Man of Steel (2013)
Every once in a while, you will encounter the movie that is the perfect summer blockbuster: Terrific visuals, compelling story, deep characters.
Man of Steel is not that movie.
Man of Steel follows the titular man of steel (Henry Cavill) in yet another telling of his origin, being sent to Earth by Jor-El (Russell Crowe) just before the destruction of Krypton. As Clark Kent tries to understand himself, General Zod (Michael Shannon), another survivor from Krypton comes in an attempt to take the Earth over to bring about the rebirth of the Kryptonian race.
Right there, you should essentially be expecting a remake that is an amalgamation of Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1981). Superman’s origin has probably been beaten into the heads of most Americans.
I very much was in awe of the movie’s special effects, particularly in the early scenes showing Krypton in its last days. In general, I felt Kryptonian society received far more development than it did in the Reeve-era movies (I will warn you now this review will be full of (perhaps unfair) comparisons to the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.). Zach Snyder, who previously directed 300, had firmly established himself as a master of visuals, and the latter half of the movie, which showed the battle between Superman and Zod, easily put The Avengers (itself nominated for an Oscar for special effects) to shame.
While the movie was very pretty to look at, I went through a good chunk of it feeling a little empty. A lot of it stemmed from the fact that I thought Superman himself really lacked personality, an unfortunate trait that survived from Superman Returns (2006), where he was played by Brandon Routh. I remember Christopher Reeve’s Superman having to do a significant amount of talking (of which Henry Cavill did very little), and thus actually requiring a personality. In the case of Man of Steel, it seemed like Superman himself actually took a backseat to the movie’s special effects.
Amy Adams, who was Lois Lane in this iteration, was in every way the anti-Kate Bosworth. While Kate Bosworth was perhaps the prettiest Lois, she demonstrated an inability to act her way out of a paperbag. On the other hand, while I didn’t ever feel like Amy Adams to be a drop-dead gorgeous actress, she demonstrated herself to be a capable one in movies like The Muppets and was definitely a better Lois than Kate Bosworth. However, like Henry Cavill and Christopher Reeve, I felt Adams simply lacked the on-screen presence that Margot Kidder did in the Reeve era. Once again, I would say the script was to blame; Adams did the the best she could.
With both of those in mind, my favorite character by and far was Jor-El. Russell Crowe has in general firmly established himself to be a very good actor, and he was the only character given adequate attention. Hell, even in death, he was more badass than Superman ever was.
In general, there were times where Man of Steel tried to have the parts where Clark was unable to control his powers a la The Amazing Spider-Man, others where he had a moral crisis like Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, and finally where the special effects orgy of The Avengers. For that reason, it suffered the same problem as The Purge in that the story didn’t really know what it wanted to be.
Overall, while I have a hard time falling in love with Man of Steel, I have a hard time really disliking it as well. It will probably be the biggest blockbuster of the summer, but it is nowhere the best movie I have seen as of yet. So far, that honor still goes to Star Trek Into Darkness, and that movie still also has the best villain I have seen so far this year. General Zod, try as he might, didn’t quite measure up.