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Movie Review: 'Man of Steel'

Man of Steel

Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon
Directed by Zack Snyder
Rated PG-13

Ladies & gentlemen, faithful readers of GTBP, I will start this review by stating that I am eating crow.  That crow was served to me by none other than Zack Snyder.  You see I’ve been real skeptical about Mr. Snyders ability to pull off making a Superman movie that would at very least help restore some faith in Warner Bros and the DC Comic franchise.  I’ve said to friends, in articles here on GTBP, and generally anyone who would listen; I’ve never outright hated Snyder and his films, but I’ve been critical of his style over substance rule of thumb.   And in thinking that, felt he was completely wrong for making a new Superman movie.  Well, things go up, things fall down and sometimes, just sometimes, I might be wrong about something.  Superman, via Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel... and pardon my lack of big words… is pretty f**king awesome.

Man of Steel will also be a welcome relief to a studio looking to jump start, once again, the DC Comic franchise with the hopes of hitting all the right notes before going for the knockout punch with the planned Justice League movie.  And I’ll say this right now,  if the rumors turn out the be true, and Snyder is tapped to direct the Justice League movie; after seeing what’s  he’s done with Man of Steel, count me in.  Wow, did I just say that?  But before we start anointing Mr. Snyder the all mighty king of superhero movies, Man of Steel isn’t perfect, some of his style does get in the way of substance. You didn’t think I was going to let him get off the hook so easily did you?

MOS is an origin story, with the first 20 minutes of the movie beginning on Krypton, where General Zod (Michael Shannon) is attempting a military coup to take over a planet and the codecs that is the building block to keeping the people of Krypton and its way of life intact. But the planet is on the brink of imploding.  Jor-El (Russell Crowe) & his wife Lara (Ayelet  Zurer) have just welcomed the first natural born child in centuries to the planet.  His name is Kal-El.  But with Zod on the hunt and the planet getting closer to extinction, Jor-El & Lara take the drastic measure of sending Kal-El to earth, with the codecs, so Zod will never be able to get his hands on it. 

The movie then makes the choice to shift us to the adult Kal-El, now with the name Clark (Henry Cavill) and his life of being a drifter, trying to find his purpose in life and how best to deal with the extraordinary powers that have been bestowed upon him.  I was a little taken aback at this approach until the movie started to intercut flashbacks into Clark’s life growing up in Smallville, being raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and their struggle to help Clark understand how best to use his powers.  Flashbacks can at times be useless empty calories, but the approach taken here, using the technique instead of telling a linear story works really well.  But as Clark soon discovers his true origins, the prospect of becoming a national news story thanks Lois Lane (Amy Adams), an investigative journalist with the Daily Planet; General Zod tracks him down, wanting the codecs and Earth as a new place to restart the life that was once known on Krypton.

The story, by David Goyer and Christopher Nolan (Goyer wrote the screenplay) takes its cue from the Dark Knight trilogy to keep a real world dynamic to the story.  It works really well with the Superman fable, despite his otherworldly powers.  The most fascinating thing about MOS is the back story and the flashbacks as Clark struggles with wanting to use his powers for good, but yet having a family that feels the world isn’t ready for someone like him.  And how is Cavill as Superman?  Better than Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. And that statement right there is all you need to know.  He isn’t given a lot, but what he is given; he makes the most out of it.  

The supporting cast, especially Shannon, Crowe and Costner, are fantastic.  My only two real beefs with the film are a Lois Lane character that is oddly underdeveloped (even with a 2 & ½ hour running time) and what literally felt like a 45 min all out building/town/city all out destructive battle between Zod and Superman in the 3rd act.  I wish more of the backstory could’ve taken up a little bit of that time blocked out for all out mayhem (style over substance). I can't say this enough, it truly is the best part of this movie. Don’t get me wrong though, Snyder’s style and visual flare for choreographing an action scene are pretty sweet as well. 

I am proud to say that Snyder and team proved me wrong.  They have gone out and made a movie that I didn’t think they were going to make.  Man of Steel isn’t the Dark Knight trilogy (or anyone of those films individually), but it’s a worthy runner up.  Is it better than The Avengers?  Get back to me on that one, but all signs are pointing to yes.

Well, guess I getter get back to eating that crow.

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