While certainly not the perfect film, MAN OF STEEL absolutely provides a bad-ass Superman.
Detractors of the character point to his invulnerability as the reason why they’re so apathetic to the Man Of Steel, but this movie will either change their mind or make it clear that they’re not interested in allowing Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer to change their opinion. What that trio brought to theaters is the depiction of a man with superhuman abilities, but also a man with vulnerabilities.
At times, the dialogue seems forced. If a director’s cut version of the film exceeds the three hour mark, it could be a considerably more enjoyable movie, and it wouldn’t need to add any additional moments of fighting or heroic feats. The way some of the interactions between characters was portrayed in the trailers released the past six weeks was arguably better than in the film’s final cut, but that surely shouldn’t dissuade anyone from seeing the film.
It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s arguably the best Superman film of all time.
Many critics hated Superman Returns, pointing primarily at a lack of action. When MAN OF STEEL gets criticized, it won’t be for that reason, as it had action. In droves. Ever see Superman in extended fight scenes utilizing hand-to-hand combat and his super-speed for evasive maneuvers? You will in MAN OF STEEL. How about seeing him use his heat vision to cut an opponent’s weapon down to size as it’s being swung in his direction? It’s one of the highlights of the film.
As are the scenes where Kal-El himself gets beat down, and there’s more than a couple of them.
This isn’t a scenario like Superman Returns whereby he gets a shard of Kryptonite stuck in his rib and suddenly he’s powerless. MAN OF STEEL features Kryptonian opponents who are bred to be warriors, and in their abilities, it shows.
To say that Henry Cavill fills the suit nicely is an understatement. Not only does he embody the physicality of the role (which on at least one occasion is gratuitously thrown at viewers), but he truly seemed to grasp the internal struggles of the character. It’s nearly impossible to compare Cavill’s performance to that of Christopher Reeve from 30 years ago. Reeve excelled at portraying both the unworldly powerful Superman as well as the clumsy, aw-shucks Clark Kent. Whether or not Henry Cavill was up to that task, we’ll never know, because that’s not the Superman story this film presents.
At the heart of this story is the struggle Superman faces to reconnect with a world and society he will otherwise never know, and saving a world which he has seen first hand to want to reject his true nature. To say Michael Shannon’s General Zod is the film’s villain sells the character short, as there’s considerably greater depth to the role than meets the eye. When Zod is first imprisoned, he seems to turn a corner towards darkness from which viewers might suppose he can’t return. By film’s end, even through massive amounts of destruction and immense ill-will, there are still sympathetic aspects of General Zod.
Portraying the intrepid reporter Lois Lane, Amy Adams gives a fine performance. The role didn’t provide nearly as many signature moments as what Margot Kidder had 30 years ago, but Lois was hardly just a damsel in distress.
A slight disappointment was Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent, whose motives were understandable but his actions, at times, bordered on lunacy. In nearly all the depictions of the character, Jonathan Kent dies before his adopted son becomes the hero, so I’m confident that it won’t come as too much of a spoiler to say he doesn’t live to see the end of the film. The scene in which he meets his final end, while incredibly visually stunning, was eye-roll worthy. To blame Costner’s acting abilities would arguably be short-sighted. It’s the fault of the script that he was borderline unlikable.
The injuries suffered by the depiction of Jonathan Kent to MAN OF STEEL were remedied through that of Russell Crowe’s Jor-El. Similarly to how Marlon Brando’s version finds a way to interact with his son following the destruction of Krypton, so does this version, and to great effect. Not only does he carry with him sage advice and a fatherly aura, but this Jor-El actually evokes laughter. Though probably only a few chuckles worth, a few interactions along the way found the means to lighten the mood ever-so-slightly.
Though I won’t agree to any significant degree with them, I’m sure negative reviews of MAN OF STEEL will arise. When you read them, take them with a grain of salt. What are you expecting from a Superman movie? Great dialogue? Oscar-worthy performances? A storyline with no plot-holes where everything is completely logical?
MAN OF STEEL provides more than just a rollercoaster ride of action. It gets to the heart of the character, makes great use of a variety of super-powers Superman has at his disposal, and creates a world filled with deep characters. One of those characters just happens to be the most Bad-Ass version of Superman I’ve ever seen, and that’s a description that this life-long fan has never used to describe him. When you walk out of that theater, whether you loved the film or not, I’ll be surprised if you can’t describe him that way as well.
My Rating: 9.8 out of 10