Even if he’s not your favorite superhero, one cannot deny the importance of Superman. He’s the first real superhero, and arguably is one of the greatest ever created. So, now that Man of Steel has been released, does it successfully update the hero for the modern world?
I have to start by saying something: the Christopher Reeves movies are good, but dated. Not just by the level of effects and design, but the way their Superman is depicted. He’s essentially all-powerful, can do anything no matter how ridiculous, and is often presented as being just a better person than everyone else. In other words, it’s the live-action film version of the Silver Age Superman. Director Zack Snyder (300) , and writers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight trilogy), have decided to bring the more modern comic version of Superman to the big screen, and they nailed it.
From the opening sequence on Krypton (depicted in a truly original way from any version before), it’s clear that we’re in for an epic ride. After an action-packed adventure starring Russell Crowe as Jor-El, we get to Earth and see Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) wandering the world, trying to keep from being noticed but unable to not help people when he sees trouble. As his quest for answers about his past and his place in the world continues, we get flashes of the young man with his adopted parents, portrayed by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner. Costner in particular stands out as a man who knows the potential good his son can do, but also knows that the world may not be ready for it, and fears for his son’s future happiness. After meeting Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and finding the truth of himself, the hero has to prepare to reveal himself to the world as his father’s old foe General Zod (Michael Shannon) comes to Earth, seeking both Clark and the way to create a new Krypton.
The casting in this film is perfect. Besides my comments about Costner and Crowe, we also have Henry Cavill, who thankfully doesn’t try to be Christopher Reeves. Instead, we see a man who knows he has the ability to do great things, but also knows that there’s a huge risk involved in asking a world that often fears that which is different to trust him. When he does step up, he’s got that quiet confidence and determination I’ve associated with Superman since the comics that were published when I was a child in the 80’s. Michael Shannon also does great as Zod, showing a villain who is cruel, violent, and merciless, but also driven to do what he can to preserve his people and their legacy, misguided as that is. And Amy Adams may be my favorite Lois ever. I don’t want to spoil why, but let’s just say that we finally get a Lois that we can ridicule for her intelligence.
And then there’s the story. Not only do we get a Batman Begins story explaining in a modern way why certain things that are expected of a Superman story happen, but we also get an epic sci-fi story worthy of the character. The last half-hour of the film is just non-stop action, with things constantly escalating and pushing the new Superman to his limits. For once, I actually believed that Superman was facing odds that truly challenged him, and I loved every instance of it.
If I had one complaint, it’s probably that sometimes, in playing up the messianic symbolism of Superman, they overdo it a bit. It’s not a turn-off, but it can be a bit… on the nose.
Man of Steel is a phenomenal film, an action sci-fi that updates Superman for the modern world, and sets up the promise of not only more epicness in the inevitable sequel, but possibly a DC cinematic universe. The hopes of several fanboys are fulfilled in this movie, and after all, Superman and his iconic symbol are meant to mean “Hope”.
[learn_more caption=”Review Results”][one_half]Pros:
- Great casting and acting
- Epic sci-fi story
- Action worth of Superman[/custom_list][/one_half]
- Religious symbolism may be a bit obvious
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