Thought it worked well. Of course, this Superman and the Dark Knight could not co-exist in the same world, so be prepared for a Batman reboot to go along with the Justice League of America film.

  2. Yes, I agree about the fight scenes going on waaay too long. But out of all the superoheroes, Superman is my favorite and I can't tell you how much I appreciate the change in his costume!

    As far as superpowers go though, I totally want to be Mystic. ^_^ (The fun I could have. Lol!)

  3. I enjoyed this one, but like you said--the fight scenes were just a bit much for me. I could have done without all the destruction, but I know that's a standard scene for a superhero movie.

  4. The music is probably my favorite part. Zimmer is so good, and his anthem is capitulated in such clever ways throughout. I've kept listening to the album even as time has made some of my fondness for the movie fade.

  5. Could have been way, way better, but for a superhero flick; I’ll take it for what it is. Good review Beverly.

  6. I haven't seen it, but I think I might. I've always been a Superman fan and I thought Lois Lane had to get him at some point in the never-ending drama.

    You really did a thorough review!


Thank you for your comment! I will love it and hug it and pet it and call it George. Or, you know, just read and reply to it. But still- you rock!