Man of Steel – Movie Review
Director: Zach Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay & story), Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegal * Joes Shuster (creators of Superman)
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Antje Traue, Christopher Meloni, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Laurence Fishburne
Thriller / Action-Adventure
I didn’t know I was such a purist.
I love comic books. I love books about Superman–I adore Roger Stern’s The Death and Life of Superman. I’ve been a fan of Superman through many incarnations: George Reeves, Dean Cain, and Tom Welling on TV, and Christopher Reeve in the movies (well, two of them anyway).
But my Superman is definitely NOT science fiction. And Man of Steel is, at its heart, a science fiction film as it attempts to ground Superman in realism.
The movie begins with an extended sequence on the planet Krypton, giving us a more in-depth look at society there than we’ve seen before. They’re advanced technologically, but have a fairly rigid societal structure. In some ways, the production design for this part of the film was reminiscent of how I always imagined John Norman’s Gor.
It’s a little talky at the beginning, but then the action never lets up, despite the movie running well over the two hour mark. Starting from the revelation on Krypton that Superman’s father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) has absolutely mad skillz, there’s fist fights and smackdowns and rescues
enough to keep your head spinning.
In fact, your head spins so fact that it’s a little hard to keep track of what’s going on. To some extent, that’s the nature of the beast–Superman has super powers, after all. But the fight scenes had you looking back and forth trying desperately to keep track while they dragged on endlessly, managing to actually make many of the fight scenes shift from exciting into boring.
Similarly, the timeline of the movie is very choppy in places. As yet another take on the Superman origin story, Man of Steel strove for originality, in storyline, in details, in the way they constructed the story. But they may have gone too far–again and again I was knocked out of the movie and I found myself thinking: if I didn’t know the baseline story already, would I be able to follow the convoluted present/flashback timeline? Is there anyone who doesn’t know some form of this story?
The action pieces were broken up with little character vignettes–they gave you a look at some of the people, but left you wanting more. Especially the Daily Planet worker bees and some of the military higher ups–I wanted more time with them.
They were enough scenes of Superman growing up as the son to Jonathan and Martha Kent to give you a good feel for his early family life. I loved the portrayal of Martha–Diane Lane did an amazing job balancing compassion, strength, and love. I was less impressed with dad Jonathan–Kevin Costner handled what he was given well, but I found the character they chose to create somewhat lacking. His paranoia at what would happen if humans discovered an alien living among them led Superman down a lonely, difficult road.
Consequences of those early choices come into play later in the film, as Superman seems better able to deal with saving humans in small, immediate groups, while busloads or buildings-full seemingly escape his notice in the heat of the moment. An easy enough thing to understand as he fights for his life, but something that was handled better in other versions.
Too, this movie was short on Clark Kent. We got so very much on Superman and on Krypton that something needed to be sacrificed, and that ended up being the dichotomy usually present because Superman has a secret identity that he needs to keep hidden. The hijinks he goes through to do so usually helps lighten things up–they were needed here as the story got very dark indeed.
What works in this one works because of the actors. Henry Cavill does an excellent job as Superman, Russell Crowe owns every scene he’s in, and supporting actors Amy Adams, Christopher Meloni, and Richard Schiff really shine. Michael Shannon was one tick off true for me as Zod, but still turned in a grand performance going toe to toe with Superman. And Laurence Fishburne wasn’t in nearly enough scenes as Perry White, but was spot on in every second.
So, see this one for the really well done fight scenes and the way lots of things go splody. And for some really neat science fiction ideas. And spaceships.
But if you just want the guy in blue tights saving the world–wait for cable. While you’re waiting, watch one of the Chris Reeve movies again.
Man of Steel Movie Review
I love comic books. I love books about Superman-- I adore Roger Stern’s The Death and Life of Superman. I’ve been a fan of Superman through many incarnations: George Reeves, Dean Cain, and Tom Welling on TV, and Christopher Reeve in the movies (well, two of them anyway).