MAN OF STEEL
By Gary Murray
Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon
Written by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan
Directed by Zack Snyder
Running time 143 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
Superman the comic has had a long and involved history with the media. Since his inception, there have been radio shows, television series, plays, musicals and films. The Man of Steel is a part of Americana for almost half the time the country has been existence. It has become a swatch of the fabric that is the USA.
In 2006, Bryan Singer was given the reins and crafted Superman Returns, one of the worst films of that year. In a time where the superhero franchises were the hottest properties on the market, he almost single-handily killed the franchise. It was almost as if the film were shot on Kryptonite stock.
Well, with the success of The Avengers and the Batman trilogy, it would only make sense to try and revive what is arguably the greatest comic book character of all time. Man of Steel is the rebirth of the franchise.
The story is a total re-imagination of the Superman legacy. The makers have wisely jettisoned all the baggage from the other versions and started fresh. There are no references to Christopher Reeve or George Reeves.
The back story of Man of Steel starts on Krypton with Jor-El (Russell Crowe) realizing that his beloved planet of Krypton is dying. He tries to convince the elders of his world that they are in trouble and it falls upon deaf ears.
General Zod (Michael Shannon) agrees with Jor-El but believes that the people of Krypton should invade another world. He attacks the council, killing members. Eventually he is captured and sealed in a prison tomb.
The planet of Krypton has barred having children and all future citizens of the planet are grown in incubators that look a lot like the ones from The Matrix. Jor-El and his wife Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) have conceived a child Kal-El the old fashioned way. Jor-El believes that he could be the savior of his people. In a last desperate attempt to save his world, Jor-El sends his only begotten son to Earth. In the ship, he also hides the DNA of every Krypton strain of individuals. That is the back story that is peppered throughout the screenplay.
The main story is of Clark Kent, a 33 year-old man searching for his identity. He travels around the land, working at different low-wage jobs. We see him being a fisherman and a bus boy. In each instance, something happens where he has to use his super strength to save others. This makes him a man of the shadows.
Through the flashbacks, we see Clark growing up in Smallville. He is bullied and mocked by other kids. With his super vision and can see through the bodies of humans. His mother Martha (Diane Lane) uses her soothing voice to help the youngster focus. His father Jonathan (Kevin Costner) keeps telling the young Clark that the world is not ready for a man from another planet.
General Zod eventually escapes from his prison and begins the search for the son of Jor-El. He wants the DNA of his people so he can begin to repopulate the blood lines of Krypton. He threatens to destroy the earth if the young man is not delivered to him.
Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is a reporter who takes on the most dangerous assignments. She is much more a thrill-seeker journalist for The Daily Planet. On one of her assignments, she reports that an alien spacecraft has been imbedded in the ice. It is a scout ship from Krypton.
The film is of the earth finding out that there are aliens among us. It is also the battle between General Zod and Kal-El for dominance on the planet. Man of Steel is also one of the greatest entertainment flicks of 2013.
Man of Steel is basically a kick-butt, action adventure flick that will be treasured for ages. It is the perfect blend of action and pathos one would expect from a summertime blockbuster, the kind of film that will be considered an instant classic. It starts slow but eventually builds to a CGI overload of effects and stunts. Writers David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan have crafted yet another super-hero franchise for a new generation of film fans. By reworking all the precepts, they have made a magical vision for the 21st century.
Henry Cavill has some big red boots to step into and he does with a rough grace. His reading of Superman is much more of an alien on a strange land than the flippant demigod. Yes, he can fly, but it is much more of a struggle to leave the ground. This is not your father or your grandfather’s Superman.
Amy Adams is more than just a pretty face in this version of Superman. She is no ‘damsel in distress’ but a strong woman with an overwhelming sense of curiosity. Diligently following the clues to Smallville, Lois discovers the origins of this mysterious visitor. Again, she is much more of a modern character.
But, the biggest kudos have to go to Michael Shannon as General Zod. He is a steadfast merchant of mayhem on a singular mission to revive his dead world. The battles between him and Clark Kent are blistering excitement on a scale that we seldom see on a giant screen. This is yet another role that proves the massive talents of Mr. Shannon.
There are a couple of problems with the film. First, some of the action is so wham-bam that it becomes hard to follow. The film is edited at a breakneck pace and at times too much is going on the screen. The biggest complaint is the ending. Superman does something he has never done in any other film or television series. It is so out of character, it is off-putting.
All of that aside, Man of Steel is still one of the best films of 2013. It as the perfect popcorn flick and it is full of action and effects. Even though there are many parallel references to the story of Jesus within the script it still manages to be fresh and original.