Man of Steel Review
Quick Version: This is the Superman movie I used to dream about. And I am so glad it has finally arrived. I can't wait to watch it again.
If you've read this blog enough, you know that I am a Marvel freak. Aside from Batman and anything Frank Miller writes, I don't read too many DC comics. "Kingdom Come" was a great crossover but not much else has really interested me. Especially not Superman, I have always found him to be kind of corny. Going into "Man of Steel," I had vague memories of the 1978 Richard Donner movie, I remember hating the sequels, I never got into Smallville and I wasn't a huge fan of "Superman Returns" back in 2006. I read all of the crazy scripts people like J.J. Abrams and Kevin Smith wrote for a Superman movie. I began to think that nobody in Hollywood could do the character justice.
So color me surprised when director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan come along and make a great movie. This isn't just a superhero movie, its a towering work of art. A film with a real heart and soul but faithfully embraces the spirit of the summer blockbuster. And I still can't believe I am writing all of this about a Superman movie.
The film opens a high note, we see the birth of Kal-El (Superman's real name for all you dumb-dumbs) and his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is crying tears of joy and sorrow. He is happy to be a father, but his home planet Krypton is dying. Apparently the Kryptons have depleted their world of all of its resources which will allow the planet to die. This angers General Zod (Michael Shannon) who begins to kill all the high-ranking Krypton leaders and he wants Jor-El to join him. Jor-El has different plans though, seems he prepping his newborn for a mission, something which will help is family name live on in honor. Its a harrowing opening to a movie, filled with crazy special effects but sprinkled with big emotional beats.
We then see Jor-El, now going by Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) all grown up and he is kind of drifting through life. He has memories of growing up with Jon and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who taught him to be weary of his powers. But Kent never ceases to use them and to help people. This catches the attention of reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who is hot on a story of a thousand year old spacecraft hidden in the arctic. Jon Kent always taught Clarke to be mindful of his powers, because mankind fears what they don't understand. This film at its core is all about noticing our true potential and knowing when to use it. I found the first hour to be heavily emotional, finding that I had a lump in my throat for a good deal of it. Costner and Lane are perfect as the Kent's, really good work.
Henry Cavill is set for super stardom after this film. He has created a character that is noble, cautious, sincere, tough, badass and funny all at the same time. He has captured the very essence of Superman and I hope he stays with the character for awhile. He's a walking example that slapping an A-lister on a popular property isn't always the best answer, he has created something of his own and its wonderful to watch. I have been a fan of Amy Adams for a quite awhile now and she's really great as Lane. She plays a no funny business reporter, but its still quite charming once Lane starts to fall for Superman. Great work by both these actors.
Michael Shannon is another great actor, but I could never picture him as a super villain. He's played crazy before many times, but not a comic level. I am happy to report that Shannon has got huge range and he shows it off with pride in "Man of Steel." I love that General Zod is not a typical, comic book bad guy. There is a lot to him than just "BLOW UP THE EARTH WITH MY DEATH RAY!" He's someone the audience can relate to, a villain that has a method to his madness, even if he goes about it the complete wrong way. Zod does everything for his home planet in this movie, he wants to save the last pieces of his old civilization, even if that means destroying a different civilization in the process. He's a wonderful bad guy brought to life by a wonderful actor.
I kind of feel like Russell Crowe almost steals the show. He is the perfect example of a great dad and what being a great dad looks like. I also love that there is a scene or two of Jor-El kicking ass. Crowe nails every bit of character perfect. He's an actor I have admired for a long while now, but this is definitely one of his high watermarks in his career. In the inevitable sequel to "Man of Steel" I hope we get more Crowe as Jor-El.
Visually speaking, "Man of Steel" is a feast. Even with the dense story-line, well-written characters and spectacular emotional beats, "Man of Steel" still has plenty of room to wow you with effects. Zod eventually makes to Earth and his plans for us Earthlings is less than pretty. The last half hour of the movie is a CGI sugar rush that made feel like I was dreaming. The fight scenes in this are top-notch and put Superman's capabilities on fine display. I was particularly impressed by just how realistic it looked when Superman flew.
There is literally so much to love in "Man of Steel," that I can barely articulate them in words. I love the escalation of the big fight at the end. I love Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White and particularly a huge emotional scene near the end that flattened me. I love Hans Zimmer is and beautifully elegant music throughout the film. I love the smile I got on my face as the final dialogue of the film between Kent and Lane was spoken. Most of all, I love that this was a story-driven film first and a hardcore superhero extravaganza second.
So its safe to say that Zack Snyder will indeed make you believe in Superman once again. I know for a fact that I surely believe in Superman again. It is also safe to say that I believe in DC again, and if they want to make a "Justice League" movie, I say bring it on. "Man of Steel" is one of the years highlights so far, one of best efforts in any genre of movie this year. I can't wait to see this film more times and I can't wait to buy it blu-ray. This was a perfect ending to a weekend and I want to thank everyone at Warner Bros. and DC for giving Snyder the tools and time needed to make a great film. This goes to show that when an artist is given any type of material, if they love it enough, the audience will love it too. I nearly-hated Superman before "Man of Steel," now I can't wait for him to get back. The only problem is I want a new Superman movie every year for twenty years now.
FINAL GRADE: A+