Monday, July 01, 2013

Man of Steel Review

Growing up, I was never the biggest fan of Superman as I always felt the character was far too powerful, but I admit I was intrigued by the early trailers I had seen for Man of Steel.  Rebooting the franchise, the film promised to show us a bold new Superman for the current age of comic book films on the silver screen.

In truth I wasn't expecting much of a plot at all, and I simply wanted to see Superman punch someone into the sun, and while I regret that I didn't actually see that, the trade off was far more beneficial.

Man of Steel opens with Krypton dying and in the midst of civil war.  The planet itself is corroding from within due too to much resource exploitation, and General Zod (Michael Shannon), the leader of the Kryptonian military, is staging a coup in an attempt to salvage the world before it's too late.  While Zod's attempt fails and he and his supporters are exiled to the Phantom Zone, Jor-El (Russel Crowe) and his wife (Ayelet Zurer) send their newborn son, the first natural Kryptonian birth in hundreds of years, to Earth to escape the planet's imminent destruction.

As Krypton dies, baby Kal-El arrives on Earth and is adopted by the Kents, local Kansas farmers, and the all familiar tale unfolds anew.

Without knowing the orphan's true name, his foster parents name him Clark, and our young hero grows up a troubled youth.  Man of Steel, however, doesn't tell the narrative from a completely linear perspective, and instead shows an adult Clark (Henry Cavill) running from himself and the power he posses as he searches for answers and purpose.  At different points in the film it flashes back to events that occurred when he was a child adding greater emphasis to the present moments on screen.  I found this worked extremely well and helped to mix up the more serious story with the action inherent to any comic film.

While Clark tries to hide and blend in with your everyday Joe, he still helps people in his own way becoming an anonymous hero and legend until one day, he discovers a Kryptonian scout ship and learns his true heritage, while at the same time saving the life of and impressing reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

Shortly thereafter Zod arrives, he and his supporters the only other Kryptonian survivors thanks to their exile, and they're after some important data that will permit them to rebuild Krypton at the expense of Earth itself, data they believe Clark Kent to posses.  Epic conflict ensues.

Overall, while Man of Steel's plot isn't the most complex, it is well told, easily identifiable, and touching.  Superman's new, he's untested, and he's learning about himself.  This places him at a very vulnerable point when pitted against the ruthless military veteran that Zod is, and the Man of Steel makes some serious mistakes.

The battles in Man of Steel are simply spectacular and highly entertaining.  Effect heavy, and while sadly lacking any sun punching, they are literally Earth shattering and city wrecking, which makes complete believable sense seeing as how Superman is taking on other, well, supermen (and women).  The amount of devastation these battles wreck is awe inspiring and something that the latest Marvel films should be envious of.

Highly entertaining, and with the exception of the romance between Clark and Lois, which I felt rather cliche and cheesy, the rest of the film's character development is solid for a comic-based feature.  Zod in particular I found delightful.  Cold, calculating, and ruthless but with intentions and motives that are completely honest and noble for the character, he makes a superb villain as, from his perspective, he's right and just, and all the more deadly for it.

The original battle between Zod and Superman actually felt anticlimactic, but it was simply building to their titanic struggle later in the film which I thought was sheer genius.  I've heard many criticize this battle, stating that Superman should have done things differently and attempted to lure Zod away from Metropolis, but I think said critics are forgetting the simple truth that here, in this film, Superman is still new and inexperienced and this clearly shows in his actions.  He may be super but he's far from perfect and that added to the film's appeal.  It all flowed well for me and depending on how they do the sequel, this could pave the way for a very interesting and more troubled look at the character.

Man of Steel is a great film and the poster child for what a summer blockbuster should be.  It's clever, action-packed, and has a fun and identifiable narrative driven by simple, core values that are in all of us.  While certainly possessing some lighter moments the film was overall darker than I would have expected from DC's flagship character, and I also found that very positive indeed.

While there are other summer blockbusters coming out later this season, I do believe they'll be hard pressed to top Man of Steel, which delivered far better than most are giving it credit for.

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