"Man of Steel": A "Super" Start

July 25, 2013, 5:12 p.m. | By Abel Chanyalew | 7 years, 8 months ago

Director Zack Snyder and company have the makings of an epic franchise

With "Man of Steel", director Zack Snyder ("300", "Watchmen") and DC Comics attempt to revive the crown jewel of the DC Universe and Earth's greatest hero: Superman. The most recent effort to reboot the Superman franchise, Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns" (2006), was dull and underwhelming, a universal flop. There hasn't been a worthy or successful portrayal of The Man of Tomorrow since Richard Donner's "Superman" franchise spanning the late 1970s to the mid 80s. This version featured the beloved Christopher Reeve, who played our hero as well as the bumbling yet mild mannered Clark Kent, Superman's alter ego. But finally, Snyder has created a film that fulfills the appetite of comic book hero fans that have seen seemingly every superhero but the Man of Steel make it to the big screen lately.

The movie begins with the unrest and collapse of Krypton, the home of Kal-El (Henry Cavill), Clark's birth name. Jor-El (Russell Crowe), Clark's biological father, knows that his planet is doomed and tries to warn the leaders of the planet, but none will listen. Seeing that he and the rest of the planet have no hope, he sends his only son to Earth (one of many Christian themes in the film). Fellow Kryptonian General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his army, who escape Krypton's destruction, follow Kal-El down to Earth and plan to use the newfound planet as the place to rebuild their home world. The plot follows Superman's struggles as he protects Earth from the same fate as Krypton and as he journeys towards his destiny.

While this latest Superman franchise has carried the torch of cinematic success from Donner's adaptation, the two versions are quite dissimilar. "Man of Steel" features a brooding Clark Kent/Superman who faces the internal struggle of protecting his secret while also protecting the people of Earth. He also must deal with the conflict between his Kryptonian side and his human nature. Many have tried to set Donner's "Superman" as the standard for this newest adaptation, but you can't compare the chipper, cheesy Superman of the late 70s to Snyder's darker adaptation.

Far from Reeves' portrayal of a goofy Clark Kent with a sunny disposition, "Man of Steel" is a movie with a lot more angst and one that is truer to the more modern Superman comics. This darker mood is no surprise when you see that Christopher Nolan, director of the recent Batman trilogy, was a co-writer. As seen from the "Dark Knight" series, Nolan excels in the arena of the troubled and frustrated protagonist. However, the mood is a refreshing change and brings a sense of maturity to the franchise, something that has been lacking in the various Superman adaptations, whether animated or otherwise. It's not all doom and gloom though, as there are various tension relievers sprinkled throughout, mainly made by Cavill's charismatic Superman.

Speaking of the cast, "Man of Steel" features a group with plenty of big names and star power. It also has a talented, up-and-coming actor in Cavill, who brings a certain charm to the role that instantly makes the movie much more intimate with the audience. He also looks the part (unlike the 2006 version) with his giant arms and hulking chest, which properly portrays the massive presence of the Man of Steel.
Amy Adams plays the spunky Lois Lane and does it well, incorporating the well-known boldness of the character while also integrating the tenderness required with her love interest Clark Kent. And while their romance takes a bit of a backseat in the plot, a foundation has been set for their relationship, and there is clearly a playful chemistry between the two.

Michael Shannon takes on the role of Zod, and he incorporates his own intensity to enhance the character's presence. Shannon's character is not simply a villain but a more complex antihero. Kevin Costner brilliantly portrays Clark's earthly father Jonathan Kent and captures the role of the strong, virtuous and loving parent. Crowe and Costner are impressive as they play Clark's biological and human fathers, respectively, who are influential in shaping Clark Kent into the Man of Steel.

Despite the criticism of too much action and overdone CGI, Snyder's style of grandiose action sequences and CGI is incredibly entertaining and visually appealing. After all, a superhero movie about characters with God-like powers requires some supersized action scenes. The fight sequences are well choreographed and look very natural, and the tight camerawork during Superman's flight scenes that often hones in on Clark's face adds to the intimacy between character and audience.

As for the special effects, the landscape of Krypton in the opening scenes is quite a spectacle and captures the imagination. The color palette is slightly dulled, adding to the dark mood of the movie and making various elements of the film look slicker, especially Superman's suit. The suit is much more aesthetically appealing than previous incarnations and its polished, sleek look increases the "cool" factor.

However, "Man of Steel" isn't impenetrable to criticism. Though there are several gems in the script, the dialogue can be flat and at times corny. And plot-wise, it is definitely not without some flaws. Without revealing too much, there are some plot holes and unnecessary plot points, the most ridiculous being giant mechanical squids attacking Metropolis.

But Snyder and the rest of the crew don't hold back when it comes to the best parts. Yes, the back half of the film is predominantly action and destruction filled, but once again it's a superhero movie and there is nothing wrong with that in this genre. The storyline also does not drag on over Clark's childhood. With the exception of a few helpful flashbacks, Snyder gets right to the point.

All in all, "Man of Steel" has the typical blockbuster appeal with all the action, explosions and thrills, but it also lays the foundation for the franchise that will tell the epic story of our planet's greatest protector.

Man of Steel is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language. It is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Tags: Clark Ken Henry Cavill Kryptonian Man of Stee Michael Shannon Russell Crowe Zack Snyder

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