The structure of MAN OF STEEL took some getting use to. First of all this is not the Donner-verse and there are zero traces of those films or SUPERMAN RETURNS. Some are already panning MAN OF STEEL from going away from archetype of the 1978 film. This new reinvention of Superman isn't going to be for everyone. Even I'm on the fence, but the comic book kid within me felt that MAN OF STEEL was a bad ass Superman story. The movie geek within felt that the action got a little tiresome with all the special effects. This side of me was also thinking that filmmaker Richard Donner is still correct 35 years later by stating Superman fighting/brawling some big alien/monster thing will get boring fast on the silver screen. Superman in a fight has zero conflict because he's Superman. In adapting a comic book movie some things should just be left in the comic books.
Okay so I got my nitpick about CGI fighting out of the way and the comic book kid and movie geek have both come to the conclusion that MAN OF STEEL rocks! Forget everything you know about the previous films and just enjoy the ride. Audiences were ready and willing for BATMAN BEGINS to wipe the slate clean for the cinematic tales of the Caped Crusader and the same should be said and expected for MAN OF STEEL.
MAN OF STEEL is heavy science fiction and filled with crazy super powers. The film opens on Krypton and immediately the pages of the comic book came to life. I was reminded of John Byrne's comic book mini series that reinvented the character of Superman in the mid to late 80's. I wish the movie spent a little more time on Krypton, very interesting stuff going on visually.
Jor-El and his wife Lara send their baby boy Kal-El to earth so that he may live. His alien craft lands in the Kent farm and is raised to adulthood by earth parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. This films reinvention plays up the idea of Clark Kent being a stranger in a strange land. He doesn't fit in, he's an alien, an outsider. The origin of this “Man of Steel” picks up with Clark in adulthood drifting from odd job to odd job and really soul searching. Through flashbacks we see his childhood and parental lessons that made him who he is today. With comic books, the 1978 film, and the television show SMALLVILLE it's very clear that the origin of Superman is well established in pop culture so it was nice how director Zack Snyder handled all the child and teenage years in his film. Lots of visual story and character development going on here instead of boring exposition that most people buying a ticket to MAN OF STEEL probably know anyway.
Reporter Lois Lane is developing a story about someone, a drifter out there exhibiting amazing feats of strength. She eventually tracks Clark down and instantly their friendship/romance begins. Hands down Amy Adams is the best big screen, heck even small screen iteration of the character. I loved the chemistry between the two. It was very convincing how much these two characters need each other.
Clark finds his 'fortress of solitude' and meets his biological father Jor-El. The next to final piece of Clark's/Kal-El's destiny is complete. The ending of the film is where he truly becomes Superman. At least that's what I got out of the ending. Very similar to BATMAN BEGINS but different cinematic universe. The new films take on Superman was an interesting departure to the well known American boy scout attitude that is mostly associated with the character. I liked how the filmmakers focused on him being a very introverted character and alone. They nailed how normal people would react to a “freak” with abilities like Clark has. Henry Cavill is a great Superman. While Brandon Routh was channeling Christopher Reeve in SUPERMAN RETURNS I felt that Cavill was bringing a Tom Welling from SAMALLVILLE vibe. Could be a coicidence but maybe this was intentional on the producers part, you know to reel in the younger crowd? Who knows?
It is around this time that Zod and the rest of the Phantom Zone criminals track down Kal-El and announces to the fine people of Earth that Kal-El is a traitor and if they do not hand him over/he surrenders to Zod, then Earth will perish. Micheal Shannon is one of the greatest working actors of today. His intensity he brings to every role he's done is absolutely amazing. His General Zod is perfectly convincing. You know he's gone mad with his plans for coup d'etat, but you also feel sorry for him a little bit because he's just doing his duty, doing what he was engineered to do and that is the preservation of his people. Micheal Shannon totally sells it.
What happens next is awesome; but yet, the films greatest weakness is the endless fighting. It's amazing visuals. Zack Snyder succeeded in making a Superman brawler film. Except toward the end some of the action was getting boring because the emotional connection was getting lost in the CGI. Just like it did in Snyder's last film SUCKER PUNCH. I shouldn't complain because for years I've wanted a Superman film of this scale. We're talking Godzilla magnitudes of destruction and while it is overkill in parts, the sum is comic book movie gold. These scenes would have benefited better if they had added some scenes of Superman saving some civilians here and there. Because when you think about it millions of innocent people in Metropolis just died and I think we only see him save Lois a few times. In the sequel it'd be nice if this is why and how they set up the rivalry between Superman and Lex Luther. Lex convinces Metropolis and the world that Superman is not the symbol of hope that he claims to be but a villain instead.
Now onto the ending of the film which is becoming very divided among fans. Should Superman have killed Zod? Yes. Zod was a mad dog that needed to be put down and to be honest he put himself in a position where Superman had no choice but to kill him. Superman does not kill. Maybe it was a mistake not to have Zod sent back into the Phantom Zone? It's clear that Superman did not want to kill Zod but had to. But maybe the filmmakers have now painted themselves in a corner with future baddie s such as Brainiac or Darkseid. All of whom are more threating than Zod. So now is it justified that he kills them as well? Sorry for the flip flopping, bottom line is Superman should not kill.
I think I've said enough. Go see MAN OF STEEL, the more I think about it the higher I want to recommend it. With The Dark Knight trilogy and now a new Superman movie Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder are making movies that have potential to stand the test of time. As much as I love MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS in time I just think the movie will seem dated when compared to the Nolan Batman movies and now MAN OF STEEL.