I do not have a single complaint about this movie. That’s how good it was. By far the best Superman movie I’ve seen, and most assuredly the least cheesy, and I saw the old films with Christopher Reeve, and the newer one with Brandon Routh.
The film begins on Krypton, a dying planet, with the birth of Kal-El – whose birth is the first natural birth on the planet in centuries. There’s a very Matrix-y set-up with babies being grown, genetically engineered for various purposes and occupations. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is trying to convince the head council people to evacuate the planet because the core is going to collapse, but they’re interrupted by General Zod, who’s staging a military coup to take over Krypton.
Jor-El manages to get back home, having stolen the “codex” – the instructions for all the future Kryptonian children or some such thing – and puts Kal on a ship to an old Kryptonian outpost, Earth. The codex is imprinted into his very cells, hidden so well that Zod would never be able to find it, and the baby is off across the universe to a place that Zod would never be able to find him barring some crazy coincidence. Zod gets caught and he and his crew get sentenced to eternal imprisonment, sort of like getting frozen in carbonite, but not before he kills Jor-El. But, when Krypton implodes, the shackles get broken and Zod and his crew rig their prison ship into a regular transport to begin searching for the last child of Krypton that Jor-El sent into space.
Kal grows up on Earth with the Kents, and you probably know that part of the story. He’s a super-strong kid, and manages to save a few people’s lives even before he’s 18, despite his father’s warnings about letting too many people learn the truth about what he’s capable of.
The catalyst is when Kal (who goes by many names as an adult on Earth, trying to conceal his identity) travels with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) out to the middle of a glacier to meet a military operation that’s found an ancient craft beneath the ice. He accidentally triggers the craft, which lets Zod know where he is. Chaos, potential Armageddon, and super-strong alien fights ensue.
The Suit/Overall Appearance/Superpowers
I like it. They succeeded in making him more like an alien and less like a man in tights with it, and though most of his strength comes from having been bathed in sunlight his whole life, the suit makes him look more imposing.
Also, Superman has a beard. Not the whole movie, but in some parts, especially when he’s pretending to be just a normal guy, he’s got quite a heavy black beard. I thought it looked great, and it made him seem more like the Earth-dweller he has become and less like this idealized, perfect hair, Greek god he’s been made out to be in some of the old movies. Of course, when he does shave, he looks just like that, but it was a nice, more down to earth version of Clark Kent to see.
Another thing I loved? Superman gets to use his heat vision power way more in this movie than in any of the ones I’ve seen. Typically, he gets the x-ray vision more, and it plays like a bit of a joke at someone’s expense, but here, he got to use it multiple times, which was fun to see.
You can definitely see Zack Snyder’s influence in this movie on the costumes, the settings, and the battle scenes. If you saw 300 or Watchmen, it should be perfectly clear that the same person directed all of them. His style is unique. The battle scenes especially – they are lengthy, hard-hitting, and rather violent, considering this is a PG-13 movie and those mentioned are rated R.
Speaking of ratings, I was a little surprised to see so many kids in the theater. They were all with parents, and normally I wouldn’t see any reason not to bring a kid to a PG-13 movie. They’re usually no worse than what you can find on TV, but the level of violence, the complexity of the plot at times, and near the beginning, a little coarse language from none other than Lois Lane (to Chris Meloni, a military man on the glacier investigation: “If we’re done measuring dicks here…”) made me wonder if any of the parents thought twice about having brought the kids. Probably not, but still, I’m sure if this weren’t such an iconic piece of Americana, Snyder would have pushed things further into the R-rated realm. As it was, it was quite tame for one of his films.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the actual men and women playing these iconic characters. Henry Cavill, Brit or not, IS Superman. The man who should have been Superman and will always be the Superman to which all others are compared. Amy Adams is the best rendering of Lois Lane. She’s sharp, she’s pushy, and she’s capable, without becoming obnoxious or overbearing.
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are wonderful as Clark Kent’s parents. They’re supportive, they always have the right thing to say, and they have the same strength of character that they instilled in their adopted son.
Russell Crowe trying to fill Marlon Brando’s shoes as Jor-El does quite a good job, especially at the beginning where he’s the protagonist. And you can’t go wrong casting Michael Shannon as the villain. Lex Luthor was a good villain, but there’s no comparison to Superman fighting a guy who’s on the same level, a guy who’s from the same planet, has the same abilities, knew his father.
After so many years of failed attempts to make Superman a film/TV icon, I think they finally got it right. (I say failed because while Superman became an icon anyway, the previous incarnations of him were less than stellar.) The right villain, the right amount and extent of action scenes, the right dialogue (finally!), and the right Lois Lane. Just the right amount of tenacity and pluck, and not annoying.
Though Clark Kent doesn’t become the guy everyone knows, the reporter at the Daily Planet, until the very end, I think that’s where the other films failed. Making him Kent first, Superman second. That’s not really how the story went down. In Man of Steel, he saves the world first, Lois knows his true identity first, and then he decides that a job as a reporter, glasses and all, might be the best way to keep his ear to the ground on any big take-over-the-world plots that may arise.
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