Man of Steel
On the superhero film spectrum, Man of Steel lies much closer to the recent Batman trilogy than, say, the current Iron Man films in terms of subject approach and tone. Christopher Nolan (director of the Batman trilogy) produced this latest Superman revival, this time grounding our hero in a dark, moody New York City-based metropolis, familiar in tone to his most recent superhero trilogy. Clark Kent is easily the most powerful superhero; however Nolan and director Zack Snyder compromise our hero’s near-invincible physicality in favor of ostracizing him from the species he is fighting to save. Superman doesn’t feel invincible in the newest rendition; in fact he appears quite vulnerable, a theme that helped Snyder and Nolan make this version of Superman a great one.
In a Star Wars-y opening sequence, the planet of Krypton, home to the Kryptonians (who look pretty indistinguishable from humans if you ask me) is preparing for its apocalypse. The core of the planet has become unstable and will soon destroy itself, while General Zod (Michael Shannon) is leading a rebellion against the Kryptonian government. Scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) send their newborn son Kal-El to Earth as their last hope to save their son and their species.
Kal-El (Henry Cavill) is discovered and adopted by a human couple who recognize his powers but wish to keep them secret, believing human society is not yet ready for him. As an adult he (renamed Clark Kent) travels as a nomad looking for work and trying to remain hidden. Through a series of flashbacks we see Clark’s Kryptonian abilities granted him superhuman intelligence and strength as a child, but shunned him from the rest of society.
The film’s heavy focus on humanizing the superhuman blends seamlessly with its intense action scenes, which don’t take long to appear. Prize-winning reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) encounters Clark on a frozen Kryptonian vessel in Antarctica and becomes suspicious of his past. Meanwhile General Zod tracks Kal-El to Earth to settle his revenge with Jor-El as well as seek new territory to restart the Kryptonian race.
“It’s not an S,” Clark explains to Lois Lane of the Kryptonite symbol his parents bequeathed to him, a smile of superhuman charm on his face. “On my planet, it’s a symbol that means incredibly long action sequences.” And indeed they are. As exciting and intricately crafted as they may be (Kryptonian street brawls involve much more concrete-smashing and CGI-enabled movement than the typical human gun fight, not that there is a shortage of those either), the film’s 143 minute run time would have benefitted from trimming extra fat from the already meaty sequences, which at times become excessive.
The only flaws in Henry Cavill’s Superman character are the ones the script beckoned for. The same cannot be said for the actual film, which is still vastly entertaining despite its obvious weaknesses. With a sequel planned possibly as early as next year, Man of Steel is the beginning of a franchise with superhuman potential.