Review – Man Of Steel

With Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe. Written by David S. Goyer. Directed by Zack Snyder. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language. 143 minutes.

“Batman Begins,” “Casino Royale,” “Star Trek.” We may as well face it. We are in the era of the “reboot” where filmmakers take classic pop culture characters and say, in effect, “Let’s start again.” In the case of MAN OF STEEL, the name “Superman” is not fully uttered until nearly two hours into the movie, and those wedded to the lore of the comic books (itself many times revised) or previous movies and TV shows need to set all that aside. It’s not that it is ignored so much that it is no longer binding. The canon has been fired.

It’s hard to believe anyone will come into this origin story not knowing that, as an infant, Kal-El is sent from the dying planet of Krypton by his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe). Raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner, Diane Lane) on a farm in Smallville, Kansas, young Clark (Henry Cavill) as he is known, is overwhelmed by the powers he has including flight, heat vision, and super strength which his father insists he keep secret.

Although the story proceeds in a fragmented fashion with numerous flashbacks, the main plot involves Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) being rescued by a mysterious stranger. She then tracks down his story to that Kansas farm. Meanwhile, Clark  has set off a signal summoning Kryptonian warlord General Zod (Michael Shannon), newly freed from the other-dimensional “Phantom Zone,” and he plans to destroy all life on Earth and rebuild Krypton there. The bulk of the story is the battle between Zod and the now-costumed Superman.

It’s no secret that this is Warner Brothers’ attempt to salvage the Superman franchise after the failure of “Superman Returns” (2006). Rival Marvel Comics is having so much success with movies like “Iron Man 3” and “The Avengers,” so why can’t any DC Comics character besides Batman succeed on the big screen? So in answer to that question, “Man of Steel” works. It’s exciting, it’s intelligent and it has a stellar cast. Henry Cavill, perhaps best known from the cable series “The Tudors,” plays Superman not as an icon but as a conflicted character trying to figure out his place in the world. Amy Adams threads the needle of being the endless damsel in distress–Superman rescues her falling to Earth twice–while also being credible as the intrepid reporter who falls in love with him. Michael Shannon is harsh and chilling as the single-minded Zod who is not so much evil as so dedicated to his purpose that he doesn’t care how it might impact others.

For those dedicated to the long-established history–such as this reviewer–there is much that is in sync with it as well as stuff that is revised or ignored. The appearance of flying lizards on Krypton (Jor-El flies around on one) is bizarre and mistaken. As is well-known, there were no such creatures on Krypton. On the other hand there is a moment late in the film that should cause Superman enthusiasts to gasp. The filmmakers (director Zach Snyder, writer Davis S. Goyer, and producer Christopher Nolan, who shares story credit with Goyer) painted themselves into a corner and took the only way out. It works but, more important, the characters react appropriately to this major breach with the legend.

“Man of Steel” does not achieve greatness (as Nolan’s “Batman Begins” did) but it is very good and worth seeing. Warners has its Superman franchise back. What they do with it now remains to be seen.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He teaches at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.



4 thoughts on “Review – Man Of Steel

  1. “The Canon has been fired.”

    I am torn. Should I groan or applaud? Or both?

    I want to see this, if only to see Michael Shannon as Zod. He impressed the hell out of me in Boardwalk Empire.

  2. Brings to mind a few things D. Letterman also said about Flying Lizards on Krypton…etc.

  3. I know what the critics has said. They complained about too much action, superman being too serious, lack of romance, etc. Since Zack Snyder directed this movie, I don’t think he cared about the critics. Don’t get me wrong, he DOES care about the fans’ opinion. Seems like he really wanted to really satisfy the fans. I see why critics complained about too much action. For me it’s just his way to satisfy the viewers. This is the kind of movie that is just really satisfying. When the movie ended, I got that ‘satisfying’ feeling instead of the ‘wanting more’ feeling. It’s like it was really enough.

    Even Snyder’s best movies (before this) which were 300 & Watchmen didn’t have more ratings than 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think the fans should have anticipated the bad reviews. His style is actually what critics hate. The over the top action and CGI is actually his trademark. So, even from the beginning, I think this is actually the kind of movie the producers wanted. About the lack of romance, I really do think it’s saved for the sequel. The sequel will definitely explore more about the relationship between Clark and Lois. This film focused on 2 aspects: the origin (krypon,struggle finding his place) & the action (Zod and his army). Don’t expect humor or romance.

    The visuals were spectacular! What’s best about this movie is its action scenes. The action were just relentless. I think the fans would not be disappointed at all. Yes, I know there is only a very few humor this movie but that actually doesn’t even matter. The battle between Superman & Zod will definitely ‘wow’ everyone but the critics. I mean who cares about the critics opinion? A superhero movie MUST NOT be judged by the critics opinion, what’s more important is the audience’s opinion about the movie and especially the fans’. I think the movie really delivered. Most people will definitely like this movie. I am really sure that many fanboys will consider this as the best comic book of all time. This is a MUST SEE for people who like action movie. The action were better than last year’s The Avengers.

    The sequel really have a great potential. Considering the minimum amount of romance in this movie (since they just knew each other, and superman was also more focused on Zod), the next movie could explore more of that. One of the things missing from the movie was also the presence of Clark Kent at the daily planet. It’s one of the trade marks. But, I believe the sequel will show more scenes in the Daily Planet which is interesting to see.

    As a conclusion, I think Man of Steel is so far the best action movie this year. This movie really is a Snyder movie. But it also has a quite lot of nolan-esque feel to it especially in the around first 45 minutes.

    If this was compared to Iron man 3, if Iron man 3 was a 7, this movie is a 8.6.

    1. It would help if you had paid attention to what THIS critic said. You’re so busy railing against these phantoms critics that you seem not to have noticed (or read) my positive review.

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