Movie Review: "Man of Steel"
Length: 143 minutes
Release Date: June 14, 2013
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
"Man of Steel" is the long-awaited remake of the 1978 classic "Superman: The Movie." The film details the origin of Superman while introducing a fictional universe inhabited by other DC Comics characters. The Superman character was created in 1933 by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, who sold the rights to the character to DC Comics in 1938. The first Superman movie, "Superman and the Mole Men," was released in 1951 as a precursor to what was to become a very successful television series, "Adventures of Superman," which ran from 1952 through 1958.
The story begins on the planet Krypton, where scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) lives with his infant son, Kal-El. Jor-El knows that the planet is dying, so he plans to spirit his son away to another planet so that he will be safe. At the same time, General Zod (Michael Shannon) is leading a military coup. Zod and his men are eventually caught, frozen, and banished to a nearby black hole just before Krypton explodes.
The movie then cuts to Earth more than thirty years later, where the adult Kal-El, now known as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), is working on a commercial fishing boat. Although he is well aware of the special powers he possesses, he hasn't let on to the rest of the world yet. Kent is the adopted son of Illinois farmers Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent.
Kent is finally tested when a holographic image of his father appears. Jor-El tells Clark about the fall of Krypton and drops hints about his purpose on Earth. Clark then meets up with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and heads back to his hometown, Smallville, just in time for the arrival of a thawed-out Zod and his henchmen, who are determined to rebuild Krypton on Earth. At this point, Kent makes the official transformation into Superman and dons the iconic blue suit for the first time in the movie.
Much of the remainder of the film is a violent life-or-death battle between good and evil as Superman struggles with the possibility of giving up his life in exchange for Zod sparing the planet. Although some of the violence takes place in Smallville, Metropolis is also featured in a nod to earlier films.
Although director Zack Snyder had limited experience prior to "Man of Steel," his work on the movie was completely in line with what screenwriter David Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan had envisioned. Snyder's made his feature-length directorial debut with the 2004 hit "Dawn of the Dead," and that experience served him well in this film.
Henry Cavill took Christopher Reeve's place playing Superman, and he did the now-departed actor proud despite his lack of experience. Cavill began his acting career in 2001 playing Thomas Aprea in "Laguna" and followed that up with the role of Albert Mondego in the 2002 classic film "The Count of Monte Cristo." He is best known for his role as Charles Brandon on the television series "The Tudors," which ran from 2007 to 2010.
Amy Adams aptly played the role of heartbreaker Lois Lane. Adams' career began in 1999 with a bit part in the feature film "Drop Dead Gorgeous." She played small roles in several other movies and television series, including "King of the Hill" and "Dr. Vegas," but her breakout role was as Brenda Strong in the 2002 smash hit "Catch Me If You Can." She has since acted in hit movies such as "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and "Enchanted," and she is best known for playing Julie Powell in "Julie and Julia." Adams has been nominated for four Oscars, although the prize continues to elude her. She has garnered thirty-four award wins and an additional forty-eight nominations.
Michael Shannon was perfectly cast as the evil General Zod. A Kentucky native, Shannon began his acting career in 1992 in a series of made-for-television movies before landing a small role in the 1993 hit "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray. By the early 2000s, he was taking roles in high-profile movies such as "8 Mile" and "Bad Boys II," and he played his first recurring role in a television series in "Boardwalk Empire," which ran from 2010 to 2012.
While most of the movie's stars are relative fledglings in the industry, the heavy hitters were there in the roles of Clark Kent's biological and adoptive parents. Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Costner are some of the brightest and most sought-after stars in Hollywood, and they help to add an air of legitimacy to "Man of Steel." Between the three actors, they have 107 years of acting experience between them, as well as three Oscar wins, one other Oscar nomination, and an additional seventy-nine award wins and 103 nominations.
Although "Man of Steel" is a remake of an earlier film, it reflects the original less than it does contemporary action movies such as "The Avengers" and "Transformers," and that may not be a bad thing. Expect "Man of Steel" to focus more on the action than the characters themselves, although the movie brings back the locations, characters, and premise of the original film.