MAN OF STEEL
Directed by Zack Snyder, 2013 Warner Bros.
I’m a child of the 70’s, therefore a long time Superman fan. I’m also a fan of Zack Snyder’s The Watchmen. I wasn’t sure if those two worlds should ever meet, and to be honest, after seeing a preview screening of Man of Steel, I’m still not sure.
Michael Shannon as General Zod. Rather than copy Terrance Stamp’s Zod, Shannon’s is grittier, more passionate. His motivations are different. Rather than revenge, this version of Zod seeks only what is best for the Kryptonian people. As a general, he was born, bred, and trained for nothing but the betterment of his people. Unfortunately, this is at odds with the interests of Earth.
Also great was Henry Cavill as Kal-El. Nobody will ever forget Christopher Reeve, but Cavill’s talent, chiseled looks and physique will certainly have people forgetting Brandon Routh. Cavill’s Superman was 100% flawless.
And finally, Russell Crowe as Jor-El. I’m a not a Russell Crowe fan, not in the slightest, but he was great. His Jor-El had a much larger role than the Marlon Brando incarnation had. Jor-El is the architect of everything that unfolds.
I have problems with the wanton destruction. Kal-El’s prime motivation is always the safety of others. Yet he, Zod, and Zod’s henchmen pretty much destroy all of Metropolis and reduce it to dust. Even though Zod seeks and needs Kal-El, our hero doesn’t use this to his advantage. He doesn’t, say, fly to the Pacific Ocean to battle Zod. Or Antarctica. He stays right in the middle of Metropolis and is a party to damn near every building coming down!
I also didn’t like the look of the Kryptonian technology. It was too monochrome and Cybertronian for my tastes. (Yet, somehow Kal-El ends up with the only blue, red and gold suit on the planet?)
I left the theater with a booming headache. I don’t know if it was the 3D or the overly loud sound mix, but my head hurts. To sum up the experience, the last hour of the film had too many missiles, airplanes, spaceships and carnage flying around. The brain can’t process that much information. I didn’t feel that the 3D really enhanced my experience. (My brother in law Martin said the movie felt like a Michael Bay film, with all that crap blowing up.)
Man of Steel had a decent story, that begins where Superman and Superman II did, but then goes in its own direction. In many regards this movie is Superman: First Contact. It’s funny how often we forget that perhaps the most remarkable thing about Superman, is that he’s an alien! Living among us! Plotwise, the McGuffin here is something called the Codex, which contains the genetic blueprints for an entire generation of new Kryptonians. As Krypton’s last defender, Zod wants it. But his interests and Kal-El’s are at odds, since Zod plans to exterminate humanity and move in here!
I have to admit I’m surprised that Snyder got such great performances out of this cast. Not that the cast are a bunch of hacks; they’re not. Amy Adams was fine, and so was Diane Lane. But let’s face it…we’ve seen other directors in the past get wooden performances out of Lawrence Fishburn and Kevin Costner. Fishburn amounts to little more than a background character, but Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is much more important than the version in Superman. He filled the role appropriately. My mother always said that Costner is best when he’s playing a farmer.
Much like The Watchmen, Snyder tells stories in multiple timelines simultaneously via flashbacks. In Man of Steel, these flashbacks are all critical moments of character development. This was done very well, with Cavill playing Clark Kent’s evolution perfectly. At the same time, I’m surprised Snyder didn’t use more popular and classic rock music. He did use a little bit, but certainly not on the scale of The Watchmen or even Suckerpunch.
I noticed two Battlestar Galactica alumni: Tahmoh Penikett had probably 1 second screen time, but Alessandro Juliani had a bit more. Why were they in it? Because Man of Steel was partly filmed in Canada!
Although I will probably buy Man of Steel on blu-ray to “have the whole collection”, I don’t have an immediate craving to see it again.
Man of Steel opens today. Time for an Advil.