Review: MAN OF STEEL

Man of Steel

Superman – the superhero of all superheroes.  It’s said that the symbol of hope on his chest is the second most recognizable symbol in the world after the Christian cross.  This is a character that is so beloved, a man was literally brought to tears at the microphone during the Q&A after seeing the first footage for Man of Steel at last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con.  But who is Superman?  Is he an alien from the far reaches of the universe?  Or is he the adopted son of Kansas farmers?  He is us – a manifestation of our hopes, our dreams, and our humanity brought to life through the golden-age splash pages of comic books. 

Now, set in motion by acclaimed Dark Knight Director Christopher Nolan, penned by David S. Goyer, and directed by Zack Snyder, Man of Steel is the best Superman adaptation to date and the film that the most revered superhero in all of comic lore deserves.

Man of Steel Henry Cavill 13Over the years, the Last Son of Kyrpton has been subject to many different approaches on the big screen.  We’ve seen the late great Christopher Reeve’s loveable but clumsy Clark, Brandon Routh’s soulful savior, but Snyder/Nolan/Goyer/Cavill have teamed up to give us the most epic, most visceral, most relatable, and most daring Superman that has ever been conceived for the silver screen.

At this point, it’s not a secret that millions of fans have been clamoring for the defining Superman film for years now – including yours truly.  I can now say that Man of Steel is the Superman film that we’ve been waiting our entire lives for, and undoubtedly the proper way to kick start a huge franchise and shared DC cinematic universe.

The film’s conception is an interesting story.  While trying to write The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer had come to a creative road block.  During this break, Goyer uncovered some old Superman comic books and started to reread them – these stories inspired him to write down some ideas for Superman.  When the two got together a couple of weeks later, Goyer pitched the idea to Nolan, Nolan contacted Warner Bros., and the story was set in motion.

Zack Snyder was the perfect director to take the reins on this film.  While the film is obviously meant to be grounded in reality, there are many character driven and dramatic elements meant to humanize the character.  Along with that are some of the best executed action sequences that you’ll ever experience.  There’s no question that Snyder has an unrivaled sense of creating films with massive, sweeping scope and astonishing imagery.  This is the sort of film that is a testament of some of the incredible things that can be achieved with motion pictures – only if the Lumière brothers could see how far film has come.

In many ways, Christopher Nolan has heavy influence on the film.  During many scenes, you’re reminded of Batman Begins; it looks and feels like a Nolan film – especially during the film’s more intimate moments.  But once the high-octane action set pieces begin, there’s no question that Zack Snyder stamps his signature style all over it.  I often recognized that Man of Steel sort of serves as a halfway point between Nolan’s cerebral broodiness and Snyder’s bone-cracking, visually unique style.

When you look at Zack Snyder’s filmography, it proves that he was an interesting pick for a Superman film.  In 2009’s Watchmen, Snyder performed a careful and primeval dissection of the superhero genre.  With Man of Steel, he’s being asked to resurrect the most popular superhero of all time.

Man of Steel Russell Crowe 3The film begins on Krypton, and the planet is on the verge of death.  The planet’s chief scientist, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), has constructed a craft that will carry his son off the planet, and to Earth.  Kal-El is the first natural birth on Krypton in over a thousand years, and Jor-El believes that his son should have the right to choose his own destiny.  The opening sequence on Krypton is extremely impressive, and gives the feel of a high-budget sci-fi film more than a summer superhero blockbuster.

But in reality, that’s exactly what Man of Steel is – a sci-fi film.  This approach to Superman explores something that no other adaptation ever has – the fact that Kal-El is from another planet.  While the film’s opening sequences take place on Krypton, the remainder of the film isn’t a drawn out origin story.  In many ways, it could be considered a first-contact story.

Upon Kal-El’s departure from the planet, the film appropriately fast forwards thirty years.  We see a bearded Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) jumping around from odd job to odd job, searching for some sort of meaning.  Layered throughout scenes that take place in present time are flashbacks that loosely follow the character’s origin story and show the audience how his moral center is shaped.

Man of Steel Crowe CavillMany of the elements used to let the story play out seem familiar, but this adaptation gives those elements the depth that makes this story emotional and intimate.  The film really hits home during its father and son dynamic pieces.  Jor-El sees Kal as a savior – at one point he refers to Kal as a “god” – to the people of Earth – he believes that Kal should embrace his powers and guide humanity.

You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards.  They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall.  But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal.  In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

Man of Steel Kevin CostnerOn the other end of that belief is Clark’s Earthly father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner).  Jonathan believes that if the world discovers who Clark really is, nothing would ever be the same again.  He also holds the belief that he should keep his powers a secret until the world is ready to embrace him.  “You have to keep this side of yourself a secret.”

My father believed if the world knew who I really was, they’d reject me.

Because of these conflicting ideologies, Clark is a loner and a wanderer. His constant search of discovering his true identity and where he came from is, up until this point, his life’s purpose.  In his travels, Clark plays a mysterious hero to those in need, but tries to remain anonymous.

Man of Steel Henry Cavill 10It isn’t until Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is introduced to the film that Clark comes across an artifact hidden within the dense ice of an arctic land that he begins to make sense of his own origin.  One thing that has always been an annoyance of past Superman adaptations is the handling of Lois.  Snyder and Adams have put together a reimagining of the character that allows her to be a more active and aggressive force.  Think about it, do you really think Lois could spend all that time with both Clark and Superman and not realize that they’re the same person, just because he has on glasses?

Man of Steel Amy Adams 2What makes this iteration of Lois different is that she is hot on Clark’s trail before he even knows it.  Naturally, there are some moments where Lois needs saving, so the damsel in distress label is still there to some extent.  But in many respects, this is the strongest and most intelligent iteration of the character to date.  She follows stories of the mysterious and nomadic hero which leads her to the Kent farm, and this is the only film adaptation where Lois actively knows that Superman is Clark’s true identity.

This time around, as opposed to all three films in The Dark Knight Trilogy, David Goyer has the film’s screenplay all to himself.  The writing isn’t as strong as any of the aforementioned films, but it’s strong enough to let the film’s storyline smoothly move along.

As expected, the film’s ensemble cast is top rate.  Henry Cavill is the quintessential Superman – both physically and emotionally – and with the announcement that the film will already be moving forward with a sequel, Cavill will be playing the role of a lifetime for years to come.  Russell Crowe, who once said that you would never find him anywhere near a superhero film, plays the role of Kal’s Kryptonian father perfectly.  Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are perfect for Ma and Pa Kent, but Costner is a real standout.  Costner’s fatherly wisdom is emotional and touching, and the dynamic between he and Clark is deeply moving.

Man of Steel Shannon TraueIn the film’s main villainous role, Michael Shannon is menacing as General Zod.  Shannon doesn’t use any unique accents or flashy makeup, he’s just all business.  Zod could easily be made out to be a cookie cutter comic book villain, but he’s a stone cold warrior who will stop at nothing to protect Kyrpton and his people.  Faora, played by Antje Traue, is Zod’s second in command.  The relatively unknown Traue is brilliant as the intimidating female Kryptonian warrior, and was one of the real standouts in the film.

Man of Steel Henry Cavill 3But with all of this brooding and emotional depth, it wouldn’t be Superman – or a summer blockbuster – if it didn’t have some high-flying ass kicking.  Once Clark dons the suit for the first time, get ready to see some of the most thrilling and awe inspiring action sequences that you’ll ever find in a movie going experience.  You could say that much of the destruction in the film is a bit over the top, but on the whole, the action is breathtaking.  The scale of these huge fight set pieces are more grandiose than anything I’ve ever witnessed – it’s the best action ever seen in the superhero genre.

Accompanying the film’s spectacular computer generated visuals are stunning cinematography and a remarkably beautiful score.  Cinematographer Amir Mokri does an amazing job at blending both light and texture to create emotion within scenes that are already full of sentiment.

Hans Zimmer.  Can someone just give this guy the Oscar already?  Zimmer’s score could possibly be his best yet.  Acclaimed composer John Williams created an iconic score with the earlier Superman films, but Hans Zimmer has taken that iconic Superman theme to unbelievable heights.  Within the film, Zimmer is able to perfectly place his symphony that can elicit emotion from any viewer.

Man of Steel Young ClarkBut as I’ve mentioned time and time again, this is the film that Superman deserves, and with how far film technology has come, this is the right time to do it.  I loved Man of Steel.  I loved this film with every ounce of my being.  It was everything that I hoped it would be, and more.  On the surface, this is a film about the most revered character in all of comic mythology.  But at its core, Man of Steel is a story about fathers and sons, faith, hope, discovering our own humanity and the importance of what it really means to be human.

What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended?  What if a child aspired to be something greater?

When Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder took the reins of this character, many fans were weary.  Those fans can rest assured; Man of Steel is everything that you wanted it to be.  This Superman flick keeps the viewer engaged all the way up to its rousing, emotional, and perfectly fitting conclusion – the last two minutes of the film: literally perfect.

This is a film heavy in action, intimate in its storytelling, and powerfully emotional.  Man of Steel opens the door to all sorts of possibilities and is unquestionably the must see film of 2013.  Move over, Marvel, this is the Summer of Steel.

Man of Steel Poster 4

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About ptdougherty

I'm just a 27 year old college kid with celebrity dreams. Under Armour Employed. I love movies, shoes, and have a childlike infatuation with Batman.

Posted on June 12, 2013, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great review! I wasn’t able to get any early screening tickets for this. You need to check out Pressfolios.com. It’s essentially an online portfolio that showcases all of your work.

  2. I know what the critics has said. They complained about too much action, superman being too serious, lack of romance, etc. Since Zack Snyder directed this movie, I don’t think he cared about the critics. Don’t get me wrong, he DOES care about the fans’ opinion. Seems like he really wanted to really satisfy the fans. I see why critics complained about too much action. For me it’s just his way to satisfy the viewers. This is the kind of movie that is just really satisfying. When the movie ended, I got that ‘satisfying’ feeling instead of the ‘wanting more’ feeling. It’s like it was really enough.

    Even Snyder’s best movies (before this) which were 300 & Watchmen didn’t have more ratings than 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think the fans should have anticipated the bad reviews. His style is actually what critics hate. The over the top action and CGI is actually his trademark. So, even from the beginning, I think this is actually the kind of movie the producers wanted. About the lack of romance, I really do think it’s saved for the sequel. The sequel will definitely explore more about the relationship between Clark and Lois. This film focused on 2 aspects: the origin (krypon,struggle finding his place) & the action (Zod and his army). Don’t expect humor or romance.

    The visuals were spectacular! What’s best about this movie is its action scenes. The action were just relentless. I think the fans would not be disappointed at all. Yes, I know there is only a very few humor this movie but that actually doesn’t even matter. The battle between Superman & Zod will definitely ‘wow’ everyone but the critics. I mean who cares about the critics opinion? A superhero movie MUST NOT be judged by the critics opinion, what’s more important is the audience’s opinion about the movie and especially the fans’. I think the movie really delivered. Most people will definitely like this movie. I am really sure that many fanboys will consider this as the best comic book of all time. This is a MUST SEE for people who like action movie. The action were better than last year’s The Avengers.

    The sequel really have a great potential. Considering the minimum amount of romance in this movie (since they just knew each other, and superman was also more focused on Zod), the next movie could explore more of that. One of the things missing from the movie was also the presence of Clark Kent at the daily planet. It’s one of the trade marks. But, I believe the sequel will show more scenes in the Daily Planet which is interesting to see.

    As a conclusion, I think Man of Steel is so far the best action movie this year. This movie really is a Snyder movie. But it also has a quite lot of nolan-esque feel to it especially in the around first 45 minutes.

    If this was compared to Iron man 3, if Iron man 3 was a 7, this movie is a 8.6.

    More about the movie you can also find it here
    http://movieinfodb.com/en/movie/49521/Man+of+Steel-2013

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