Anthony's Film Review
Man of Steel (2013)
This darker cinematic take on one of America's best-known superheroes is done pretty well...
Man of Steel was directed by Zack Snyder, who previously directed Watchmen. and produced by a team that includes Christopher Nolan, who previously directed the Dark Knight trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises). Those four movies by Snyder and Nolan, in my opinion, are brilliant superhero movies that have much depth in character development and philosophical themes. Snyder and Nolan are natural choices as filmmakers to help remake another well-established comic book superhero: Superman. The result is Man of Steel, a film that is not as brilliant as The Dark Knight or Watchmen, but is still a better-than-average superhero movie.
I want to first comment on one obvious thing about the movie's title. It doesn't contain the name "Superman." In fact, the name "Superman" is only mentioned twice in the whole movie. I think that if the movie were titled "Superman," audience members would assume that the movie, like many previous films and comics, will feature Clark Kent working as a reporter for the Daily Planet to cover up his true identity of Superman. In a way, the filmmakers were wise to avoid putting that expectation into people's heads by calling the movie "Man of Steel." This helps everyone focus on what the filmmakers want us to focus on: the superhero's origin, like Nolan's Batman Begins.
The first scene of Man of Steel features the birth of the title character on the planet Krypton. The father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), wants to send his son to planet Earth in a programmed spaceship. The reason: to save his race of people, as the core of Krypton is unstable and will soon destroy the planet. Meanwhile, another character on Krypton understands the same threat but has entirely different methods. He is General Zod (Michael Shannon), a military leader who is very dissatisfied with the political council whom he feels is inept in saving the people of Krypton. For reasons that will eventually become clear, Zod attempts to stop the launch of the ship carrying Jor-El's son, before he and his comrades are imprisoned by the council.
On Earth, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) goes through life as a man working several different jobs in different places. Through various flashbacks, we learn that Clark struggled to control his sense of x-ray vision so that it doesn't disturb him, learned about his extraterrestrial origin from his adoptive father Jonathan (Kevin Costner), and once used his superhuman strength to save some kids from drowning. The first third of the movie focuses on Clark's past and present life and also introduces Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a reporter for the Daily Planet who is investigating a strange object buried in ice near the Arctic.
Afterwards, the story becomes more dramatic. Clark meets the consciousness of Jor-El, his real father who is already dead physically, learns that his Krypton name is Kal-El, and begins to understand his purpose on Earth. That's when he puts on a blue body suit with an S symbol and a red cape (but not outer red briefs, as seen with traditional depictions of the hero) and flies around the world to test his ability to fly at lightning speeds. Pretty soon, the world witnesses UFOs as General Zod and his team arrive on Earth, looking for Kal-El. But what starts as a simple request for the extraterrestrial turns into a bloody battle between Zod and all of planet Earth.
Regarding special effects, they are intense, meaning there is a lot of destruction going on at once in several scenes. This is most notable in fight scenes between Kal-El and the villains. Because they're all from Krypton, they all have the same superhuman strength and speed. As a result, their hand-to-hand combat can result in very massive collateral damage. Whenever two humans in an action movie have a fight, they might destroy things in the immediate surrounding area. But when Kal-El and the baddies fight, they will hurl each other into buildings, boring long holes and tunnels into them or just destroying the structures altogether. This is a movie where large sections of cities could be destroyed just from two human-sized characters fighting without guns. It is over the top, but it's still fun to watch.
Compared to The Dark Knight and Watchmen, Man of Steel has only a bit of character development and essentially no philosophical depth, so I can't rate this as highly as those others. But it's not a bad movie. The movie takes the time to tell a story and portrays a superhero in a world that is no different from reality. Like Nolan and Snyder's superhero movies, Man of Steel presents realism to makes us look at the movie as something that could happen in real life (assuming that Krypton and its space travel technology also exist). And the action is intense, as one would expect. With that, Man of Steel is a superhero that works well, and one that could be followed by a sequel (perhaps featuring Lex Luthor, one of the best known villains of the Superman universe).
For more information about Man of Steel, visit the Internet Movie Database.