Man of Steel: The Superman movie that we have been waiting for
**THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AND YOU ARE OFFICIALLY WARNED**
Putting this in a bit of perspective considering my and some of my colleagues age, we have been waiting nearly 40 years to see a Superman movie nearly as memorable as Superman the Movie from 1978. Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder looked to turn this franchise around the same way Nolan did for Batman. We all know the history; the original Superman movie set a standard, the 2nd one was ok followed by a forgettable 3rd and 4th effort, followed by Richard Donner coming out with a re-cut of the 2nd one making it the way it should have been after Richard Lester seriously camped it out. Then there was Superman Returns. It wasn’t ‘bad’ but far from what we was looking for in Superman’s return to the screen after such a long hiatus which ended in that movie being more of a homage to the early ones and almost as forgettable.
When Zack Snyder was tasked to do this movie, I cringed thinking back to Sucker Punch just 2 years ago and hoping that this effort didn’t kill any chances of another DC movie getting made. After seeing Man of Steel, my fears were laid to rest. One of the biggest things that Snyder did right with this reboot is that he didn’t handhold the audiences’ hands too much with the origin of Kal-El and the whole growing up phase. However he used Krypton which was beautifully reimagined similar to what has been seen in comics recently to set up events of what was to come. Krypton was a vibrant world unlike the dull lifeless crystal world seen in the original who had grown so much that artificial birth was essential to population control. But also a planet doomed…but when isn’t it? Russell Crowe played a great Jor-El and in this instance was not just a scientist but could fight. He played his scenes early on brilliantly. Trying to warn the council of the planet’s doom and being rejected but still trying to carry out his plan and saving his son by injecting the DNA of every last citizen in Kal-El to save his people. Michael Shannon’s Zod is the man tasked to stop him and Shannon plays a brilliant figure of a man who isn’t one dimensional in world mongering, he is out to save his people, just has the wrong way to go about it.
After Krypton is destroyed, Snyder takes us into 2nd gear and shows Kal-El’s life on Earth as a mission to find himself and his purpose as Clark Kent wanders aimlessly trying to understand why he is so different from others and the mysterious key he has in his possession. This is where Cavill and the Kal-Els of differing ages step in to add breadth and width to the character. From a man on a fishing boat saving men on a burning oil rig to a child in school whose powers awaken and recognizing that he is not like other kids, Snyder rather than slow the movie down and walk us through Clark Kent’s years of discovery weaves a tapestry of discovery in different flashbacks that eventually brings us and Clark to the North Pole and the discovery of an ancient scout ship from his planet. Snyder takes us into 3rd gear for a short time as Kal-El gets all the answers he needs from his long dead father in lieu of an advanced AI which now has the government on high alert and also sends a beacon out to General Zod who is now on his way to Earth.
4th gear…well all hell breaks loose and that’s pretty much what you waited for. HA!
Snyder does a lot of justice to making sure fans get a great movie. I never once felt bored as Snyder went about developing characters and setting up the stage for Kal-EL vs Zod. Henry Cavill played a great Kal-El in this movie in a much more opposite way than Christoper Reeve did more than 30 years ago. I felt that even the supporting characters played by a long list of talent including Kevin Costner, Chris Meloni, Laurence Fishbourn and Harry Lennix did not disappoint. When the final ¼ of the movie started with Kal-El kicked in, it was or course to save the world and it wasn’t a short fight al’a Iron Man 2 and it wasn’t long and dragged out like Transformers 2. It was a fight with a purpose to save the world and gain the trust of the people. It was a fight to make hard decision and it was brutal worthy of a Superman movie. Especially when Zod’s soldiers comes into fight, it made for some very “DAAAAAAMMMMMN!” moments even when you realize that they didn’t have the 30+ years that Kal-El had living on Earth which put him at an advantage. But there was tons of carnage not to mention tons of product placement (Sears and 7-11 I am looking at you) not to mention a few easter eggs (let’s see if you catch the Lexcorp truck) sprinkled through out. Even the individual fights did not disappoint.
Snyder also did a great job of also tinkering with the relationship with Amy Adam’s Lois and Clark Kent. As it was, Lane was investigating the mystery behind Kent which more or less led her straight to his front door in Smallville. Lane comes off as just trying to get another story as Kent initially rebuffs his approach but then he soon realizes that she may be his only friend that he has on this planet and of course Lois is the liaison between him and a xenophobic military. Not only that, Lois also meets Kal-El’s family and is the one told how to stop Zod so Snyder in a way turns the whole “Lane now knowing Kal-El’s secret” thing on its ear. It’s going to be amazing going forward seeing how Snyder plays with this story to show them 2 working side by side now as Lois is the only one who truly knows his secret.
A few last things to mention as I wrap up. And if you really don’t want to know about this the truly stop reading right here………………………………………. Some of you will be surprised on how Kal-EL deals with Zod but should you be? If you still are, then find Superman 2 and watch the last 10 minutes as Superman battles Zod in the Fortress. Yeah that happened. The only difference here is the suddenness of the decision of doing what he had to do to stop someone just as powerful from destroying his home vs dealing with someone who was depowered and easy to manage. Another thing to note, there was no Jimmy Olson nor is Kal-El ever really referred to as Superman except maybe 2 times. In my opinion Snyder delivered on bringing audiences a Superman movie that people have waited for in this generation. It’s one of the best superhero movies I have seen in the past 5 years and a proper reboot to a classic story. Go see it and be a part of the conversation.
**To take a nod from the X Box One press conference: For those of you out there that prefer and argue for a Superman movie that was like the original, there is the movie for you, it’s called Superman Returns with Brandon Routh.
4.5 out of 5 stars.