Friday, June 14

Man of Steel Review

Man of Steel
Dir: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and Russell Crowe

The slow, low angled movement of the camera through blades of grass in a Kansas field and the accompaniment of a far off, decaying planet with flying space ships resembles an art-house drama and a science fiction epic respectively. These are some of the first images the audience is shown before the iconic red cape streams behind the Superman in Zack Snyder’s origin tale Man of Steel. The dramatic, serious tone is sensed in the first few minutes; a departure from the more relaxed tempered Superman films of the past. Snyder brings a bold vision, displaying the angst of choice during the developing life of a young boy shouldered with formidable powers. Along with an extravagance of special effects, Man of Steel is a long introduction towards a familiar story.

Krypton is dying, on the verge of imminent self-destruction. Jor-El (Russell Crowe), our title characters father, prepares his newborn son Kal-El for departure from the planet in hopes of preserving Krypton’s existence with him. In the midst of a coup orchestrated by General Zod (Michael Shannon), a purpose-above-all presence, Kal-El narrowly escapes and finds refuge with Mary (Diane Lane) and Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) on Earth in Kansas. Clark (Henry Cavill), aware of his difference from other people, grows up guided by the belief that the world isn’t prepared for a person as unique as he is. Though Clark’s secret doesn’t remain, as he is thrown into situations that motivate his action, one of which was saving a journalist named Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who begins to expose his identity. Meanwhile, Zod breaks free from his prison and hunts down Clark forcing him to reveal his powers in order to save Earth.

From the onset there is a clear focus on the more dramatic struggles Clark encounters on his developing arc from a frustrated youth to a lost, wandering adult. This near 100 minutes of back-story is told in non-linear fashion, displaying poignant moments in Clark’s life that will directly impact the choices he makes in the future. Snyder handles this aspect with varying degrees of success. While he allows the flashbacks to slowly layer the composing ideals that will ultimately rule Clark’s motivations as a hero, there are also moments when the application feels pretentious. It’s enjoyable watching Clark gain a bearing on his strengths, especially in a scene when he learns to fly. Though, as is the case with most superhero stories, action will sooner or later hold precedent. The final 45 minutes of Metropolis destruction, amidst tumbling and tossed supermen, shadows the absorbing analysis of Clark’s human verse alien allegiance. This is an aspect that is overlooked in the climax of the film.

Henry Cavill is suitable in the lead role, emulating the poise portrayed by Christopher Reeve in the original films and allowing the emotional qualities to peak through at times. Amy Adams is good as Lois Lane, her portrayal more straightforward than Margot Kidder’s feisty rendition. Michael Shannon is great to watch, composing a villain with all the menacing bravado one would want opposite Superman. The film is also well shot; between the sun stroked landscapes and stylized action there is a wealth of images that hold your attention.

Man of Steel is a decent film, though there are glimpses of a great film displayed throughout. The action is elaborate, a quality that is initially exciting but becomes overly repetitive as the finale is stretched thin. The problem with making an origin story is that everyone knows where the film will end up. Snyder avoids, for a time, some of the trappings by focusing more attention on Clark’s assimilation with humanity. Though Man of Steel has its downfalls, it’s still the best rendition of the iconic character. And, since this is just the beginning, there is still hope for a great Superman film as the saga continues.

Monte’s Rating
3.25 out of 5.00

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