June 12, 2013
"Man of Steel" gives us a twist in the usual way the story of Superman has been told. We see a number of scenes of Clark as a bullied child struggling to cope with and control his special powers. We see young Clark as some anonymous worker, hitchhiking from odd job to odd job. We see Lois Lane meet Clark in one of his odd jobs in the Arctic, not as a mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Planet. We do not hear Perry White say "Great Caesar's Ghost!", nor did we meet Jimmy Olsen.
It was very heartening how we get to meet more of Superman's real and adoptive parents more in this film. We see that Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) lived up to 1997, and he did not die from a heart attack. We see Martha Kent (Diane Lane) still alive when Superman begin his career as a hero. We still see Jor-el (Russell Crowe) in many other parts of the film guiding Clark (and Lois!) even as we see him die at the beginning. The relationships of Kal-el/Clark with his fathers and how these shaped him as a hero is a central theme of this film, and I liked that a lot.
The whole movie is essentially a remake of "Superman II", which was arguably the best of the Christopher Reeve series. In that film, as with this one, Superman faces General Zod and his minions, who was able to escape his fate in the Phantom Zone and found his way to Earth to create havoc here. This familiar scenario is the main reason why this film is not a perfect 10 for me. If you have not seen the 1980 film, then it will be no problem. General Zod in this film (Michael Shannon) had different, much deeper motivations for attacking Earth from the first one, which was simply revenge for Jor-el sending them into the Phantom Zone.
Of course, with today's computer-generated technology, the special effects were much bigger and better than before. Gone was the simplistic shiny white spiked space pod which brought Kal-El to Earth or the flat rectangular mirror prison of Zod et al. in the Phantom Zone. The fight scenes were so much more explosive, ala Michael Bay style, since both Supes and Zod had matching superpowers crashing through practically all the buildings in the area where they were fighting. Both Smallville and Metropolis were practically demolished to ruins after the big scale martial combat of the Kryptonians.
Henry Cavill cut a very dashing figure as the new "Man of Steel." His was a brawny, hirsute Clark. His acting style was serious and intense, but never shallow, unlike the last Routh version. Cavill was a fiercer, more macho Superman. I must admit though that it was a little funny how he suddenly became clean-shaven with neat shiny hair once he donned the new Superman costume for the first time.
Amy Adams was a strong no-nonsense Lois Lane. Although of course she too had a scene where Superman made her knees weak, but this romance angle was gradually introduced. The dynamics of their relationship was changed quite a bit in this version. There was of course that scene where they fly together, but the situation was totally different and there was no soaring romantic music and poetry reading in the background like the Reeve-Kidder version. I am sure this relationship will be explored more in sequels to come.
Overall, this is a very satisfying reboot of the Superman series by Zach Snyder. I liked that they took this one seriously, not devoid of humor but without the slapstick that made previous versions corny. The technical aspects of the film were excellent, especially the rich cinematography, the fast-paced editing, as well as the visual and sound effects of the battle scenes. I looking forward to seeing them reinterpret the evil genius of Lex Luthor in a future installment. This film has a charm distinct enough form the Reeve version and will be a successful franchise of its own. 8/10