MAN OF STEEL is the most anticipated film of this year for many reasons. Obviously the primary reason is that it's Superman's first live action appearance since the rather disappointing and boring Superman Returns seven years ago. It makes you think what DC had been doing that whole time with their movies. They had the successful Batman trilogy, but that's it. Green Lantern bombed, and Jonah Hex...you know that story. (It makes you wonder how we got a Jonah Hex movie before Wonder Woman or Flash.) Superman is the original superhero, he will always remain timeless. So it's always the right time for a new movie. This one is a reboot, which is appropriate since by now we could use a clean slate. It's an origin story, which when first announced didn't receive the best response. It's pretty much the same thing with The Amazing Spider-Man, the origin is one of the most well known. Everyone knows how Superman came to be. But, amazingly, after watching it I thought it was actually good they retold the origin. It was done in a whole new way, and thus shows the world what Superman is all about. Zack Snyder directs, he received mixed responses from the beginning. I'm a fan of his work, such as Watchmen and Sucker Punch, but he has a lot of haters. With him and Christopher Nolan of Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight trilogy, this film feels like a combination between the two collaborators. What we have is not only the greatest Superman movie, but a very unique comic book film.
The story follows Kal-El, who was sent away from his dying world Krypton. He crash lands on Earth and is taken in by the Kents, Jonathan and Martha. He learns to cope with his superhuman abilities for 33 years. But when General Zod, escapee from the Phantom Zone, comes to make a new Krypton on our planet, Kal dons the uniform and battles this intergalactic terrorist. This movie could be said as a combination of the first two Donner films and The Dark Knight. It's very serious, much like the Nolan movies. Some may be disappointed since Batman is where the gritty should be, not Superman. But the tone works for this kind of story. The opening on Krypton is one of the best scenes of the entire two hour and 23 minutes. It's remarkable because for the first time in movie history, we get to see a fully realized Krypton. Even in comics has it barely been shown like this. It's truly an insightful and glorious thing to behold. (From creatures to robots, there's plenty to see.) There's some great action here, with Zod and Jor-El. Definitely the most exciting intro in awhile.
Once we head to Earth, things get really interesting. Humanity has always seen Superman as a being above them, someone to look up to and strive to be like. In many cases, as Jor-El states in the beginning, Superman is like a god to humanity. Seemingly invincible and perfect in every way. This reboot spins that in a whole new direction. The story humanizes Superman, showing us he has some of the same emotions we do. The movie does an excellent job showing that through flashbacks to when he was a kid. We see him enjoying the ability to fly, but then crashes like a rookie. This is something that lacked in the Donner films. That's not a bad thing, but it's interesting to see such a take. While this is definitely Superman's story, General Zod's plot is pretty interesting. One of my personal favorite scenes is when the power went out in Metropolis, and Zod appeared on all TV screens throughout demanding that Kal-El surrender. It's reminiscent of the Mandarin's TV screen appearances in Iron Man 3, which is a good thing. It captures the terror of not understanding what's going on.
Henry Cavill plays the titular character. I really liked his portrayal, perfect for a just starting out Superman. Despite having a grim tone, he retains his sense of humor and matter-of-fact way of speaking. (Such as when he uses his x-ray vision in the questioning scene.) It's good to see since the film is such a serious take. Michael Shannon plays the antagonist, General Zod. While he lacks the charisma of the original from Superman II, (mainly cause he doesn't shout 'kneel' once) it's a solid take on the popular villain. Interestingly, the film goes out its way to say Zod isn't truly evil, rather he's doing what he was bred to do, protect Krypton. It's an interesting dynamic, since there comes a point where Superman has to choose between humanity and his own people. Amy Adams plays Lois Lane. She does have more of a fighter attitude, as opposed to always getting kidnapped then being saved by the hero, which was nice to see. However, I'm sad to say the romance aspect of the film could have been handled better. It's Superman and Lois Lane, we know they're going to get together, so the film doesn't do the best job it could have in establishing the relationship. (Well, at least it beats Thor's awful and forced romance.)
Other characters include the famous Laurence Fishburne as Perry White. Much like the Kingpin in Daredevil, ethnicities were changed. He plays the part of Perry well. The other villain is Faora, first officer to Zod. She was definitely a highlight, it's great to see such a strong female villain. There's a third member to Zod's party, but he doesn't do much and isn't named. Kevin Costner plays Jonathan Kent, someone who was influential in Clark's growing up. It's a solid performance with plenty of wise words. But, one part will always bother me and ruin his credibility. He basically tells Clark he should have let the kids on the school bus die as opposed to saving them. I understand what he was saying, but it just came out morally wrong. That will always stick out to me. Diane Lane plays Martha Kent, very solid job. I enjoyed every scene she was in. Russell Crowe plays Jor-El, who has a great presence throughout. Never before has Superman's father been portrayed like this.
The highlight of the movie is definitely the action scenes. The primary problem with Superman Returns was a lack of action, Superman didn't throw a single punch. So when the first blow is felt here, it's monumental. Never before has a movie come close to showing off Superman's power and speed like this. I put emphasis on speed cause it's fully realized here. There are two major action pieces, the one with Faora and the final battle against Zod. Both are amazingly done and extremely satisfying. They put ALL other comic book movie action scenes to shame. Even The Avengers didn't have such great hand-to-hand fights like these. I give credit to Zack Snyder, who has shown he can do some pretty intense action sequences. The soundtrack is pretty solid, nothing great, but acceptable. One of my favorite scenes is when Clark visits a church and asks the pastor for advice. It's rare that we see godliness being portrayed as good in movies today, so it was nice to see.
Overall, Man of Steel is the new definitive Superman movie. This is the most vivid and realistic take on the origin. Never before have we seen Kal-El's journey from confused kid to Earth's defender this well done. The action is by far the best from any superhero movie. It's also great to see the more comic book aspect of the universe, such as the use of the Phantom Zone. The ending is a nice tip of the hat to the franchise and firmly sets up the status quo we all know and love for the sequel. Superman is back, and has never been more real.