Man of Steel (PG-13)
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Russell Crowe
Directed by Zack Snyder
I’m going to begin this review a little differently.
On this past Thursday, I was listening to The Tony Kornheiser Show on podcast delay (not important), and Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday was reviewing Man of Steel with host Tony Kornheiser. In it, she said that the movie was drab, uninspiring, dark, and devoid of the campiness that the Christopher Reeve Superman movies brought. Poking around the internet for reviews, you get something akin to this, with the consensus being that it’s just not good. Now, I normally don’t do this, because I believe that everyone has the right to have whatever opinion they want to have, but I’m making an exception in this case.
Those critics are mostly wrong. Not entirely, but mostly.
They’re right about one thing: the movie isn’t campy. It is as far from campy as you can get. The movie only has a modicum of humor in it, with the film being spent mostly in present day – with the occasional flashback to young Clark Kent’s life in Smallville growing up with his adoptive parents Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent. The movie also spends a fair amount of time on the doomed planet Krypton, where Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) give birth to Kal-El and send him to Earth. That’s not a spoiler: that’s part of the mythos. I won’t be telling much of the movie like I’ve done in previous reviews, because…well…my words won’t do it justice. You have to see this on screen to believe it.
I’m gonna come right out and say it: I’m not a Superman fan. I think he’s about as interesting as a glass of milk. In the DC Universe, Batman calls him the “big blue Boy Scout,” and that’s not a compliment. Yeah, he stands for – as the old cartoon is so eloquent in saying – “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” but his wholesomeness really made me sick. It wasn’t until watching the amazing animated series Justice League and its sequel Justice League Unlimited that I began to appreciate Superman a bit more. Watching ten seasons of Smallville really helped me to appreciate him even more. But, even still, something felt off about him to me. As time progressed, I just shrugged Superman off as a blue Aquaman; serves a purpose, but disinteresting.
Man of Steel changed that for me.
In this movie, they make Superman more interesting. They tweak his backstory just enough that you begin to understand the purpose of his being so moral. The intertwining of both of his fathers goes to shape the inner turmoil that will be his guiding point. The feelings he has for Lois Lane (Amy Adams) doesn’t feel schlepped on like it did in the emo Superman Returns; instead, it feels organic and worthwhile. The conflict he has with General Zod (Michael Shannon) is incredible.
Let me just say that Michael Shannon steals the show. You’ve seen him in the trailers: “You feel your son is safe?! I WILL FIND HIM!!!” is delivered in such a way that you really feel that he really means business. It doesn’t hurt matters that Shannon – while a fantastic actor – seems alien himself. His loyal lieutenant Faora (Antje Traue) is sufficiently evil to make you actively root for her demise. Really…this chick is scary evil.
Zack Snyder gets a lot of flak for some of his cinematic choices as of late, and deservedly so; whereas his interpretation of Dawn of the Dead and 300 were good, Watchmen was a faithful, if almost unwatchable, recreation of the comic it was based from, and the less said about Sucker Punch, the better. In this, he doesn’t go wild with his trademark tropes; he lets the actors work their magic, and he stays out of the way. The Hans Zimmer score makes you instantly forget about the iconic John Williams theme before it, and it carves its own path in the mythos.
The only problem I have with the movie is with some of the camerawork; it relies a bit much on the shaky-cam documentary feel, as well as the overabundance of zoom cuts. That being said, it does quite a bit right, as you will NOT get lost in the action. Where you would expect the camera to really be shaking like it’s strapped to a vibrator, it stays pretty centered on the action before it.
This movie not only made me believe a man could fly, it made me love Superman. I said on Facebook and Twitter that this movie was better than Iron Man 3, and I stand by that. That is a comparison I’m willing to make, and I won’t back down from that. In fact, next to Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s one of my favorite movies of the summer. This movie is exciting from beginning to end, and I highly recommend going to watch it at your earliest convience. Hell, don’t even wait until then: watch it ASAP.
My rating: A+