Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel was one of the most anticipated movies of the summer if not the year.  There were many questions surrounding this movie. Can they erase the bitter memory of Superman Returns, can Christopher Nolan reboot another franchise, will Man of Steel finally start get a Justice League movie rolling.  And Warner Brothers wanted to make sure you knew Man of Steel was coming out. There was a media blitz of all things Man of Steel.  It seemed like every other week a new trailer or featurette was released.  I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first but by the time the second and third trailer came out I knew I had to see this movie.

Man of Steel is another Superman Origin stories.  It seems like we can't make it through the summer without another superhero origin story.  But forget everything you already knew about Superman this story is something very different.  Man of Steel opens with a long sequence on Krypton where we meet Jor-El (Russell Crowe) who is battling General Zod (Michael Shannon) for the future of Krypton.  When it is clear that Krypton will not survive Jor-El sends his baby son  Kal-El to Earth to protect him.  This is the first time we have seen this much of the planet Krypton and it looks spectacular.

Once on Earth the movie flash forwards 33 years to Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) who is struggling with is identity and how to use his powers.  This part of the movie spends time flashing back on Clark's childhood and his current quest to find out where he comes from.  Along the way he meets a young ambitious reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and ends up saving her with his powers.  Lois then sets out to find out who this mystery person is and traces the clues back to Kansas and the discovers Clark's true identity. In the mean time Clark finds an ancient Kryptonian ship where he learns about Krypton and Jor-El's battle with General Zod. He also accidentally triggers a distress beacon. This distress beacon leads General Zod who has been traveling the universe looking for Kal-El to Earth where there will be an epic showdown.

There is a lot going on in the first half but it all worked for me.  I think doing his childhood as flashbacks worked better because most people know the story of Superman.   One of the things that many wondered about Man of Steel was how Christopher Nolan and David Goyer's script was going to ground Superman in reality like they did with Batman in The Dark Knight series?  What they did was make Clark and outsider.  I think they did a really good job at making us feel how conflicted he was.  Kevin Costner as Pa Kent did amazing job at helping ground the character.  He knew Clark was special but wanted to protect him but also knew that Clark had a different father who wanted different things for him.  I did see the movie on Father's Day so the whole father theme was kind of perfect for that day.

The other actors in the movie was also very good. Amy Adams is one of my favorite actresses and I loved her again in this movie.  Her Lois Lane is ambitious and does not wait around for someone to save her like other women in Superhero movies.  Although toward the end her character is pushed to the side and basically just becomes a bystander.  Michael Shannon was very menacing as General Zod and while Russell Crowe was good as Jor-El but it was just your typical Russell Crowe.

The final act is what seems to be hit or miss with most people.  I thought the battle scenes with Superman and General Zod and his henchman was pretty good. The visuals were spectacular and I was totally engrossed.  Although I will agree that the massive destruction of Metropolis might have been a bit overboard considering Superman is supposed to be protecting the humans.  I don't want to go into spoiler territory but the conflict Superman finally feels at the end worked for me.  I thought you really felt the pain of his decision and while some die hard Superman fans didn't agree with the ending I thought it was good. I do hope they expand on this conflict and how Superman's decision impacts him in the sequel.  Also, after such an emotional scene the final scene is a funny bit which seemed out of place.

Overall: 5/5 Stars.
I loved it. Obviously some die hard fans will not like the changes to the mythology but I thought it all worked.  It is Zack Snyder's best film to date and hope they continue with some of the emotional conflicts they set up in the first one.

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