A Movie Review

of Man of Steel (Superman) (2013)


By Lance Zedric


Faster than a subliminal message, more powerful than buttered cinema popcorn, and able to demand skyrocketing ticket prices in a single bound. Yes, it’s another Superman movie—this time; Superman Man of Steel--the updated, renovated, regifting of our favorite ferrous alien--the archetypical hero who saves us yet again from destruction.

Understandably, it had to be challenging for the creators of Man of Steel to make a new movie with “worn out tools.” They had to introduce the plot but stay relatively true to the Superman story—i.e, Krypton is dying, Superman’s parents send baby Superman to earth so he can live and thrive with super powers, Superman struggles to adjust, suffers teenage angst, becomes an adult, meets Lois Lane, saves the world, yada, yada, yada.

The movie begins with a freaky birth scene that causes emotional problems to all but the most hardened fan. Initially, Russell Crowe (replete with Australian accent) was a tough sell as Kal, Superman’s bio dad on planet Krypton. Reminiscent of a younger, hirsute “Down Under” version of Marlon Brando with less dramatic je ne sais quoi, Crowe somehow corkscrews himself in the role and pulls in the viewer enough to suspend belief. Additionally, it was an aging Kevin Costner, playing Superman’s Earthly father, who presented the viewer with the deeper visceral struggle of forgetting, or at least ameliorating, the unforgettable and richly sown Field of Dreams/Gladiator pathos.  Sprinkle in some early Avatarian special effects –a loyal flying wasp-like creature—throw in a choppy, awkward characterization of General Zod, the one-time friend turned arch-villain – played by Michael Shannon, who is better suited to the role of the morally stiff FBI agent Nelson Van Alden  on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and the movie had all the makings of tricked out, blinged-up bulldozer.  However, East German-born  Antje Traue, who played Faora – General Zod’s villainous square jawed, super cruel, super- hot, uber-bitch soldier and wife was convincingly cold, while fan favorite Laurence Fishburne was the perfect 21st century juxtaposed Perry White, the irascible editor of the Daily Planet.Henry Cavill as Superman

Going into the movie, one wondered if Henry Cavill (Superman) had the onscreen ore to pull off the role and tinsel up with Fishburne, Costner, and Crowe. But the introduction to the new Superman character was good. An incredibly ripped man of steel, Cavil enters the film as a loner, drifter, good-guy Rambo type who saves his co-workers on a burning oil rig. In another scene, the edgy side of the nascent superhero is displayed in a bar when he is humiliated by a trucker bully and backs down from a fight, but gets revenge when the trucker leaves and finds his 18-wheeler impaled atop evergreen trees and telephone poles. No kinder, gentler Superman.  This is the 21st century baby!  At times, Cavill and character were opaque and non-descript—but his anonymity and freshness compelled the viewer to give him a chance without tugging on the gilded capes of past Supermen George Reeve (Adventures of Superman), Christopher Reeves (Superman I-IV), Dean Cain (Lois & Clark), Tom Welling (Smalville), and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns).

But Lois Lane made the movie. Wonderfully played by the sexy, edgy, and Likeable Amy Adams, Lois meets Superman pre-suit and cape days, and is promptly saved by him (no spoiler here) only to have him disappear.  It is here that Superman’s moral journey to help mankind begins to evolve, and Lois’s search for Superman begins. The sexual tension between Superman and Lois was electric—eliminating the need for conventional Kryptonite—and was a refreshing element of the film.

Enter the threat to mankind.  General Zod returns to earth and finds Superman—whom he is engineered to kill—and gives Earth 24 hours to turn him over or destroy the world. Simple enough. Superman then gives himself up and…sorry, the rest is classified…But the ending was great, and pay attention to how Superman got his “S”.

Amy Adams as Lois LaneDirector, Zack Snyder, and his crew ably welded the traditionalist elements of the DC Comic story with a few innovative twists to produce a relatively riveting movie. Like many movies of this generation, sacred cows were rife for the butchering. Gone is Superman’s slick red shorts and baby blue singlet—replaced by a navy blue, rugged diamond plate onesie more befitting the extraterrestrial savior of mankind. Other new elements included a strong musical score—without the traditional Superman theme—along with great special effects, CGI, and outstanding photography.  No Frank Capra, Vaseline on the lens, soft-focus here.  Harsh.  Gritty. Hi-def. Just like we like it. Every crease in Costner’s face—and there were many—was visible. Kudos to Costner for allowing the tight camera shots and for having “balls of steel” for allowing them!

Forged in the 1930s. Hardened in 1950s. Tempered in the 1970s. And tinseled in the 90s. The epic of the Superman of 2013 is an 80-year-old story freshly retold—albeit with a few dents—but thanks to solid acting, wonderful special effects, and an unexpected great ending, the viewer left satisfied that the world was right again, and that somewhere out there heroes do exist—even if we have to knock the rust off of them once in a while.  8/10 stars.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El

Laurence Fishburne as Perry White

Diane Lane as Martha Kent

Superman and Lois Lane

Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent

Michael Shannon as General Zod