Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

General Zod (Michael Shannon), a patriot if ever there was one, is pissed off.  His planet, Krypton, is about to explode and since the council of Kryptonian stiffs aren’t doing anything about it to save his people, thus he stages a bloody coup.  Jor-El (Russell Crowe) knows this as well, and both Jor-El and Zod believe that the hope for Krypton lies beyond the stars.  They seem to want the same thing, but I’m told Zod is nuts and Jor-El is righteous.  I guess I have to roll with that.  Anyway, eventually Zod’s rebellion is put down and he and his crew of supermodel warriors are banished to the Phantom Zone for 300 cycles.  However long that is.  Here’s what I don’t get… the planet is exploding, Krypton is doomed, everybody knows this.  Why not just leave Zod and them on Krypton to die with the rest of the Kryptonians?  Instead, he’s given a reprieve.  A second chance.  Which he will take full advantage of by murdering a large number of Earth’s citizens.  Thanks Kryptonians.  For a race of advanced individuals, Kryptonians seem kind of dumb to me.

So we all know the basic story of ‘Man of Steel’, where Jor-El sends his only begotten son to Earth to absolve us of all our sins.  We also know that the baby Kal-El was found by the kindly Smallvillians Ma and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), rechristened with the name of Clark and this boy would struggle mightily with the fact that he was different from all the other kids around him. 

It wouldn’t get any easier for Clark the adult (Henry Cavill).  A wondering soul with little direction and a killer set of pecs and abs, and not to mention some anger management issues, but eventually the time would come when his original father Jor-El will show young Clark the way, and he will learn where he came from and who he is.  And get a dope suit with a fly cape in the process.  And he will meet a hardworking reporter in Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who uncovers his secret, the biggest story in the history of everything, and like any rational reporter will sit on this story because it’s The Right Thing to Do.  This awakening will also correspond with Zod, now armed with a ship of Mass Destruction finding Earth, mainly looking for Kal-El, and he has a plan.  It’s not a good plan, at least far as we Earthlings are concerned.

Clark / Kal, cannot allow Zod to execute this plan to destroy his adopted home to create New Krypton, even though the Earth and its citizenry really hasn’t been all that great to Clark, but the fact is Zod and his minions are about as powerful as he is, plus they’ve been bred to do exactly this sort of thing, also engineered without morality, where Clark was bred to hide and suppress his abilities and is a bleeding heart.  What chance does he have?  We are confident that he has a pretty good chance, and we are confident that things are going blow up real good in the process.

So… there’s a scene in 1981’s ‘Superman II’ where Zod and his minions are doing battle with Superman and completely wrecking Metropolis.  Superman looks left, then right, observes the carnage then realizes that this is totally not cool and gets out of there.  I mean they’re destroying the city and killing people, right?  Not this Superman.  If there was building that could be destroyed or toppled or a tanker that could be blown up, Superman and Zod made sure that happened, and thousands would die in the process, because the Citizens of Metropolis did not believe in running away until it was way too late.  I’m pretty sure some of the differences we mention here are the function of the times and cost.  In 1981 destroying a city would be prohibitively expensive and time consuming since it would have to be done largely with miniatures.  In 2013, computers can do anything that you can imagine.  And the computers in ‘Man of Steel’ were awesome.  Planets explode, people ride flying wasps or whatever those things were, jets blow up, planets are terraformed, buildings collapse, buildings collapse, buildings collapse… ‘Man of Steel’ is truly something to see.   Unless you have some kind of aversion to watching buildings collapse. 

The movie itself?  Well… it was a strangely detached, very dark, oddly violent, almost completely humorless affair bookended by a pair of pretty amazing action sequences.  Though the last one did go on for an awful long time.   Henry Cavill certainly made for a good looking Superman, tall, built, solid chin, and a tendency to profile in front of the camera… just how we like our Superman.  Maybe a little stiff and he did have two emotions, those being serious and super serious, but then this Superman is going through some serious stuff. 

I guess therein lies our issue with ‘Man of Steel’ in that it is so darn… serious.  Heaven forbid we introduce some of the buffoonery of the some of those Christopher Reeve Superman movies, I mean thank goodness we didn’t have to deal with that, and I get that ‘Dark’ is the color of the day for the modern superhero movie, but even the ‘Dark Knight’ movies had more levity than this one.  Even the color palette that director Zack Snyder went for was drab and depressing.  Plus this is Superman we’re talking about, a character not defined by darkness, brooding and inner conflict… that would be Batman… but one who gets by on positivity and self confidence that leans on the edge of over confidence.  Oh well.  Go Dark or Go Home I guess.

In addition to Cavill, the performances were solid enough, Russell Crowe doing a fine job as Jor-El and we thoroughly enjoyed watching actress Antje Traue wreck scenery and kill people as the particularly psycho Super Model Minion of Zod, Faora.  Kevin Costner and Laurence Fishburn as Perry White seemed somewhat underused, however.   And we also have to admit the romance that was supposed to be occurring between Superman and Lois was undercooked, at best.  A two and half hour movie probably should’ve done a better job of building a relationship between our two leads, so when they start necking at the end of the movie, it actually seems plausible.  As an example, if Kirk and Spock started making out at the end of ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’… not that we’d be happy with that… but THAT relationship was developed and that would’ve made sense.

While it may seem like we’re coming down a little hard on ‘Man of Steel’, we did enjoy the movie for what it was.  It’s not the brightest movie around, in intellect or in color scheme, and this version of Superman looks like he spent way more time in the gym than in a classroom, but it was still some seriously high dollar entertainment and a movie that we did enjoy.

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