Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review: Man of Steel


Director Zach Snyder (300 and Watchmen) and writers David S. Goyer (who wrote Nolan's Batman trilogy) and Christopher Nolan (Batman, Inception, etc.) provide with a new cinematic re-imagining of Superman's origin story.  The choice of titles for the film is fitting as Man of Steel is much less about the adventures of Superman and much more about the forging and tempering of the character as we see Clark and then Kal grapple with both his humanity and his Kryptonian heritage.

Man of Steel is a darker and grittier telling of the Superman story, and Henry Cavill provides a strong performance demonstrating a range of emotions that makes sense for Clark as he takes his first steps as Superman.

Russel Crowe's performance as Jor-El terrific and the entire design of Kryptonian technology in the film was especially particularly the metallic hologram like communication devices.

The movie may be considered overlong by some and much criticism has been made about the time spent and level of destruction wrought by the characters in their various battles.  To this viewer there was not a ton of fat to be cut from this film, Laurence Fishburne's Perry White gets a scene towards the films climax that is used to heighten the tension, but to me could have been cut to help with pacing.

Some of my favorite parts of any Superman story are the Kents, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane do great work, especially Costner who nails the role.  The real key to the character of Superman isn't all the fancy powers that he has, it is the choice.  The choice to limit ones self.  Kal-El is an individual that by sheer force can take or do almost anything he wants, this would provide most individuals with to tempting a path towards selfishness and evil.  Superman is an individual out to prove Lord Acton wrong.  In order to make Clark's choice of good make sense is providing a believable and morally grounded upbringing.  Pa Kent is the perfect all-American father, typifying the hard working, sacrificing and faith that are at the core of the Rockewellian America that Superman represents.

It is the story of Clark which the rest of the film's story plays off of.  The appearance of Zod and his goals for Kal-El and Kryptonians presents Clark with an important choice, one that is tied up with identity and duty.  Can Clark forge a path between worlds ushering in a co-operative existence between Kryptonians and humans? Or must he choose to live as a Kryptonian or as a man from Kansas with some nifty powers?


Try as he might to convince Zod to break from his destructive path Clark is forced to make the only real choice he has, protect the weak and stop the bad guy.  In stopping Zod, Clark is forced to destroy perhaps the last hope of any future Kryptonians being born and is faced with wiping out the last vestiges of that civilization.

In Zod we get a genetically engineered military zealot.  This Kryptonian supremacist perhaps can make no other decisions than he did.  Michael Shannon's performance in the final scenes is awesome.  Zod is a broken character, seeing the final extermination of his planet he creates a situation that is basically a "suicide by cop" or in this case suicide by Superman.  Not able to defeat Clark and not able to deal with the loss of all he holds dear Zod forces Clark to kill him to prevent the deaths of a handful of innocent humans.

Clark's humanity makes this act by Superman both shocking and perfectly logical, we see both Clark and Zod at their breaking points in this scene.

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