“Man of Steel” saves our summer.
Ugh, it has been a brutal summer at America’s theaters. With expected blockbusters like the Hangover III, After Earth and Now You See Me filmed to impress us; they have fallen flat. We have been waiting patiently for a hero to rescue us (agreed we did get Iron Man 3 earlier this year), and to rise above our expectations letting us escape into a world of fantasy for a couple of hours. That hero comes in the form of Kal-El, er… I mean Superman/ Man of Steel/ Clark Kent. Call him what you will, he still gets the job done.
We begin with the birth of our hero Kal-El on planet Krypton. He is a special infant, since this is the first natural childbirth in centuries for the people of Krypton. After Kal-El’s birth, there is a violent coup by General Zod (played by Michael Shannon). We discover that Zod and Kal-El’s father, Jor-El (played by Russell Crowe) were once friends but thanks to Zod’s coup, the line between them has been drawn. That’s OK because Jor-El doesn’t live long after his son is jettisoned into space to begin his new life on planet Earth (Well, Jor-El dies but not really, I’ll explain later). General Zod is soon arrested and his fellow collaborators are banished to space prison.
Director Zack Snyder and writer David S. Goyer (who penned the stories for The Dark Knight trilogy) take a non-linear approach to Kal-El’s (played by Henry Cavill) life on earth. We see him as a grown man named Clark Kent, jumping from odd job to odd job, searching for an answer to who he is and where he comes from originally. For a drifter, he is totally ripped in the muscular sense. He has flashbacks to his childhood and how he learned to harness his strength, X-ray vision and desire for revenge. His earthly father, Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner) and mother, Martha (played by Diane Lane) taught him how to be more human like.
Fortunately Clark’s journey’s leads him to the far north where the U.S. Air Force is uncovering a spaceship that has been trapped under ice for the last 20,000 years. A feisty young reporter from the Daily Planet, Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) is there to break the story. Clark eventually steals the ship and is reunited with the consciousness of his dead father (see I told you he wasn’t dead) who teaches Clark about his backstory and gives him a snazzy new suit with a bright red cape and big S on the chest (but on Krypton it’s not an S; it’s a symbol for hope). After a few attempts Clark learns to fly and it’s pretty darn cool to take a few minutes to watch him fly over different terrains. Sure, it’s all style and little substance, but who cares.
General Zod, after breaking free of his space prison, makes his appearance and with one shi, holds our entire planet of 7 billion people hostage while demanding that we release Kal-El to him. Clark is torn and seeks guidance at a local church, and in his moment of clarity, we see his Messiah moment complete with a stained glass image of Jesus Christ in the background. He realizes he must make a sacrifice for us.
And, sacrifices he does make, to the extreme. The rest of film truly his one long action packed fight after another. Lois comes to Kal-El’s rescue while aboard a spaceship and then Kal-El rescues her… quite a bit. And it goes on like this for a while. A long while – a fight destroying Superman’s hometown Smallville, Kansas (much love is given to our Jayhawks and Royals throughout the movie) and a good chunk of the fictional city Metropolis is ruined. A minor character even mentions that Superman saved them, even though half of their city is now rubble. There is fight after fight until the very end when truth and justice prevails, but not without us seeing Superman’s darker side.
Should you see this movie? Yes, it’s a solid piece of work with a great performance by Cavill who plays a quieter Superman. His dialogue is at a minimum compared to the rest of the cast, but with all that flying around and fighting, it’s hard to say much.
The story does not focus as much on the superhero fantasy but takes a science fiction approach to the plot with the reasons why General Zod his trying to destroy our hero. Many of the ships and textures used are reminiscent of War of the Worlds or the latest Star Trek films. While several of the scenes take place outside of earth’s atmosphere, we are still reminded that our hero is not an earthling but still has the characteristics of one of us.