When it comes to superheroes, Batman will always be number one in my book. Yet that does not change the fact that Superman was, to play on Batman Begins’ title, “Heroes Begins” in terms of Superheroes. He was the first and some even consider him to be the greatest. And when Batman is on a break, in terms of his big screen adventures, and Superman has his time and turn, I will gladly support the fellow in the red cape who stands for truth, justice, and the American way.
Such a time has come. Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” has come and gone. With that, comes a void that Warner Bros. needed to fill. So, who do you turn to if you’re Warner Bros. to fill that void left by Gotham’s brooding creature of the knight? Warner tried with Green Lantern and while that movie had its moments, it was widely considered a failure, both critically and financially.
This scared Warner a bit and plans to develop a Justice League or even “World’s Finest” team up of Batman and Superman were put on hold. What to do? This summer’s much anticipated, marketed, and hyped “Man of Steel” is their answer. So, how does Superman’s second return fair? Does it live up to the hype? Is it a successful reboot and reviving of Superman for a modern audience? Does it wash the taste away of 2006 sub-par Superman Returns? Let’s find out! And please note that there will be no spoilers!
I was fortunate enough to attend a special screening of “Man of Steel” on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 and at the time of this review, a second and third screening on Thursday, June 13, 2013. Two screenings before the film’s release on Friday, June 14, 2013. This first screening took place at the AMC Loews Cherry Hill 24 in New Jersey, I am from Philadelphia. It was also 3-D which I was not aware of. I prefer 2-D but I could not tell the difference between the two anyway. What a horrid and horrible experience this was, not the film mind you, the theater.
It was organized chaos or in other words not organized at all! The screening was to start at 7:30. I arrived at 7:10. We were not let in until around 7:40 and the film did not start until 7:45 PM. Not too bad there. What made it bad was the fact too many tickets were given out, as is the case with most of these events, and they were not prepared at all! Police were called and people were turned away. I feel sorry for those that made the trip only to be turned away, and some had even purchased snacks! And they say Philadelphia theaters are bad? Another reason to dislike New Jersey! However, this is not a review of the movie theater or New Jersey but of “Man of Steel”.
Originally written based on my first viewing of the film, I have since went back and edited and revised things that have changed for me on these second and third viewings which were great experiences and allowed me to enjoy the film that much more while reflecting on things that I had witnessed. So, the review from this point on will be from my second and third screenings on Thursday which includes the midnight premiere.
“Man of Steel” is at its core the origin story of Superman. All that you would come to expect from Superman’s origin story is here; doomed Krypton, Jor-El rocketing baby Kal-El to earth, Kal-El being raised by good intentioned people with traditional values, Jonathan and Martha Kent who seek to ingrain these things in their new found son, who is now Clark Kent. It’s all here yet updated and tweaked for a modern audience all while not taking away from what makes Clark, Clark and what makes Superman, Superman.
On a deeper level, it’s a story about finding one’s place in this vast world, a story of belonging, and fitting in. And it’s this aspect that makes this take on Superman’s origin so refreshing while remaining familiar. Because we can relate to finding our place, to fitting in, to belonging, we can relate to Clark Kent and to Superman and because we can relate, we find that we begin to care about this character even if he is from another planet.
The villain of the film is General Zod played by Michael Shannon. His henchman, who in this case is a henchwoman is Faora played by Antje Traue. Both give good performances yet Michael Shannon as Zod is far more subdued than I thought he would be. He is still a threat and someone you can’t help but hate all while waiting to see Superman finally defeat him.
Shannon in no way steals the show and in this age of great villains, that may not be enough for some but I felt he gave a very understated performance, one you had to pay attention to. Faora on the other hand is just plain ruthless, great performance by Antje Traue! As far as their plan goes, all I will say is the world is in trouble and in need of Superman. Anything else, we would be in spoiler territory.
Which brings us to Henry Cavill as Superman. Cavill gives a good performance here as Superman and as Clark Kent even if all we get is a very small sampling of his Clark Kent this time around. Some reviews I have seen have said Cavill was too brooding as Superman. I didn’t get that at all. I think he was charming and had personality. If anything was wrong with his performance, I would say he maybe was a bit wooden in some scenes and nervous but that is something that can be fixed with playing the character again. Something I think we will be seeing sooner rather than later. Also, when thinking about it, since he is new to being Superman, was wooden and nervous done on purpose? Something to thing about. Is he a better Superman than Christopher Reeve? At this point, I’d say it’s too early. Give him a few more outings and we’ll see. Is he a better Superman that Brandon Routh? Poor Brandon Routh, such potential he had. Sad, we’ll never know what he could have fully done with the role.
Amy Adams gives a good supporting role here as Lois Lane and I look forward to what she will do with the character going forward. A confident portrayal here. I would have liked a bit more character development but that is a simple issue that can be expanded upon in future films. Russell Crowe excels as Jor-El and plays a key part during the whole movie. It was nice to see Jor-El done right. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent played their roles well. Kevin Costner was, like Michael Shannon understated, as Jonathan Kent yet great as the loving father to Clark. However, there was just something about Diane Lane as Martha Kent that felt off. I can’t quite put my finger on it but in all three screenings, this is one aspect that has not changed for me. Something just felt off with her as Martha Kent. Finally, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White. I originally thought he came off as bored during his time in the film. However, upon a second and third viewing, Fishburne was wonderful as Perry White, the confident and authoritative editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. All of the lesser known supporting roles were well acted as well. Just a great job all around in the casting department.
If I had any complaints, they would be very minor. The visual effects, while they were stunning in the film and while well done relied a bit too much on CGI for my tastes. I guess this was to be excepted given the villains of the film and their plans but there had to be another way to rely less on CGI. Also, I felt we did not see enough of the Daily Planet or Metropolis but they were set up in a way where they could be major players in the future.
Reflecting back on the story told in “Man of Steel”, it is a movie that will require multiple viewings as if you were to view it say once and be done with it, you would come away thinking there really was not much story told and that’s not the case. When I got home from the first screening on Tuesday night from it, I could not really relate any key moments of the story and it’s not because they aren’t there, I just did not catch them. “Man of Steel” is a great story that does a great job in updating the mythos for a modern audience.
Before I close this review, I feel I must mention the midnight screening. This was my fourth midnight screening, the other three being The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and Skyfall, and I must say it is one of the greatest experiences around! To be in a theater surrounded by fans just like you is something very special indeed. If you have never been to a midnight screening, you must do so! “Man of Steel” got an rousing round of applause in multiple spots and when it ended. The people I attended it with loved “Man of Steel”, so did I, and so will you!
So, is “Man of Steel” a great film? Yes it is. Is “Man of Steel” one of the greatest superhero movies of all time? Again, yes it is. Is “Man of Steel” a successful reboot and revival of the Superman franchise? Without a doubt, yes. Does it live up to the hype and wash away what was Superman Returns, which I liked by the way. Yes it does. Is it the greatest Superman movie of all time? In my opinion, yes. It’s must see and must own when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray.
In 1978, they said you would believe a man could fly, well in 2013, you’ll believe it again but more importantly, you’ll believe in Superman. You’ll believe in hope. You’ll believe in the good your fellow man is capable of doing if they only had someone to guide them in the right way. In 2006, they got it wrong by about seven years, it’s 2013 not 2006, but Superman has indeed returned and he has done so proving that you don’t need a team of six to save the world!