Movies / Comics Movie Reviews

Man of Steel: Movie Review


By Andy Frisk
June 15, 2013 - 10:18

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When a friend of mine, who is also the owner of a LCS, remarked to me that, "I feel much better about the movie now that you've said you liked it, because I know how picky a Superman fan you are" I realized for the first time that, yeah, I am a very picky Superman fan. My ire for The New 52 version of my favorite superhero is well know here amongst the readers of my work at ComicBookBin and I still really, really miss my "Generation X" Superman, i.e. the one born in the legendary 1986 Man of Steel miniseries by John Byrne. After seeing Man of Steel (2013) though, I was greatly relieved to see that my Gen X Superman is alive and well (albeit in another form), and kicking some major Zod-ass.

While Zack Snyder's Man of Steel isn't a remake of Byrne's Man of Steel (1986) comic book series, and as well it shouldn't be, it is very obvious that Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer have culled the best aspects of Superman's character as he existed after Crisis and before The New 52, melded them together seamlessly, and brought them to life on the big screen. Snyder even manages to make a nod towards my idea (obviously not one I planted in his head, but one that he shares) of Superman as a Gen X hero (i.e. one who embodies the anxiety and doubt that my generation did and does still) by putting him in the rainy Pacific Northwest (or so the locale seems to look) and getting the rights to a snippet of a Soundgarden song that plays during one of these sequences (sequences about Clark as he travels around on a journey of self discovery before donning the Super Suit)...since, of course, grunge music and the Pacific Northwest are forever ingrained in Gen X mythology. I digress here though...Man of Steel (2013) is more than just everything that this lifelong Superman fan has been looking for from a Superman film, it is a great film notwithstanding your generational designation, or even your preference in cinema.

Strong, steady, and nuanced character development, the smartest handling of the whole "how does Lois not figure out Superman's secret identity" question EVER, some of the most brilliant social, political, and religious commentary I've ever seen in superhero film, (without being preachy-all of the commentary is subtle and poignant), the best ever action sequences that I've ever seen in a superhero movie, and acting on par with masterpieces like The Dark Knight (2008) all come together to create a worthy movie experience, let alone a worthy superhero film experience. Mix in another instantly classic Han Zimmer score, and Man of Steel is one hell of a great film.

Henry Cavill, in the role of of the titular hero, brings a depth of character to Superman that we've never had the joy of experiencing outside of only the best Superman comic books published over the years. Amy Adams brings a seriousness, and seriousness of integrity, to the role of Lois Lane. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are engaging, warm, and inspiring as Clark's Earthly parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, and Michael Shannon is sublimely horrifying and just as frighteningly empathetic as General Zod. Russell Crowe demonstrates why he is a multi-nominated, and winning, Academy Award actor. His Jor-El is simply the best portrayal of the character we have ever had the joy of seeing.

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Yes, there are some slight tweaks to the Superman mythology present in Man of Steel, but nothing that changes the significance of each and every one of the characters and their actions or motivations as far as they pertain to the original Superman story. Every action of every of player on this grand stage is in synch with their character. Every death, and life, of every player is in synch with the significance of the characters' lives and contribution to the myth.

Zack Snyder's direction is brilliant as well. He tells Clark Kent/The Man of Steel's origin story non-linearly as far as time framing goes, but with perfectly executed emotional consistency. An event in Clark's life at the age of 33, the age at which he begins his public mission as Superman, ties excellently to a cut scene of an event in Clark's life at age 8, or 14, or 25. Little more can be said about Snyder's ability to choreograph and film an action scene. He is a master of the genre. Here though, the quiet and emotionally dense scenes carry just as much weight and power as his major action ones do. Snyder pulls off everything from a passionate kiss between Clark and Lois, to a knock down drag out fight in the streets of Smallville, to the death of Krypton with style, grace, and emotion.

Much is made of the religious themes behind the Superman mythos, as one might have picked up on when I mentioned above that Clark begins his public mission as Superman at age 33. Faith, belief, the questions of nature vs. nurture, choice and the absence of choice, and genetic determination vs. natural selection are all explored here, and explored intelligently. Great characters and themes can make for great and important storytelling, and Snyder and company prove that once again these elements, in the hands of great storytellers, comprise one of the most glorious and unique achievements of the human race: a great story.

Man of Steel is first and foremost a great story, but it is also so much more than that. It is the start of what should be another brilliant, poignant, and all around enjoyable franchise of superhero films. Finally, we have the Superman film we deserve.   

(Yes, Andy's day job is for a motion picture exhibition company, but he doesn't want you to go to the movies...unless you want to.)


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