DIRECTOR: ZACK SNYDER
SUMMARY: Before the destruction of his home planet Krypton, Jor-el (Crowe) sends his infant son Kal-el (Cavill) to Earth. The Kents (Costner and Lane), a childless couple in Kansas found Kal-el, named him Clark and raised him as their son. However, no amount of disguise and discretion can hide his inherent superhuman abilities. The kid struggled whether to use his powers or keep it a secret. For the longest time, he lived a life of anonymity until his past came back to haunt and hunt him. General Zod (Shannon), a murderous single-minded warrior from Krypton, along with his soldiers, tracked down Clark’s whereabouts in order to rebuild their once proud race. Taken as hostage in exchange for the continuing existence of the human race, Clark must reach deep inside him and forge an unstable alliance with humans in order to defeat the monsters of his past.
- Man of Steel abandoned the cheese and camp of past Superman reincarnations and loaded on grit, grim and grime. (I just caught Brandon Routh-led Superman on cable and I almost forgot its unbearable campiness.) This Superman has no spitcurl, phone booth/dressing room and numerous romantic airborne moments with Lois. Instead, the film brandishes a bearded and sometimes half-naked Clark Kent, an alien ship and horrific close-calls for Lois. Just like potential superhero film franchises, Man of Steel serves as a foundation and an introduction to a different kind of Superman. It re-establishes Superman as an alien. The first scenes is all about his planet and his people. This makes a lot of sense since the human/alien identities of Kal-el/Clark Kent is a recurring theme all throughout the movie.
- The cast is first-rate. Cavill is a beautiful, beautiful choice to don the familiar red and blue. (I am about to fangirl so let us stop with Cavill is a beautiful, beautiful choice. Brits are indeed born to take on the iconic superheroes of the Stars and Stripe. Ironic.) More than the casting of Russell as Jor-el, it is the designation of Lane and Costner as the Kents that I like more. Lane is a superb performer. Ditto for Costner. Now there is a proper couple. Lois Lane deserves a formidable actress and she sure got one in Adams. No complaints here. It is just a good ensemble. But the explosion scenes is a different matter.
- EXPLOSIONS, EXPLOSIONS EVERYWHERE. I had to double check if the name of the director is either BAY or BRUCKHEIMER. I get the crumbling buildings, it’s a Nolan thing, but there’s a concept of too much. This one is just too much. Oh. Look, a building. And it’s gone. I had Explosion Fatigue after. (As for the fight scenes, am not a fan of testosterone-laden stunts. Curiously, it bores me to pieces.) Is this some sort of design to temper the film’s over-all grim atmosphere? Prevailing seriousness notwithstanding, the film has a number of teasing jokes. In one fight scene, a truck bears the name LexCorp, precursor to a possible appearance of Lex Luthor in the upcoming sequels. The name Smallville, a nod to the popular show about a teenage Clark Kent is emblazoned in a water tank. These blink-and-it’s-gone references is a breather from the gritty atmosphere of the film. One more thing: more deadpan quips from Mrs. Kent. Her comment upon seeing her son in full Superman regalia (“Nice suit, Clark), is one of the funnier moments. Humor can elevate the entertainment value of Man of Steel. Lessen the bang-bang, boom-boom blast scenes (just too numbing) and include more tasteful jests.
- Choice is at the heart of Man of Steel. Jor-el chose to provide his son an option and not conform with the societal structure of their planet. General Zod chose to remain true to his upbringing, “No matter how violent, every action I take is for the greater good of my people.” Jonathan Kent tells his adopted son, “One day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world.” Lois chose to trust Clark. Kal-el/Clark made his choice. He forged an alliance with humans and therefore substantiates Jor-el’s foresight, “You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” He used his superhuman abilities not to rebuild his race but to defend his adopted planet. Is it predestined? No. It is a choice.
- The humanization of superheroes has led to a spate of entertaining and and exceptional blockbuster films. Seeing them shed tears, bleed blood, feel emotions and suffer tragedies makes it easier for us to emphatize with them. The fact most superheroes are mortals before gaining superhuman traits add to the ease of their humanization process. But Superman is different. He is not from Earth. He does not need spider bites or genetic mutations to acquire incredible abilities. Superman is born a superhero. This makes his humanization different and difficult. Humanizing Superman requires finding the right element in his life and expounding it into a narration of struggle and triumph. Moreover, Superman necessitates an update. He must be made relevant to our times. A filmmaker of a lesser degree will succumb to studio pressure and bad taste. Snyder and Nolan, thankfully, are made of sterner stuff. One can sense the enormous thought process and preparation in the entire duration of the film as seen in its cohesion and goal. Excessive explosions aside, the filmmakers found the apropos Superman and created a film meritorious of its legend.