Man of Steel
Distributed By: Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
I donít get out to the movies much anymore. I have a toddler at home and babysitting is sparse. But every now and then, I get a chance. Iíll admit, when I landed a babysitter, I was dead set on seeing a movie no matter what it was. I hadnít been to a movie theater in long enough Iíd forgotten how much movies cost. So I looked through the listings, and despite my love/hate relationship with the character of Superman, Man of Steel was the only movie playing that interested me at all. I donít like Superman. He always seems to be too good. There never seems to be any moral ambiguity. Heís a staunch supporter of what is right and good, and he never seems to have any conflicting emotions on the subject which, to me, makes him an unrealistic character. Nobody is that good. So I went into the movie sort of assuming I wouldnít love its main character.
I donít need to tell you who Superman is. Unless youíve been living under a rock all of your life, you know that. This particular movie does take some liberties with the tale, some interesting and some foolish. The tale starts in Krypton. Jor-El (Russell Crowe, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer), have managed to deliver the first natural child of Krypton in a very long time. Up until that point, children were artificially generated to live certain lives, perform certain duties. Believing that he has created the future of the people of Krypton, and knowing that the planet is on its way out, Jor-El steals the genetic material that artificially generates Kryptonian children, packs it up in a spaceship with his son, and sends it off to Earth, a planet he believes can serve as the future of the Kryptonian race. This upsets General Zod (Michael Shannon, Boardwalk Empire), who has just started a rebellion against the rulers of Krypton and who believed that he could protect the future of Krypton if he had said genetic material. He kills Jor-El, only to be sent, along with his lieutenants, to The Phantom Zone, otherwise known as a dimensional prison.
Years later, we meet Clark Kent/Kal-el (Henry Cavill, The Tudors, The Immortals). He has been wandering around, taking many different jobs in his travels, trying to find himself, all the while saving people with his amazing powers. Through flashbacks we learn about his past and what it was like for him to grow up in Smallville, Kansas raised on a farm by Jonathan and Marth Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). His life is complicated, but doesnít seem to be making that move into being a superhero - until the military discovers a Kryptonian ship. Unable to stay away, Clark finds a way onto the base, setting into effect a chain of events that leads him to meet journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams, Enchanted, The Fighter) and leads Zod to Earth. Now Clark must make a choice - Humanity, Krypton, or himself?
This is the first movie where Iíve enjoyed Clark Kentís character. He is a little darker, a little less whiney, and actually has conflicted views. Henry Cavill does an amazing job with him, injecting mischief, daring, fun and emotion, into a character with huge boots to fill and one that is normally pretty wooden. Crowe is a hoot as Jor-El, only because Iím so used to him doing more cultured fare, and he is at top form and well at home in the most heavily sci-fi part of the movie. Costner and Lane make great Kents, and Harry Lennix (Dollhouse) and Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) take memorable screen time as the military leaders sent to deal with Superman. There are a lot of cool visuals and a good deal of time is spent on Krypton and with Kryptonian technology, which weíve never gotten a good opportunity to see in other movies.
And then thereís the bad. Thereís a lot of that too, the most disappointing of which would be the total misuse of Laurence Fishburne as Perry White. He would be a great choice if he was adequately used before the last ten minutes of the movie. Other than that, he was somewhat cartoonish and often just a set piece. There were plenty of logic fails throughout the movie. Without going into too much spoilery detail, one would be how quickly the other Kryptonians took to adapt to a world it took Clark years to adapt to. Superman often destroyed more than he saved, leading my husband and I to realize that, had we brought a bottle of tequila with us and made a drinking game out of how many times Supes brought down a skyscraper, not only wouldnít we have been able to walk by the end, but we wouldnít have had time to pour. At one point, Zodís lieutenant even says that she has no morals. Clearly, the writers never read all those writing books on giving your villain a believable motivation and not making them arch. Young Clark, at one point, puts on a cape and pretends to be a superhero, which, lets face it, nobody does unless they are pretending to be SUPERMAN. Shannon as Zod was painful - he had one emotion and that was anger and that was spoken in one monotone voice through the entire movie until my eyes hurt too much to roll them anymore. Oh, and there was the ever-present and ever-annoying Superman thing - Jor-El has been built into the Kryptonian technology, which means he is the most advanced AI ever - advanced enough to know that it would be Lois Lane who met him and to call her by name. I mean really? What is with the fortune telling COMPUTER?
But the most egregious error, by far, was the casting of Amy Adams as Lois Lane. I love Lois Lane. And I love Amy Adams. But Adams is no Lane. She doesnít have the commanding presence that Lane is supposed to have, is far more soft-spoken than Lane should be, and mostly seems like a romantic drama lead and not the hard nose reporter that we are led to believe she should be.
Man of Steel was alright. I know Iím complaining a lot, but it had some nice variations on the original story, Superman is a much more interesting guy, and as far as a mindless action movie, it does the job, and the viewer stays entertained throughout. Until they start thinking. Then things get dicey. Either way, Henry Cavill is going up on my pin up wall. Iím sure my hubby will be happy to hear that.