Review by J.T. Johnson
Like 2005’s “Batman Begins”, producer Christopher Nolan, writer David S. Goyer and director Zack Snyder reboot the Superman franchise for a modern audience. “Man of Steel” is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat blockbuster with many thrilling action sequences that would make any Superman fan proud. On the other hand, it takes all of the right elements of Superman’s lore and fits them into a sloppy narrative that takes a little too long to get to the point.
Also, could someone please tell the filmmakers working today that lens flares do not necessarily make a sci-fi movie better! I blame J.J. Abrams for this newfound use of what used to be essentially an unavoidable mistake while shooting outside.
Similar to all Superman origin stories, the film begins on the dying planet Krypton. The Kryptonians have sucked their natural resources dry and only Jor-El (Russell Crowe) knows that they are all doomed. Unfortunately, General Zod (Michael Shannon) also knows that the planet is dead and attempts a coup to take over the planet and save only those he thinks are worthy of surviving to another planet.
Jor-El eventually escapes from Zod and gets home in time to send his only son Kal-El into space and on a direction straight to Earth. Once there, he is found by two lovable Kansas farmers and raised as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) while hiding newfound powers that are given to him by the Sun’s radiation. Eventually, he grows up to be an adult who doesn’t know where he belongs until he inevitably discovers his true destiny.
Shortly after this discovery though, General Zod (Michael Shannon) shows up demanding that the planet give up Superman. If not, Zod will destroy the entire planet. While Superman does initially turn himself over, the audience knows that this is just the set-up for some wildly imaginative shenanigans to come.
As stated above, the movie is a great blockbuster. The special-effects are amazing with plenty of action scenes showing Superman fighting the various Kryptonians across the planet from Metropolis to Smallville. Word of advice for anyone wanting to battle Superman: Do not mess with his mother. He will be offended.
Aside from the amazing action, the performances are pretty solid across the board as well. Notably, Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner are great as Superman’s real and adoptive fathers. Crowe gets a little more wiggle room, but Costner is slightly short-changed and it would have been great to see more of that “Field of Dreams” charm from the man who ultimately gave Superman his moral center.
Then there is Amy Adams as reporter Lois Lane. This time, Lois is actually searching for Clark due to his many heroic efforts as he walked the Earth trying to discover who he really is. Unlike past portrayals of Superman’s main love interest, this is a tough-as-nails field reporter who is more comfortable in a bulletproof vest than sitting behind a desk in Metropolis.
Out of all the actresses in past films, Adams is definitely the best actress thus far and ten times better than Kate Bosworth from the failed 2006 abortion known as “Superman Returns”.
Finally, there is Shannon as Zod. Due to one of the subplots found in the movie, Zod was genetically manufactured to do only one thing and that was to protect Krypton’s people. To this end, he will not let anything stand in his way to reclaiming the glory of his people.
The result of this direction with the character is that when compared to the more complicated villains found in Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, General Zod does turn out to be a rather two-dimensional, narrow-minded villain. This character is only saved due to Shannon’s performance that gives him a (very) brief sense of sadness when realizing that this character’s only true purpose has been taken away from him with Krypton’s destruction.
For the first half of the movie, “Man of Steel” jumps around a bit too much and yet they still didn’t spend quite enough time with certain characters. This is by far the best film since the first Superman movie from 1978. No, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of greater films such as “The Dark Knight” or “The Avengers”, but it is definitely worth checking out for the exciting second half that definitely sets up the character for more thrilling adventures.