The world’s most recognizable and popular superhero has had a tough go at it on the big screen over the last twenty-five years. SuperMan IV: The Quest for Peace was so terrible that most fans choose to acknowledge that it doesn’t exist. A Tim Burton version of Superman starring Nicolas Cage was abruptly cancelled after preproduction had begun. Then we all witnessed the bore fest that was the ill-conceived Superman Returns. Only The CW seemed to get the character right on Smallville which had a successful ten-year run, but that was on television. This week Krypton’s last son gets a chance at big screen redemption with Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel.
Man of Steel is the familiar story of Clark Kent, but gives you a fresh take on the story without ruffling the capes of Superman purists. Man of Steel mixes the best parts of Superman and Superman II and combines them into a new experience that doesn’t feel repetitive like last year’s The Amazing Spiderman. The original Superman ideology is present with changes that provides the audience with a new perspective on the story of Earth’s foster alien Kal-El.
Zack Snyder’s visual directing style and sense of action makes Man of Steel the most exciting and visually pleasing Superman movie ever filmed. All the corniness from the old Superman films are gone and we are left with a troubled Clark Kent who can’t find his place in the world. Whatever decision Clark makes, there is always blowback from one side or another. This is not your father’s Superman who saves cats or helps an old lady cross the street. Henry Cavill’s Superman has more depth and will do whatever it takes to protect his country, planet and the people he loves. Cavill’s performance is a total 180 from Brandon Routh’s cardboard cut out personality. Even the fans that can’t let go of the image of Christopher Reeve should warm up to Cavill’s role as Superman.
The action and special effects were superb in Man of Steel, but it was the father/son dynamic with Clark and his biological and adoptive fathers that made the film special for me. We’re all aware of Krypton’s fate, but Russell Crowe’s Jor-El manages to be prevalent throughout the whole movie including a spectacular prologue with a totally different version of Krypton. No more glass crystals for this reboot. Although the role is small, the standout performance for me was Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. Costner’s portrayal makes you think about the decisions and choices you make in life to protect the ones you love. It’s a different version of Jonathan Kent that we are accustomed to, but his personality and actions drives Superman’s character development in Man of Steel. Great casting by Warner Bros. with the choices of Crowe and Costner.
My only complaint with Man of Steel would be climatic showdown with Zod (Michael Shannon). Michael Shannon proves once again that no one can play intense crazy like him, but his fight scene with Superman is exhausting by the end of the sequence. I think they could have chopped ten minutes out of the super brawl, but the Transformers audience of today who craves more and more spectacle may have a differing opinion than my own. Still Shannon’s Zod is the best Superman villain we have seen on-screen. Man of Steel is a great start to kicking off the new franchise that will hopefully lead us into a long-awaited Justice League movie. It seems Cavill, Snyder and a little mentoring from Christopher Nolan has the DC Universe moving in the right direction on the big screen.
Overall, I give Man of Steel 3 out of 4 stars.
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