MAN OF STEEL
Author: Mike Gallien (Follow @MIKEGALLIEN)
June 13, 2013

SYNOPSIS: A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.

As a child of the ‘50s, I remember watching and loving reruns of the cheesy Superman television series with George Reeves. The show was always upbeat, positive and sure to have a happy ending, but without a great deal of depth. In the 50-plus years since that series left the airwaves, numerous attempts to bring the “man of steel” to the big screen always seemed to suffer the same fate – a tremendous lack of depth.

Most had box-office success due to the strength and popularity of the comic book character from Krypton, but none achieved giving the superhero more than a superficial comic book personality. Superman, unlike Batman in numerous iterations in the hands of directors like Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, and particularly, Christopher Nolan, never seemed to be more than a stilted comic book hero with no sense of realism or emotion.

Fast-forward to 2013’s Man of Steel and yet another attempt to breathe some life into the character. I was cynical, I must admit, but knowing that Batman veteran screenwriter David Goyer (Batman Begins, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises) was involved, I felt there was a chance of giving Superman a serious dose of reality. Getting some storyline help and production assistance from famed Batman director Nolan couldn’t hurt as well. The outcome wasn’t disappointing. Man of Steel may be the best Superman film to date.

The film opens with Krypton in its death throes. With the government in upheaval and the planet doomed, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) manages to launch his natural-born son, into space with the genetic secret to save their race elsewhere. In the meantime, relentless General Zod, well played by Michael Shannon, has just launched a coup against the government of Krypton in a misguided effort to save the planet. The coup falls apart, as does the planet, but Jor-El’s son, Kal-El is safely on his way to Earth to life as Clark Kent on a farm in Kansas, carrying secrets the evil Zod must have.

Goyer does a nice job of giving viewers a taste of the turmoil young Clark faced in trying to understand his powers that made him so different from his friends growing up in Kansas. His parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, played sympathetically by veterans Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, help the boy to deal with his emotions, fears, and anger as he grows to be a very powerful adult. As an adult, Clark (British actor Henry Cavill) wanders the country seeking answers and trying to find himself. Goyer’s script gives the character depth with some real-life emotions, questions, and a real need to understand his past. But, while Clark seeks answers, Zod and his evil minions show up to wreak havoc and to take over the planet. Clark knows he must stop them.

The review continues after the jump!

Cavill is solid as Clark/Superman, giving the character an almost-spiritual quality. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is on-target as both a hard-nosed reporter and a love interest for Clark. Lawrence Fishburne also does a nice turn as Perry White, Lois’ boss at the Daily Planet, in what is a very strong cast.

My only issues with the film are with the direction and the overuse of special effects. The film, directed by Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen), is overly long at 143 minutes and gets tedious at times with lengthy and sometimes hard-to-follow fight and battle sequences. Snyder’s direction is a bit helter-skelter and he seems to be overly engrossed in the CGI, sometimes at the expense of character development. Also, I happened to preview the film in 3-D and absolutely did not see the point. The 3-D adds nothing to what is otherwise a pretty solid film.

Man of Steel does Superman justice and the film is a solid summer must-see. Don’t bother with the 3-D, though. - Mike Gallien

OVERALL GRADE: B+


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