Directed by Zack Snyder
June 10, 2013 (Alice Tully Hall) / June 14, 2013 (UK and US)
Following the destruction of his world, an alien child finds himself on Earth. When an enemy of his father bent on revenge tracks him to Earth, he must embrace his destiny and save the planet.
Henry Cavill was a great choice for the role of Clark Kent/Superman. First of all, he looks the part. Straight from the comics looks the part. In my opinion the central character of the movie needs to look like the central character of the source material. You can get away with going in a different direction with supporting characters, but the main character needs to fit the bill. Plus on top of that he is able to channel the super powered Boy Scout in the blue tights that is a hallmark of the character. He is most definitely the guy you can take home to mom and trust with a briefcase full of large, unmarked bills.
Superman here, as usual, is an outcast but not an outcast because of his powers or his general alien nature necessarily. It is clear he can hide them when he needs to in this iteration but he makes himself an outcast so he does not necessarily need to hide them. He has become a forgettable face in the crowd and a person simply existing. His adopted father Jonathan (Kevin Costner-BEST CHOICE!) has gone to an extreme to keep him protected from those that would harm or exploit him while his mother Martha (Diane Lane) appears to trust him and believe that he can take care of himself.
There are a significant number of flashbacks in this film. An event in the present occurs and causes Clark to think of the past. An interesting tweak to his origin story is that it is implied that some in Smallville are well aware of Clark’s powers even if they do not necessarily believe him to be an alien from another planet. The thing is because of the good he has done they do not say anything to the world. They keep an open secret. I am betting Pete Ross (Jack Foley as a child/Joseph Cranford as an adult) figured it out pretty fast.
Amy Adams was cast as Lois Lane. I admit in my mind Margot Kidder set a standard for casting of the character that has not quite been matched. I am not saying Kidder’s performance was flawless, but she got the strong headed and capable reporter part right and delivered dramatically. Amy Adams does not do too bad but there is something missing. And I think it is in the face. She does not physically convey that strength though her delivery of dialogue does. It is a bit of a disconnect there.
Michael Shannon as General Zod was absolutely perfect. Again he too is coming up against a character defining performance by the legendary Terrace Stamp from Superman II. Terence Stamp gave us an unforgettable Zod and Michael Shannon does pretty good in his own right. Shannon is all controlled rage and crazy as the character.
You do not get more homespun for Kansas parents than you do with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. Costner alone feels down home and pulled from the middle of America and Lane has always had an all-American feel to her. These are older individuals but fortunately they did not pick people that looked like retirees.
I thoroughly enjoyed Russell Crowe as Superman’s father Jor-El. I also feel kinda old having been around long enough myself to be seeing Crowe take on Dad roles. I am kind of surprised he took it but I am glad he did. Taking a supporting role in a major motion picture seems a little antithetical for someone who is a big star, but he gave the character weight that I do not believe other actors could have. This is similar to the casting of Brando in the role.
Jor-El sees the coming disaster for his home of Krypton and understanding that those in charge could not or would not do what needed to be done took matters into his hands. There was a sense of desperation in Crowe’s performance.
Lawrence Fishburne was a good choice for Daily Planet editor Perry White. This is perhaps one of the more important parts of the film. He is one of the more significant supporting characters in the mythology as his tolerance of Clark allows Superman the ability to do as he does.
I unapologetically love this movie. I think it is a great story and visually the film just looks awesome. But best of all Superman has a genuine super powered battle with an army of super powered bad guys. I know he had one in Superman II, but it was rather slow with what happened here in this film being crazy and kinetic like a genuine fight. The destruction was epic and not just enough to imply that serious damage could be done.
There were complaints about this being a darker film than the Christopher Reeve stories. I think the Cavill iteration of the character of Superman was as light and hopeful as Christopher Reeve’s version was, but the character was transferred into a darker story filled with deeper themes and more consequential decisions on the part of the character. Previously they tried to continue the Christopher Reeve films without the actor and quite honestly Superman Returns was not that good of a film.
Some also complained about the disposition of the Zod character. By that point in the film Zod was a soldier without a purpose and it broke him. The only thing Zod had left was making Superman suffer so he decided to force Superman’s hand and in those final moments Superman’s choice was either to let Zod live and continue destroying and slaughter that family or kill Zod and save the innocent. Not an easy choice for a character that tries to save everybody, and it is something that would or could have lasting consequences. This was not a Marvel movie where decisions do not necessarily negatively impact the hero personally until the team up film.
Visually the planet Krypton looked good but for a planet illuminated by a red sun (this is one of those bits of comic mythology you cannot avoid) it did not look that red. There were no tints of red other than the background sky. But other than that it looked fantastic. The costuming was good and it is my understanding it was all if not mostly CGI. I imagine wearing all that stuff in real life would be quite heavy but having a preference for physical costumes over virtual ones I wish they had done them in real life. Given the size of the cast for the Krypton scenes alone I assume that would have gotten rather expensive to manufacture all those costumes.
The story is solid. Superman is a man that is well aware he does not belong and is trying to find his place. By the end of the film he realizes who he is and what he must do. He has a responsibility to do the right thing and not just stand idly by.
The story has great action. The battles between Superman and Zod and his forces are epically destructive. What would you expect when people with Godlike powers clash? They are going to level things near them. What gets me though is that the military kept sending planes and soldiers to shoot at and fire missiles at Zod’s people. Huh? After the bullets bounced off and the first few missiles left them relatively unfazed you would think they would pull back and come up with something else.
Snyder digs deep into the Superman character catalogue and gives us more than a few characters in supporting roles. Here we have the likes of scientist Dr. Emil Hamilton (Richard Schiff) showing up. Interestingly they cast Alessandro Juliani who had played the character in Smallville in a small role. Mackenzie Gray plays Kryptonian scientist Jax-Ur. Michael Kelly plays Daily Planet employee Steve Lombard. Jadin Gould and Rowen Kahn play young Lana Lang and Kenny Braverman. Antje Traue was cast as Faora-Ul. All characters from the comics. Interestingly Gal Gadot was originally cast as Faora-Ul until she had to drop out because of pregnancy. Fantastic cast. Fantastic music. Great story.
Man of Steel is a wonderful film. While darker than its predecessor, this is most certainly a watch it!