Movie Review: Man of Steel

(Source: Warner Brothers)

(Source: Warner Brothers)

This is your regular spoiler warning and disclaimer. I am not out to spoil the movie, but talking about it will do some of that. Consider yourself warned, spoilers lie ahead.

Man of Steel is a decent good film. That’s a rarity nowadays. So much, that when one decent good film comes along, we can’t wait to recommend it. Call it amazing and I’d be inclined to agree that certain scenes were above average. Call it extraordinary or inspirational and I’d say you’re reaching a bit.

Henry Cavill has a heavy red cape to wear. Taking on the role of Superman is just perplexing. Nobody knows how he should act and everyone has got an opinion. That being said. I think he tackled the job head on. During the course of the movie and its flashbacks, we’re introduced to a humble, blue-collar working man that grew up in Kansas with deeply ingrained morals. He’s been taught right and wrong, he’s been taught the value of honest work and he’s been thrown into a role of an outcast because there’s something different about him. I think he sold his role as well as it can be expected.

(Source: Warner Brothers)

(Source: Warner Brothers)

Clark / Kal-El is basically your everyman. He doesn’t have big words to say, there’s work to be done. Although some reviews have criticized him as stoic, I believe he plays the role of someone who has grown up in a farm pretty darn accurately. He can sit down and talk when there’s need for it, but essentially there are things to do, which pretty soon turn into world-saving tasks. He doesn’t really hesitate about doing them. I liked that. It’s like figuratively saying, this is a job for Superman. No, he never says it.

I like that when it comes down to it, there’s a focus on his Kansas upbringing. Local farm boy does good.

The focus is in action, which I understand. There’s a lot of militaristic overtones, first on Krypton then on Earth. Krypton’s sequence is a movie unto itself. We are waiting for that tiny spaceship to launch, but it takes a lot of fighting before it happens. When Earth is in danger we never see the President of the US or the leaders from the United Nations. We just see the military. A lot of them. No politicians whatsoever. Not even a shot of the White House.

(Source: Warner Brothers)

(Source: Warner Brothers)

It’s hard to swallow when the threat, embodied by General Zod, comes about. We go from a worldwide transmission to a military police state. I understand that the focus of the movie is not politics, but the transition is so smooth, so instantaneous, it’s jarring to the senses. Put in a presidential speech or something.

The explosions and the act of hurling people into buildings is repeated. A lot. I would definitely had felt satisfied with about a 50% ratio of the total screen time devoted to these. Actually, even one-third of all the concrete-smashing would get the point across without feeling like I missed anything.

(Source: Warner Brothers)

(Source: Warner Brothers)

Amy Adams takes on playing Lois Lane as an actual reporter. No comedy overtones, no over the top attitude. Ok… she has to mention she’s a Pulitzer-winning reporter for no good reason except to inform the audience which was completely unnecessary. She didn’t go for the female in distress attitude. When she is in distress, there’s a bit of a reason for it, and she does get herself involved into solving the problem. She also does keep a secret when she says she’s keeping a secret – an outcome I called wrong when it happened.

(Source: Warner Brothers)

(Source: Warner Brothers)

I really wanted to like-hate General Zod. It’s a role full of potential. But personally (everything I say here is personally, by the way) it fells flat? I can’t point out the flaw. Michael Shannon does play it like a man with an ideal and full of conviction, but I had a difficult time envisioning him as charismatic. I couldn’t see anybody following this guy. He was just a bit dull, which is the very opposite than a person leading a revolution should feel like. 

The prison ship, which seems completely unnecessary after saran-wrapping each prisoner into its own rocket, will be conveniently packed with a lot of resources and equipment for Zod and his comrades to modify into weapons later. At least they do give an explanation as to why they have so much weaponry (they scavenge it from lost expeditions) but not why they were given such a massive spaceship to fill with stuff.

Visually, there’s an aspect of Kryptonian technology that was annoying. There’s a lot of it that seems to be based on a pinscreen. You know, those metal things where you put your hand and it leaves an stylized print of it until you shake it. Everything is grey. At this point I would’ve been totally OK with Star Trek’s use of iPads. Also, they imaged a lot of different ways we get a door to open or close. At some point I got distracted imagining it could be a drinking game. And there’s the snickering at the shapes that certain ships or the individual prison holding capsules look when the bad guys are sent to the phantom zone.

Russell Crowe plays Jor-El and re-appears, Obi-Wan Kenobi style, a little more than I think he needed to. If he was trying to steal the movie, he didn’t succeed. He has the same facial expression through all of it. Kevin Costner does a better job at leaving a lasting impression as Jonathan Kent. When he bites the bullet, in a way that makes you think that he didn’t have to die, it’s a big deal. Lawrence Fishburn plays Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet, but there’s not a lot of him to do except advise Lois.

All that being said, this is a good movie adaptation of one revised script of the story of Superman and worth your while. Henry Cavill is not trying to play Christopher Reeve’s Superman and that’s ok. I think Zack Snyder does succeed in bringing a fair take on the character, and one worth seeing.

Recommended. If you can, try to see it in the theater. Here’s a nice easter egg for you: there’s a truck with a Lexcorp sign on it.

That will do for now.

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