|SPOILER ALERT: they don't|
Man of Steel begins on the planet of Krypton. Actually, we spend a surprising amount of time on this world, following Jor-El (Russell Crowe), the preeminent bodybuilding scientist on the planet, as he tries to convince the ruling class that their world is going to end. They don't believe him, which turns out to mean absolutely nothing because they are promptly murdered by Krypton's preeminent shouting soldier, Zod (Michael Shannon).
|"Kee-rist, Zod! Inside voices, please!"|
|Zod looks like the sort of guy who types with the caps lock key on|
|Or maybe this super-drill is a little more angry than what you're used to|
The acting in Man of Steel is all pretty much above-board. Henry Cavill carried the angst of his character very well; this is easily the best acting I've seen from him. Cavill also looks fairly tough, so the concept of him being able to punch through your face seems a little less far-fetched than some other actors who have played the part. While Cavill's Superman was certainly sympathetic --- I would argue he gave the most vulnerable Superman performance on film to date --- he doesn't show much personality beyond the angst; but that is more of a script issue than a fault in Cavill's portrayal.
|"Alright Henry, for this scene, imagine that your iPod has nothing but Morrissey on it"|
|"Son, just calm down...and please don't murder me and your mother"|
I have some serious issues with the writing of his character, but Costner did a fine job acting. Diane Lane was also okay as Clark's mother, although her part is pretty conventional. I will say that it felt odd seeing her play a part that was a touch too old for her. Russell Crowe was good as Jor-El; he was suitably stoic when he played a hologram, but his action hero turn on Krypton seemed a little un-scientist-like. Still, he was in a lot more of the movie than I expected and wasn't bad by any means. Ayelet Zurer had a small part as Superman's Kryptonian mom, but it didn't really amount to much. Michael Shannon's work as Zod was tough for me to rate.
|And, at times, identify|
I have to admit that Zack Snyder didn't do a terrible job directing Man of Steel. Snyder curbed his tendency to throw needless slow-motion in every scene and instead played to his strength: visuals. This is a fantastic-looking film. The set and costume designs were good, the cinematography felt epic, and the super-battles were suitably huge.
|Above: epic super-fart|
That was the work of David S. Goyer and, to a lesser extent, Christopher Nolan. This screenplay certainly achieved one of its goals; I can definitely see this film spawning sequels and tie-ins, just as Iron Man set the stage for the films leading to The Avengers. It also told a solid origin story and left some plot threads dangling that will doubtlessly be used in the inevitable sequel. From a branding perspective, I suppose this script also sets the DC movie universe apart from that of the Marvel universe; there is a distinct science fiction vibe to this superhero movie, and that could open a promising door to some of DC's other characters. Having said all that, I must admit that I didn't actually like the writing in Man of Steel. For every character that was done well (Lois Lane, Jor-El), there were three or four that took everything with straight-faced indifference. I don't blame the actors or the director for that. The script leaves very little for them to do, aside from pose and look upset. The worst case of this was Zod, who was a raving lunatic for 90% of the movie and then, finally, had a humanizing moment, although it came an hour too late to make up for his behavior in the rest of the film. But that's not the biggest problem with Man of Steel.
My biggest problem with Man of Steel is with the tone. To say that it is "dark" doesn't do it justice.
***SPOILER ALERT***Superman's Earth-Dad straight up tells his son to not save people. Hell, his character basically commits tornado-assisted suicide just to teach his son a lesson. What's worse is the fact that our Superman-to-be lets it happen. He could have easily saved the life of his adoptive father, but he opts not to. That is not exactly the sort of thing you typically see in a movie with a hero in it, super or otherwise. Of course, the back story is also pretty bleak. The Kryptonians had colonies spread across the galaxy, equipped with terraformers to make hostile environments suitable for their settlers. When Krypton decided that they did not want to expand their empire, they
|Yeah, hold on to your coat. That will help you.|
As a standalone film, Man of Steel is decent. It was a relief that this movie didn't completely suck, and I hope to see more DC movies in the future, thanks to the success of this film. Amy Adams and Henry Cavill are a solid core for this franchise and I wouldn't even mind Zack Snyder returning for another movie. I honestly believe that they're going in the wrong direction with this, though. Sequels have to up the ante, and the angst, death and destruction in this movie are already turned up to eleven. Man of Steel was well-executed and impressive, but the questionable thematic choices kept me from truly enjoying it.