“Man Of Steel” is a reboot of the Superman franchise. After the disaster that was “Superman Returns”, Warner Bros. decided to start the franchise over with a new director and cast. Christopher Nolan was brought in to come up with a story and produce the film as his “Batman” films have shown us just how amazing a superhero movie can be. His vision for Superman is to imagine what it would be like in todays world if he existed. He then brought in Zack Snyder, the director of films like “300” and “Watchmen” to bring it all to life.
The result is a fairly engaging and some times exhilarating Superman movie. I think this is the film that fans were hoping for when they said that “Superman Returns” did not have enough action. This film has all the large scale destruction that one would want from a summer blockbuster. But it also tells a story that has dramatic weight and meaning.
The film opens on the doomed planet of Krypton. Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe, is trying to convince the planet’s government that their home world is going to fall apart and they must evacuate as soon as possible. He is interrupted by General Zod played by Michael Shannon, as Zod stages a coup igniting a massive battle. This sequence is exciting and epic. It is one of the most visionary battles put to the screen since “Avatar. After seeing multiple movies taking place on a futuristic earth, it is a pleasure to visit a different place in the universe.
As Krypton starts to crumble, Jor-El sends his only son, Kal-El, to earth. Kal-El grows up to be Superman, aka, Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavill. As a boy he is raised by Jonathan and Martha kent played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. Jonathan thinks it is best to keep his origins and powers a secret because he believes that the people of earth would fear him. One sequence has Clark saving his schoolmates from a bus that has fallen off a bridge into a river. Jonathan says that maybe he should of let them die to keep his secret
As an adult, Clark spends his life as a drifter, occasionally saving lives then falling off the map. Eventually he finds his way to his fortress of solitude and learns the truth about his heritage. This happens just in time to greet General Zod, who has arrived on earth to find Clark for reasons I will not spoil here.
Now amazingly, Snyder is able to dial down his signature visual trade marks in favor of telling a more straight forward story. He focuses on the story of this young man as he quests to find out his true purpose in the world.
The performances were the real highlight of this movie for me. Cavill in particular as Clark Kent, plays it more dramatic that Christopher Reeve did in the original. He is more of a man of action with little time for light hearted humour or romance.
Costner and Lane as his adoptive parents are particularly effective as they attempt to raise an alien with essentially human values. Crowe is also very good here as his biological father, who has instilled his consciousness in the fortress of solitude as a helpful guide.
Michael Shannon, who play’s Zod here, takes on his first major role in a blockbuster film. After giving some powerful performances in independent films, he gets a chance to make a mark in a major studio tentpole and he does not disappoint. His Zod is maniacal but not without purpose. He truly believes that he is attempting to save his own race by basically wiping out all humans.
All the action sequences are top notch, especially when Superman battles Zod and his minions. There is much destruction starting in his home town of Smallville then spanning the globe. My only concern here is the amount of lives that are lost during these battles are way more than you would expect in a Superman film. The city of Metropolis is literally turned to rubble. Skyscrapers topple over on top of each other. The 9/11 imagery is evident in almost every one of these scenes.
So compared to other super hero movies, “Man Of Steel” holds it’s own. I still prefer the Iron Man and Batman series simply because I find their stories to be more complex and interesting. But coming from someone who never really got in to Superman growing up, this movie is pretty great.