My Spoileriffic Review of “Man of Steel”
Good lord. It has been a long time since I posted a new blog. I actually have time to sit and write again.
So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.
The last time I posted anything new was around Thanksgiving, if memory serves me correctly. That’s too long. I’m gonna try to post more often now, with my now-famous (yeah, right) musings on all things involving nerdy pop culture crap. And what better place to start than the superhero icon who started it all, and to whom all credit for the proliferation of superheroes in modern culture is due?
Superman. Or, more specifically, his latest big screen outing, Man of Steel, not to be confused with 1997’s smash hit, Academy Award worthy, yet somehow totally snubbed, Steel, starring Shaquille O’Neal, the greatest actor of the 20th century.
Now, I will be talking specifics about Man of Steel, so if you haven’t seen it, stop reading now. I mean it. Stop. Now.
Still here? Okay, but you have been warned.
I have to admit to being only slightly biased, since I am a pretty major Superman nerd. To me, Superman has, at least since the 1970’s, symbolized the hope that exists in human nature. That hope that out of all the bad things that happen in the world, there are still people who are good, and will do what is good and right, just for the sake of doing what is right. And that is what this movie is all about. Russell Crowe, who plays Superman’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El, summed it up for Superman by telling him that the symbol on his chest is the crest of the House of El, and it means hope. So, in essence, Superman isn’t a symbol of hope, as much as he is the very image of hope. This is something I have always identified in the character, and I was happy to see it portrayed as such in the movie. Like I said, I am a Superman nerd, to the Nth degree.
Krypton is much more fleshed out in this film than in the Donner films. The people of Krypton aren’t born, but created, and genetically engineered for certain tasks, such as scientists, warriors, etc. Enter little Kal-El, the first naturally born Kryptonian in centuries. Jor-El knows his planet is doomed, and he plans to send baby Kal-El to Earth in order to preserve Kryptonian blood lines and heritage.
Enter General Zod, played by the seemingly always intense Michael Shannon. He is attempting to overthrow Krypton’s leadership and he feels that he should be the one to decide whose bloodline will survive. He finds out Jor-El is going to send his son to Earth and he tries to stop Jor-El and kills him in the process. He fails in stopping the launch, and he is subsequently arrested for his attempted coup and the murder of Jor-El, and sentenced to the Phantom Zone. Unlike the original Superman movie, this Phantom Zone is an actual zone in space, as opposed to a sheet of Plexi-glass.
Anyway, Kal-El’s rocket makes it to Earth, and he is found by Pa and Ma Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). Renamed Clark Kent, Kal-El tries to balance trying to seem like a normal kid, while coming to terms with the strange things he can do.
You know, like see through things and hear every sound made on Earth. And the ability to lift a school bus.
Pa Kent has forbidden Clark from using his abilities, even to help people, out of fear that he will not be accepted, and because he knows if Clark’s existence is revealed, the world would be changed forever. And, herein lies the point of the story: what would happen if someone like Superman really existed? How would people treat him? It’s the same theme as Batman Begins, and it works. Pa Kent even lets himself be blown away by a tornado so that Clark won’t reveal his abilities. A lot of nerds didn’t understand this.
“Superman would have saved Pa anyway. To hell with what Pa said. A life is at stake.”
They have a point… sort of. Boy Scout Superman would have said that. But he wasn’t Superman yet, was he? He was still Clark, a young man who takes everything his father says as gospel truth.
Clark later states, in plain English no less, that he let Pa die because he trusted him. He thought he trusted Pa to always know the right thing to do. In my opinion, Pa turned out to be wrong, and Clark realized this. Clark wasn’t going to trust anyone like that ever again. If he did, bad things could happen.
Anyway, Clark finds an ancient Kryptonian ship somewhere in the Arctic, and he meets Jor-El, or at least Jor-El’s artificial intelligence on board. Jor-El explains everything. Clark dons the iconic suit, sans red panties, and takes off, learning to fly. The flight sequences were amazing. I remember watching Christopher Reeve as Superman, and I thought he could actually fly. This time, he actually has velocity behind him. You can see the speed at which he flies, if that makes any sense.
Anyway, Zod was freed from the Phantom Zone by Krypton’s destruction. He then fashioned his craft into a ship, and tracked Clark down. He threatens Earth, and Superman disables his threat. Then, after a lengthy, highly destructive fistfight, Superman snaps Zod’s neck as he attempts to roast some folks alive with his heat vision.
This is where most nerds have problems with this movie. Superman in the comics, and in all other forms of media, never kills. Ever. But, Zod placed him in a situation where he had absolutely no other choice. He could have flown Zod into space, or covered his eyes, but, plain and simple, he couldn’t risk any more lives. Zod had already killed thousands by destroying half of Metropolis. It’s a question of philosophy. If put into that situation, which would you choose? Kill one, and save millions? Let that one person live, and potentially doom millions? An argument can be made for both schools of thought (is it right to murder someone, even for the greater good? It’s also not guaranteed those millions would die if Zod had lived), but, in my opinion, Supes made the right choice. Even though there is no guarantee that more people would have died had Zod lived, it is guaranteed that many lives were saved by taking Zod’s life. Therein lies the difference between Zod and Superman. Zod was willing to kill everyone on earth in order to make it into a new Krypton. Superman would have preferred that everyone had lived, including Zod.
Okay, I’m off of my philosophical soap box.
Now, some nerds also say that the romance between Clark and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is rushed. I can see their point, but this guy saved her life on many occasions. She is probably going to feel some affection toward him. Plus, look at the guy. Henry Cavill looks like he was chiseled from granite. And he’s fricking Superman. So, that helps with the attraction thing, too. There are a couple of scenes with some longer-than-necessary romantic stares between Cavill and Adams, but other than that, they were good. Adams made a great Lois Lane, and she definitely wasn’t a damsel in distress. She was strong, smart, and she already knows that Superman and Clark are one in the same. Cavill, Shannon, Costner, Crowe, Adams, etc. all turn in good performances. Michael Shannon tends to yell quite a bit, but I thought his Zod was menacing.
So, to sum it up, Man if Steel was the Superman movie I have been waiting for since Superman Returns. It has more action. Lots more. Superman fights this time around. Some people complain that the movie is too loud, but I thought it was fine. People say they can’t follow the story, and that Superman’s motivations aren’t clear. They are very clear. Listen to what he says. He explains his motivations.
I really can’t wait to get my hands on the Man of Steel Blu-Ray so I can watch this again, without having to pay $13.00 for one ticket, and $11.00 for a small popcorn and medium Diet Coke.