Running Time: 2 hours 23 minutes
As his home world of Krypton is in the midst of a civil war and on the brink of destruction, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) decides to send his newborn son Kal-El to Earth in the hopes that the people of Krypton will live on through him. Kal’s vessel crash lands in the farmlands of Kansas and he is adopted and raised as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), the son of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent. Growing up, Clark discovers that he has abilities that set him apart from the people around him and makes him question who or what he truly is. After being told of his strange origins by his father, Clark decides to hit the road and search the world for more clues about his heritage.
Clark manages to find the answers he has been searching his whole life for but his joy is short-lived because a renegade warlord has survived the death of Krypton and followed Kal-El’s trail to Earth. General Zod (Michael Sheen) believes that Kal holds the key to the survival of the Kryptonian race and Zod plans to use him to rebuild Krypton on the smoldering ruins of mankind. Kal is forced to choose between the survival of his own race and the lives of the people of his adopted home world.
I was impressed by the job that director Zack Snyder did in finally creating a movie worthy of one of the greatest heroes in the history of American fiction: Superman. This film was grand in scope but it was also a very personal tale of one man’s quest to understand what his purpose is. Snyder creates audacious action sequences and presents Superman to us in a way that makes him seem more heroic than he had been since Christopher Reeve first donned the cape in 1978. Cavill is a true physical specimen and while he doesn’t always manage to connect emotionally, his intensity and resolve practically leap off of the screen. As I’ve said before, superhero movies live and die with their villains and Sheen’s General Zod is a terrific foil for Superman as a zealot on the verge of madness who is determined to ensure his people’s survival no matter what the cost. I was also happy with Lois Lane’s role in the film as portrayed by Amy Adams. Lane is smart enough to unravel Superman’s true identity by using her skills as an investigative reporter and she is also brave enough to face the dangers in front of her without flinching. She is no mere damsel in distress.
There were only a few things that I didn’t like about the film. Man of Steel doesn’t get as much mileage out of the flashbacks to Clark’s childhood as they could have because I feel like they underutilized Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as the Kents. So much of what makes Superman the person he is, is the set of values instilled in him by his parents. Also, while I realize that this is part of Zack Snyder’s signature style as a director, I wish that the colors in the movie would have been more vibrant. Too much of the film has a brown or grey filter on it, which keeps the visuals from being as brilliant as they could have been.
Those few small issues aside, I really enjoyed Man of Steel. If the rumors of a DC Comics Justice League mega-movie are true then Man of Steel is a tremendous building block. This was a genuine summer blockbuster in every sense of the word. A-
I love characters that are noble, heroic and that have gone through some sort of personal transformation. Man of Steel was everything I wanted it to be because Superman embodies all of those ideas. I have been a fan of Henry Cavill since I saw him in The Count of Monte Cristo when he was a teenager. It is easy to be seduced by his attractiveness and fail to recognize the humility and integrity he brought to this role. The American values of hard work, strength and honor that the Kent’s instilled in Clark come shining through and make it clear what his motives and choices will be. We are not surprised by Superman, and that is not a criticism—I love the fact that we can trust him, and I am curious to see how they will advance his story in future movies.
Man of Steel is more deliberate and nuanced than I expected it to be, and I credit producer and co-writer Christopher Nolan with that direction. Nolan was the mastermind behind the wildly successful Batman movies, and I appreciate how he fleshes out the backstory and makes Superman relatable and more “human.” Amy Adamswas a strong choice for Lois Lane, and I am glad to see her character is necessary and has a prominent place in the story. Too often, big blockbuster movies choose actresses with more overt sexiness, and I like the accessibility of Adams’ beauty because it makes her relatable. Man of Steel warrants the big screen and I would encourage you to see it this summer. My only criticism is that I found the action sequences a bit too long. The movie is almost 2 ½ hours, and director Zack Snyder could have easily shaved off 15 minutes. As a whole, I was thoroughly entertained. A-