By Benjamin Lane
Man of Steel. (2013). Run time: 143 mins. MPAA: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and some language). Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, and Russell Crowe. Written by David S. Goyer. Directed by Zach Snyder.
The latest installment and adaptation of the Superman character comes to us from the director 300 and Watchmen. This could be completely awesome, or a complete disaster. Regardless, I was immensely excited for Man of Steel. I think The Dark Knight trilogy is the best set of comic book films ever made and having David S. Goyer (Batman Begins screenwriter) writing the script and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy director) producing the project gave me high hopes for another masterful origin story like we saw with Batman Begins in 2005. It didn’t happen that way. Maybe that’s my fault for going in with such high expectations. It still stands though, Man of Steel is nowhere close to being a masterful tale of an origin of a superhero. However, putting all expectations aside and observing this as a Superhero movie, this is one of the coolest and most explosive movies of the entire summer.
Man of Steel is the reboot of the Superman franchise, hoping to set up the inevitable Justice League movie. Now I know I am really late getting this review up, and I know about the Comic-Con reveal of Batman vs. Superman coming in 2015, and yes I think it is a genius idea to do that before Justice League. There were a few Easter eggs hinting around at Bruce Wayne’s existence in the world of Man of Steel, and I cannot wait to see this epic team up. But for now, we have the opener. D.C.’s equivalent to Marvel’s Iron Man, if you will. Not as good as Iron Man, but an opener to what is to hopefully be an incredible set of Justice League lead-up films. So, Man of Steel, despite being produced by Christopher Nolan and written by David S. Goyer, is directed by Zach Snyder. When I heard the news for the first time that Snyder would be directing, I got nervous, worried, and excited at the same time, mainly because I am mixed on his movies. Visually, he is one of the best. Not many can make a movie look as beautiful as he can. 300 was loaded with gorgeous imagery, and even Sucker Punch, which was a horrible movie, looked absolutely fantastic during the battle sequences. But, when relating Zach Snyder’s movies with Man of Steel, the argument always has to go to Watchmen. Being the only superhero movie under his belt, many questioned how he would do with handling Superman, just because of inexperience and also the results of Watchmen. Now I personally really liked Watchmen. Yes I have read the graphic novel and yes there are differences, but if you read that material and realize that it is basically inadaptable, kind of like Life of Pi was, you will understand that Zach Snyder’s adaptation is about as good as a Watchmen adaptation ever could be. Superman on the other hand is a different story. This is a character people have cared about for years, and this a character that deserves to have a heartfelt story behind him, and good performances to hold him up.
Donning the red cape this time around is Henry Cavill, a Brit. Another reason some, no, all fans freaked out. “Superman is American!” they say. “He defends the American way!” Actually, he is from Krypton, not America, so technically he could have a British accent. Weird fans. But, for those worried about that, he disguises his accent very well and quite frankly, he kicks butt as Superman. Literally. We’ll discuss that in a second. But for now, let me talk about Cavill’s performance. He was actually really good, and he did genuinely surprise me. I completely bought him as Superman, and even though we don’t see much of the bumbling buffoon that made Christopher Reeve so popular with fans, I am having complete trust that he will nail it when the time comes for that. On the opposite hand of Superman’s motives is Zod, a war general remaining from the destroyed planet Krypton. Michael Shannon is simply awesome as Zod. I loved his performance. Everything about it was just so Michael Shannon, if that can be used as a term. So entertaining. Diane Lane does good work as Ma Kent, Laurence Fishburne is good as Perry White, and Amy Adams is stunning as Lois Lane. But the two standouts and by far the best performances in the entire film come from both past Robin Hoods, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe. Who would’ve though that in the Superman reboot the two show stealers would be Pa Kent and Jor-El. But my God, what performances they give. Russell Crowe is completely convincing as Jor-El and I want to award him with the highest praise I can, but I have to be completely honest, it was Kevin Costner that did it for me. Costner is Pa Kent. He envelops everything I know about that character and portrayed him with such life and heart. There were multiple times in Man of Steel where I actually teared up because of Pa Kent. Costner is fantastic.
As far as everything else that goes on around the acting is concerned, it’s for the most part very good. The special effects, as could be expected from Zach Snyder, are great, and the final fight sequence, which is in fact probably the last two thirds of the movie, looks great. But that was my problem with Man of Steel. Now I am not one of those fans that are not happy with this movie because “there is too much fighting.” Fans just cannot be happy. Up until this point it was “Superman needs to fight people in these movies” and now that he has a movie that shows him kicking butt for what seems like the last half of it the complaint turns to “He is fighting too much.” Get over it people. Superman fights a lot in the comics. But there is a different reason for me why Man of Steel failed in that aspect and that is that the action outweighed the story, just like in most of Snyder’s films. A lot of action, which is awesome on its on, but not enough story and emotional weight to make you actually care. Is Christopher Nolan’s presence on set known when watching this movie? Yes. Sometimes. But not as much as you get hit in the face with Snyder’s presence behind the camera. But still, it’s not bad. It’s freaking awesome. The action is fought to perfection and the performances are rock solid. The main problem just lies within the script. David S. Goyer is a really good writer, but sometimes he does make mistakes, there’s no questioning that. Some of the lines in this movie are god awfully awkward and sometimes just clichéd. I guess I just wished to care a bit more about Kal-El’s character. But, despite all the flaws, I have to say my second favorite aspect about Man of Steel was without a doubt Hans Zimmer’s score. Having to go after the great John Williams is not an easy thing, but Zimmer allows every scene to ring through with vibrant ferocity.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I know it may seem like I didn’t like Man of Steel and I really hope you guys don’t take it that way because it wasn’t intended to be taken that way. I simply stated my opinion on the film and that’s how it came out. So quote me on this: Man of Steel is one of the best movies of the summer, an awesome comic book film, and the best Superman movie since the original from 1978. Sure it has its flaws, but it still remains to be a very good revamp of the character and stands as a strong opener for the hopefully sturdy Justice League lead ups. (B+)