By Pete Benavides
Let me just start off by saying this, Richard Donner did a great job with Superman way back in 1978. Christopher Reeve did a great job of portraying Superman/Clark Kent and made us believe that a man could fly. They were fun stories to enjoy when we were all kids. But times have changed and sadly those films don’t hold up over time. So we need a new Superman, one that relates to our current generation and one that will be fun to watch. Bryan Singer attempted this back in 2006 but to little success. He held true to the Donner vision, but sadly just took crucial plots, altered them, added a few twists and gave us an unsuccessful Superman movie.
Enter, Zack Snyder (Director), David Goyer (Writer) and Christopher Nolan (Producer) and their new take on Superman. It’s gritty, action packed, emotional and beautiful. In my opinion, it’s the Superman we’ve always wanted to see on screen and a fully realized and successful reboot.
I really enjoyed how the filmmakers explored Krypton more in this movie and the way it’s portrayed. Russell Crowe does an amazing job as Kal-El’s father, Jor-El. He almost steals the show every time he’s in a scene. His interactions with Michael Shannon’s Zod are some of the best in the movie. They were once on the same side, and you feel that not only in the dialogue but in the way they aggressively respond to each other. This all leads to Jor-el and his wife Lara (played by Ayelet Zurer) launching their son off to Earth and away from the doomed planet. What makes these scenes so strong are the emotions of these characters and it’s all executed extremely well.
Watching the film go straight to Clark as an adult helped push the story and his character. There’s no need to rehash his story of growing up on a farm in Smallville. This is where I really like what they did with the story. As Clark journeys in search of who he is he flashes back to certain points in his childhood when he was an outcast, learning and getting advice from Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) or, as a child, being set as ease by Ma Kent (Diane Lane). It helps the audience get a sense of where he came from, the life lessons he received and why he must learn about where he came from.
The scene in which Clark learns about himself is quite moving. When Clark learns of his name and says “Kal, that’s my name”, in response, we’re pulled in that moment in such an emotional way. Here’s someone who didn’t know if he’d ever learn about where he came from and you feel the joy in the discovery that he’s made. It’s after learning about his family and planet that we see him dawn his Kryptonian suit. The next scene, which is my personal favorite, is done to almost perfection. He begins jumping and pushing himself to the point where he is flying, for the very first time. Cavill’s reaction to this is what really sells this scene. We watch Kal-El fly over oceans, through mountains and out to space. Powered by an extremely strong Hans Zimmer track the scene is a thing of beauty.
The final hour of the film bleeds action, in a good way. Not in any past Superman film have we seen him dish out as much punishment as he takes. The fight scenes are done well all starting with Supes taking on Faora, Zod’s second in command. While many expected the Supes/Zod showdown to own the movie, his fight with Faora was a very close second. I like that Superman faces some heavy adversity in the form of other powerful beings. Quite simply, these fights put the icing on the cake.
A lot of negative reviews on Man of Steel have been very nitpicky. As far as story goes, I felt as though the setup of Zod going after Superman for a particular reason, and not just to kill him, was clearly stated. He’s doing everything he can to serve and protect his people, finding and dealing with Kal-el just becomes a big speed bump during his quest. Character development, this was probably my only gripe with the film. I would have liked to of seen a few more scenes help establish the relationship between Lois and Clark.
But one reason I gave this issue a pass was because the chemistry between Cavill and Amy Adams, Lois, was solid. I bought it and I think the audience did too. With the strong chemistry now built between the two it sets up for them to build upon this in future Superman movies and I have no doubt that it will only get better.
All the performances were very well done. Amy Adams is terrific as Lois Lane and portrays, perhaps, the strongest performance of the character we’ve ever seen. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were great choices as Ma and Pa Kent and Lawrence Fishburn was a good new take on Perry White.
It took a long time for Warner Bros. and DC comics to get here but I feel like they finally got it right and in the process a new legacy of Superman has been born. In the process of this successful reboot a whole new, comic book, cinematic universe has been opened. We can only be excited to see what comes next.
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