Canister X Movie Review #57: Man of Steel (2013)
Written by David S. Goyer
Directed by Zack Snyder
Runtime 143 min.
5 out of 5
A sole survivor of the doomed planet Krypton grows up on Earth and discovers he has abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Once grown, he sets off to find out who he is and where he comes from. The answer is discovered in a spaceship in the arctic and Krypton’s Last Son, Kal-El—Clark Kent—meets a hologram of his long-dead father, Jor-El, who reveals to him his destiny: to be a beacon of hope for humanity, and also someone who could one day restore the doomed Kryptonian race.
Enter Zod, a harsh general and one who has fought his whole life to protect Krypton and its people. During an altercation with Jor-El prior to Krypton’s explosion, he finds out that Jor-El has sent his newborn son off-world and, along with the child, plans for Krypton’s future. A battle ensues and Zod is sent off-planet, too, him and his cohorts banished to the Phantom Zone for rehabilitation. When Krypton explodes, the containment units holding Zod and his followers release them and he spends the next thirty-three years combing the stars, searching for Jor-El’s son.
Locating Kal-El on Earth, Zod sends an ultimatum to the planet, forcing Kal-El to reveal himself to the humans and to stop Zod from using Earth as ground zero for a new Krypton. Zod, like Kal-El, is now powered by the Earth’s yellow sun and is empowered with superabilities. An enormous battle ensues between Krypton’s general and Kal-El, the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance.
What can I say? This movie is mind blowing! It’s epic, it’s incredible. So much was riding on this film to deliver a Superman movie that would captivate audiences and restore the Man of Steel to his rightful place as king of the superheroes. Man of Steel does just that and then some, bringing with it the awesome sci-fi factors of Star Wars to the dense storytelling of The Dark Knight Trilogy.
There has never, ever been a superhero movie like this before. Henry Cavill as Superman nailed the part. He’s a nice guy, a caring guy, but he’s dead serious about doing the right thing and exudes the confidence that only one who has sold himself out for the good of all can portray. He did something that was never done before by any other Superman actor: showing Clark Kent before he was Superman or even the bumbling reporter of the Daily Planet. (I’m referring to the movies, not Smallville). In fact, he’s this version of Clark Kent for nearly the whole movie. You see him making the big decisions, weighing his upbringing against this new task of saving the world that was suddenly dropped on his lap. You journey along with him as he wrestles with his being different and how those differences apply not just to his life, but to the lives of others.
As Superman, he’s the Superman. I never thought Christopher Reeve’s performance could be outdone, but Henry Cavill matches, if not exceeds, what Mr. Reeve brought to the character. Cavill’s Superman is one hundred percent devoted to staying true to who he is, his abilities, his upbringing, his quest for truth and justice, and for putting his foot down both with men and rebel Kryptonians when needed. I can’t really comment on his reporter Clark persona because that’s not a big role in this movie. I hope, however, it will be in the sequel and we’ll see plenty of Lois and Clark interaction in the next one, especially after the way the Lois and Clark relationship is portrayed in this movie. You’ll have to see for yourself for what I mean.
Michael Shannon as Zod was crazy good. The guy can act and his Zod is much different than Terrence Stamp’s. Yes, both are ruthless, but whereas Stamp’s Zod was more about power grabbing and his desire to rule, Shannon’s is about giving his all to restore the former glory of Krypton at any cost, even if that means eradicating all of Earth’s population to do it. The best villain is always the villain you accidently find yourself rooting for, and that happened to me throughout this movie. Every so often I felt for Zod and understood what he was trying to accomplish. It made sense and made me consider that maybe if I was in his shoes I would’ve done the same thing or something similar.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane was a good choice. I wasn’t sure at first, as I know Amy Adams as more of the happy-go-lucky girl from other movies far removed from the superhero genre—though she was in one episode of Smallville during its first season—but she sold me on the part and she reminded me of the Lois Lanes from the old cartoons: warm, but cut and dry; funny, but serious about what she does and her desire to go the distance to get a story.
The action in this movie was crazy huge. The bar has been set so high in terms of superhero cinema in recent years and Man of Steel makes every superhero movie that’s come before it look like a puppet show by comparison. The wide-scale destruction wrought by Superman and Zod—never mind Zod’s right-hand-woman Faora and the other rebel Kryptonians—is what you’d expect if people with god-like powers let loose in an all-out brawl across a city. And the speed, man, the speed! Normally superspeed is shown as either a big blur or done in slo-mo, with the superspeedsters moving quickly while everyone else is frozen. In this one, you see Superman et al. zipping around, pausing, breaking sound barriers, and bringing the viewer along as if we’re in his boots the whole time and experiencing the thrill of superspeed ourselves.
The way Superman flies in this is unlike any other portrayal before, and while I loved how he flies in the other movies and TV shows, in this one he seems to hurl himself through the air at times, while at others flies with precision and care. The heat vision effect in this was stellar, too. The glow beneath the skin around the eyes and to see the veins beneath its surface made it all the more menacing. The superhearing and X-ray vision were familiar territory to those who’ve watched Smallville, but there was no all-out X-ray vision where everything was dark blue and white.
The fighting between Superman and Zod was serious business and was truly a portrayal of two warriors going toe-to-toe and not just wrestling or tapping each other out. It was one crazy hard blow after another, some slow, some rapid, even some in the sky! Insane! So many times I was blown away and just going “Wow, wow, wow!” Zod fought with the skill of a trained warrior, whereas Superman fought with brute force.
Man of Steel is a crazy good movie with a strong story, an incredible cast, and superhero action that has now become the benchmark for anything to follow. To be honest, I don’t know if it can be followed. Hopefully in Man of Steel 2.