PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
The planet Krypton faces imminent destruction due to an unstable core, and its ruling council is under the threat of rebel General Zod and his followers. Scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara secretly imprint a genetic codex into their newborn son’s Kal-El’s cells and launch him on a spacecraft to Earth to preserve the Kryptonian race. After Zod murders Jor-El, he and his followers are banished to the Phantom Zone, but manage to escape when Krypton explodes. The infant Kal-El lands on Earth in Smallville, Kansas, where he is discovered by couple Jonathan and Martha Kent, who name him Clark and raise him as their adopted son.
Clark’s Kryptonian physiology affords him superhuman abilities on Earth. Young Clark gradually learns to hone the abilities that initially cause him confusion and discomfort. Jonathan reveals to a teenage Clark that he is an alien, and advises him to not utilize his powers publicly, fearing that society would reject him. After Jonathan’s death, an adult Clark spends the next several years living a nomadic lifestyle, working different jobs under false names to cover his tracks and hide his identity. He eventually discovers a Kryptonian scout ship with technology that allows him to communicate with the consciousness of Jor-El in the form of a hologram. Lois Lane, a young journalist from the Daily Planet, also discovers the ship while pursuing a story, and is rescued by Clark when she is injured. Lois’s editor Perry White rejects her story of a “superhuman” rescuer, so she traces Clark back to Smallville with the intention of writing an exposé. After hearing his story, she decides not to reveal his secret.
Detecting the scout ship, Zod travels to Earth where he demands that Kal-El surrender to him, or humanity will suffer the consequences. Clark agrees to surrender to the U.S. military, who hand Lois and Clark over to Zod’s second-in-command, Faora. Zod reveals that he intends to use a terraforming “world engine” to transform Earth into a Krypton-like planet, to eradicate the human population, and to use the codex to repopulate the planet with genetically-engineered Kryptonians. After Clark and Lois escape the ship, Clark defeats Faora and another of Zod’s henchmen in Smallville, convincing the military that he is on their side. Zod deploys the world engine and initiates the terraforming in Metropolis and over the Indian Ocean.
Clark, now dubbed “Superman”, stops the world engine in the Indian Ocean. The military uses the spacecraft that brought Superman to Earth in an aerial strike to create a portal that returns Zod’s ship and his crew to the Phantom Zone. Only Zod remains, and he and Superman engage each other. After a battle, Superman is forced to kill Zod to save a group of innocent civilians that Zod attempts to murder. Superman decides to blend into the normal world by wearing eyeglasses and resuming his identity as Clark Kent. He is hired by White to work as a reporter for the Daily Planet.
Now that Batman has had his time in the spotlight, the powers that be have decided to turn their focus back on DC Comics’ golden boy, Superman, with Man of Steel. Admittedly, after seeing the early trailers, I was a bit skeptical because they made it seem like this was going to resemble Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (he’s a producer on this, btw). Boy was I wrong!
What is this about?
In another revival of the Superman legend, reporter Clark Kent must keep his alien origins and fantastic powers hidden from the world at large. But when the Kryptonian General Zod plans to destroy Earth, the Man of Steel springs into heroic action.
What did I like?
Krypton. In all the various incarnations of Superman, I do not believe we have actually seen much of Krypton. The most I believe that we’ve seen is the capitol city of Kandor, which was stolen away before the planet exploded. In this film, the filmmakers not only show us more of Krypton than we’ve seen in the past, but we also get the chance to see some wildlife and whatnot. It was a nice little touch that started off giving this film its own identity, especially when you consider a good chunk of this is just retelling Superman’s very well-known origin story.
He’s got the look. I can imagine that there was a long and arduous search for the perfect Superman. The last guy to put on the red and blue tights, Brandon Routh in Superman Returns, was a carbon copy of Christopher Reeve, at least in look. Henry Cavill seems to fit that mold a little bit, as well, but he also has his own look that really sells the fact that he is Superman. The only thing missing was the ‘S’ curl.
Excitement. Let’s think for a minute. If all of a sudden you were given this fancy costume and learned you could fly, wouldn’t you be a little excited? In the original Superman, Christopher Reeve seems to fly like a seasoned pro, however, Henry Cavill’s flying scene is reminiscent of Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man…once he gets that hang of it. He’s not perfect at it, but he’s enjoying the novelty of the new experience. I really liked that they showed that this guy is having fun being Superman.
Action. The second half of this film is almost nothing but action, and I loved every minute of it. For those not familiar with previous Superman films, you may not know that there is actually very little action save for a few gunshots to show his invincibility and then the final fight, but not much else. Superman II does have an actual fight, ironically with General Zod and the other Kryptonians. Thanks goodness Zach Snyder had the good sense to put lots of action in here. I’m pretty sure no one wants to see another brooding superhero. That’s what Batman is for.
What didn’t I like?
Costume. Call me a purist, but I need the lighter shade of blue with the red underwear on the outside to be the costume on my Superman. To some, this may be a small thing, but for me, it was a pretty major middle finger to why Superman is. Then again, the whole “new 52″ which is where this costume drew its inspiration from can fall into that category, truth be told. I’m sure there could have been some sort o compromise. Also, I liked it better when Martha Kent made the costume from Kal-El’s blanket, but in the film, Jor-El’s computer spirit has it ready for him (conveniently the right size). Last thing about the costume, it has some weird scale texture to it that makes about as much sense nipples on the Batsuit.
Destruction. I was listening to a podcast about this film earlier this week, and the brought up the wanton destruction of both Smallville and Metropolis and how it related to 9/11. I won’t go that far. Personally, I think it is time we stop relating every destroyed city to 9/11. However, I do see the point about how the city was destroyed. A few months ago, I started watching Ultimate Spider-Man (please avoid that show if you know what’s best for you), and in one of the early episodes Nick Fury makes it a major point to tell Spider-Man to keep collateral damage down. Apparently, Superman didn’t get the memo, because he and Zod make such a huge mess that even the clean-up crew from The Incredibles wouldn’t be able to make something sprout from it.
Eat Crowe. I can’t help but wonder if Russell Crowe finagled for this bigger part. Jor-El is always only seen for the first few scenes, and then as a spirit-type a little later. Somehow, we see Crowe almost as much as we see Superman and Lois Lane and for what reason? He’s not doing anything that couldn’t have been just a voice -over from a computer Going even further on that topic, what makes Crowe think that s more deserving of screen time than the Kents, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane.
Two halves of the puzzle. This is really two films, if you think about it. The first is the slow-moving origin telling first that makes you want to slit your wrists it is so long and drawn out. The second is the action packed second half of the film. While it doesn’t necessarily tell a story, it does provide for some real entertainment, not to mention it is sure to have you on the edge of your seat.
As summer blockbusters go, Man of Steel is a great addition to the club and is sure to spawn more films featuring Henry Cavill as Superman. I do wish they’d lighten up, but I guess that won’ happen until Christopher Nolan steps away as producer. This is not a perfect film, nor is the best Superman picture to be made, though I am sure some will argue that point, but it is a nice summer blockbuster that you can go escape the heat for a couple of hours. You never know, you might just enjoy yourself. So, what are you waiting for? “It’s a bird…It’s a plane! It’s SUPERMAN!!!”
4 1/2 out of 5 stars