How do you come up with a witty intro to the reboot of a legendary character? It’s too much for my mind! “Man of Steel” is the reason we go to the movies. It’s the movie I can’t wait to review. Zack Snyder has brought respect back to the Superman franchise. Hans Zimmer has proven that he is the go to guy for an awesome, cinematic score. I’ll be to first to admit that this film has flaws, it’s a bit long for one, but it is totally worth going out to the theaters for this weekend!
I’ve said it plenty of times, the fact that Superman is not human makes him a poor cinematic character. He’s just not relatable. So the key to making the story great is to make him relatable in some way. That’s what David S. Goyer (with a little help from Christopher Nolan) did in writing the script. They boiled it down into a simple “human” story.
The first fifteen minutes of the film is an epic short all by itself. The origin of what led up to Kal-El/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) being sent to planet Earth is known to most but shown in a refreshing way. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) have just given birth to their son when the story picks up. As Krypton is doomed for destruction, a father and mother must make the ultimate sacrifice to see to it that their son is kept safe. At the same time General Zod (Michael Shannon) is sent to the Phantom Zone after a failed military coup. With the Kal-El, General Zod and his coup cronies off of Krypton it makes sense that thirty years later the two are destined to meet again.
Don’t be fooled, “Man of Steel” is the tale of a lost soul and the influence of two parental structures on him as he reaches a fork in the road of life. With Jor-El and Lara we see strength in love. With Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), the humans who find and raise Kal-El as Clark, we see the gentler side of love in parenting. Both sides protect and love young Clark.
As you can imagine in going from a young baby to an adult man in the first 15 minutes of the film, we spend a significant amount of time in the first act seeing Clark roam the land, trying to stay off the grid while learning backstory through flashbacks. This storytelling structure is oddly reminiscent of Goyer’s work on “Batman Begins”. It was new and refreshing then but not as much here. In many ways it’s a bit heavy handed, over done and would be useful for someone who is learning about Superman for the first time after living their life in a remote rain forest. We get it, move forward.
Things really pick up once Clark finds his “Fortress of Solitude” in the form of a ship that crashed years ago on Earth. At the same time Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is introduced to us as an ambitious reporter who finds out about Clark’s abilities. Adams does a fair job as the new and improved Lois although her ambition and pushiness can be a bit annoying at times.
Just as clark has found his origin, and like any adopted child, feels excited to have some answers...an old enemy, General Zod, rears his head. Having searched for Clark for over thirty years to restart Krypton, Zod threatens Earth’s inhabitants to give up Clark. From there the story is about Clark’s rise to the occasion of choosing between his Kryptonian origins and being the protector of Earth and it’s people.
Hans Zimmer has long been one of my favorite composers. He knocks the score out of the park again with this film. Snyder is wise in letting the score be another leading character throughout the film. Like the work he did for Heath Ledger’s Joker, you know when General Zod or Superman is on the screen. Enough can’t be said about Zimmer’s work in this film and his overall body of work.
Snyder’s direction in the film is phenomenal. Grounding the film in real, rural locations helped to make the film feel more authentic. Although, many companies (Walmart, Sears, Nokia, etc) paid for product placement in the film...seeing those familiar places does work on the subconscious. Snyder uses a handheld camera when things are unsteady and erratic in the story. The camera seems to search for Superman as he hits mach speeds in flight. The tones and colors of the film change between the different times and points of the story. All of these factors work together to take the story of the unhurt-able super hero and make his story more realistic.
Snyder, Goyer, and Zimmer are the reason this film will do so well. The truth is that the character development is not as great as Nolan’s Batman, because see point one, he’s not human. Yet these keys to cinematic greatness make it easy for the solid cast to come in and do great work.
“Man of Steel” is just what the doctor ordered in revitalizing the franchise. At times, I thought to myself, this origin story is dragging but I can’t wait to see where things go in future films. It has it’s flaws, but it is extremely entertaining. The action sequences are incredible and show just how far we have come from Christopher Reeves’ Superman to Cavill’s cinematically. The foundation has been laid. At the table of great super hero films, Superman is back!