Man of Steel
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Epic in every sense of the word (and one of those is a negative, but I'll get to that later), Man of Steel is the best Superman movie to date. Please note, I also like the Christopher Reeve films (at least the first two), but they're more like a fluffy kitty compared to this tiger. This is the superhero age post-Dark Knight, and with Christopher Nolan one of the producers here, it continues the tradition of grounding the story in the real world. It's not as dark as The Dark Knight trilogy, but it is also free of the camp and most of the humor of the Christopher Reeve era. And thank the gods, Lex Luthor was nowhere in sight.
Henry Cavill does an excellent job of balancing the confused young man unaware of his origin or destiny with the assured confidence of Kal-El once he has that information. Russell Crowe gives one of his most understated performances as his father Jor-El, a bastion of reason and morality, completely opposite that of Michael Shannon's General Zod. As with any good villain, Zod is a hero in his own mind, and Shannon plays him with an intense fire. If the Motion Picture Academy was not averse to recognizing the SF and Fantasy genres Shannon would be assured a Supporting Actor nomination. Amy Adams was a good choice for Lois Lane, but as with Natalie Portman in Thor, any dozen other actresses could have fit the part just as well. I was also impressed with Kevin Costner's solid turn as a simple farmer struggling to raise a strange and other-worldly boy as best he could. Clark/Kal-El is every bit as much the son of Jonathan Kent as he is of Jor-El, and if he tries hard enough he just might be as noble and wise.
Not everything is as it should have been though, so now I'll get to the few negatives. The movie is at least ten minutes longer than necessary, the main reason being it was epic in a bad sense too, as in epic overkill. I suppose DC and Warner Brothers took note of the box office draw of last year's Avengers and felt they needed to rain down more destruction on Metropolis than New York suffered in the Marvel film. It was also overkill to have one too many confrontations between Superman and Zod and his troops. Trying not to spoil anything here, but Zod should have been dispatched at the same time as his henchmen, but instead he somehow is still around and has another showdown with Superman, creating as much damage to Metropolis as had already occurred. Another negative is the final scene (not post-credits, there isn't one of those). The only way it makes sense is if Kal-El had the power to wipe the memories of everyone else. Maybe that happened between Superman and Lois in the second of Reeve's films, but we weren't given a hint that is what happened this time.
In spite of those negatives I still recommend it. Underneath all the special effects and fantastical elements lies a good drama, which strikes to the core of what it means to be human. How do we fit into the world and make the right decisions for ourselves and everyone else? If we're lucky we have a great Dad like Jonathan Kent to lead the way. The rest will come naturally.
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