Friday, June 28, 2013

Movie Review - Man of Steel

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I was always a DC Comics guy. I liked the occasional Dr. Strange or Fantastic 4, but my comic book budget went mainly for Superman.

I loved the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies directed by Richard Donner/Lester back in 1978/1980. They were a bit campy for my taste (Lex Luthor in particular), but still very enjoyable.

I didn't like the 2006 "Superman Returns" nearly as much. Really that was way back in 2006? Superman gets Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth?) pregnant and then disappears for 5 years.  Kevin Spacy plays virtually the same Lex Luther as in the 1978 Superman with just as dumb henchman. There was no campiness in this movie and not much humor either.

"Man of Steel" retells the Superman story from the beginning, along very similar lines as the 1978 movie. Jor-El concocts a scheme to save his son from the destruction of Krypton. Russell Crowe is good as Jor-El. We meet General Zod, the principle villain of "Superman II", on Krypton. I think this movie makes Zod a fuller character, with some actual motivation beyond a overwhelming hatred of Jor-El's son. Kevin Costner plays Pa Kent pretty convincingly.

If you've seen the trailers you know we get scenes of Clark growing up and being bullied, learning to control his power. We also see a young adult, and fully bearded, Clark, bumming around the country. The trailers are a bit misleading. Most of the childhood scenes are told in flashback form which I think was very effective. We know the story so not a lot of time needed to be spent on it. The part where he's bumming around was much shorter than you might have thought from the trailers.

Henry Cavill is very good as Superman. He's not quite as goofy as Christopher Reeve could be. When he says "Come on, General, I grew up in Kansas. How American is that?" you believe him without thinking he's corny.

In this retelling, General Zod arrives before anyone but Lois Lane even knows about Superman. General Zod, as I mention, has some motivation. His sole purpose in life is to protect, and now recreate Krypton. Kel-El, human beings and the climate of Earth are just minor inconveniences.

My one real complaint with the movie is that it eventually dissolves into a fistfight between Superman and Zod and his people. Smallville and Metropolis really take it on the chin, with a unseen death toll, I'd guess, in the tens of thousands. I'm not so much disappointed in the fight itself, just that it went on so long. And as my daughter said, "Why can't Superman take this fight outside, instead of trashing Metropolis?"

The movie was produced by Christopher Nolan and it's very much his movie. Maybe not as dark as his Batman movies, but Batman was always a much darker character than Superman. But the fight between Superman and Zod ends in a way I didn't expect and I attribute that to Nolan. Not my favorite director Zach ("Sucker Punch") Snyder is the director. Hans Zimmer does the music and unfortunately seems to have run out of things to say since "Inception".

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