Man of Steel is a reboot of the Franchise made famous in cinema by the late Christopher Reeve. The Warner Bros. synopsis makes the story sound a little odd when taken at face value. “A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.”
I was very conflicted on my opinion of this movie. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. There were also some glaring flaws. So in true D&C 121:43 fashion, let me give you a short list of my gripes before we give credit to the things praiseworthy. There is some beautiful cinematography in this film, but there is one fatal flaw, shaky cam. I was feeling a bit noxious at times a Superman flies around making the “cameraman” rumble. As a result the view is blurred and the fine details obstructed. (See title photo) We also never really get to see the mind mannered adult Clark. He seems to look more like a stand in for The Wolverine. Lastly of my major issues, cookie cutter casting, more on that later.
The movie begins on Krypton as our (not yet Super) baby is being sent to Earth. We get a lot better vision of Krypton in this origin story, in both planetscape and politics. Russell Crowe plays Superman’s birth father and his few short scenes nearly redeem his butchering of some of my favorite songs of Les Miserables.
We some great scenes of Superman growing up. Dylan Sprayberry does a superb job of making Clark Kent seem awkward and relatable as he discovers his powers and tries to hide them in a vain effort to fit in. It works well and helps establish strong roots with his Human adoptive parents and we need though the clunky transition to a full fledged Superman later in the story.
There are a lot of great themes in this story. One of my favorite lines comes from Pa Kent to a young Clark. "You are my son. But somewhere out there you have another father, and he sent you here for a reason. And even if it takes you the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is." Are anyone else’s ears screaming, Hey that is the Plan of Happiness!
Plus I love the theme of adoption. Clark might be Super because of his heritage, but he is a Man because of his upbringing. The bond portrayed by Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent is undeniable. His look of pain is heartbreaking when he hears the words every adoptive parent fears, “You’re not my real Dad!”
There is also an sense of all American hero surrounding Clark Kent. Being from a small town and instilled with “small town values” Superman is mean to embody the ultimate patriot. DC’s answer to Marvel’s Captain America. There is also a theme of Messiah. My podcast mate Jono does a great job going into more detail in this in a recent post, but there are some scenes and framed shots to make it clear that this theme is being fully embraced and portrayed by the filmmakers.
Henry Cavill does make a good job at playing Superman, but his Clark Kent left a lot to be desired. He never masters the ability to look uncomfortable in his own skin that way Brandon Routh did in Superman Returns. I maintain that Brandon was an ideal Superman and Clark, but his character was built on a foundation of sand in that movie and even his moving performance couldn’t turn it around. Cavill’s performance on the other hand is forgettable and he more often seems to be an agent who seldom acts for himself and is often acted upon. It isn’t that he does a bad job, but if they swapped out actors I probably wouldn’t even notice.
Amy Adams plays a bit of a watered down Lois Lane. She makes some bold moves and is likable but she doesn’t progress much. She isn’t nearly the fast talking take charge kind of gal I was hoping to see. I thought Amy Adams portrayal of Amelia Earhart from Night at the Smithsonian would have fit better with my favorite character that I grew up with in the television series Lois & Clark.
Smallville fans will have a good time as there are a lot “Easter eggs” nodding to the television show along with some returning actors. Your gonna have a great time. Not much of the story is ground breaking so you won’t feel left out talking about it if you choose to wait a few weeks to see it.
Superman has a good amount of fighting. Although most is bloodless, there are a few scenes of up close and personal death. A woman gives birth and it is a bit emotional. We see a little baby penis. Not saying it vulgar, but it did take me off guard. Would have been an ideal moment for a lens flare. Now that kid will have to go through life with his naked baby pictures for all the world to see. We get the phrase, “You you effing stupid!?” I loved the PG scrubbing, but some might feed the context is just as profane as saying the real word. One excrement related curse and few anatomical ones make this a movie you could see with your Bishop and not be scarred when he calls you into his office the following Sunday.