Where This Meets That
After failing to stomach the dreadful 2006 Superman Returns, I hoped someone would come along with a good reboot for the franchise. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. As the film’s writer David Goyer told Empire Magazine, “We were feeling — and I think a lot of people were feeling — that Superman was ceasing to be relevant.”
Frankly, in an era that’s seen tons of superheroes old and new “take flight”, Superman Returns threatened to bind the “man of steel” with Kryptonite and cast him into the “Phantom Zone”. Fortunately, we can forget about that episode now.
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is a fun, action-packed spectacle that sizzles with out-of-this-world special effects, overblown pyrotechnics, and, of course, the obligatory Armageddon storyline. As with J.J. Abrams’ original Star Trek, this Man of Steel includes a few twists to the original storyline, and for the most part, they work.
After hailing Michael Shannon’s chops in last year’s Take Shelter, I couldn’t wait to see his take on General Zod. Sadly, this Zod falls short of the (high) bar set by Terence Stamp in 1980’s Superman II. Fortunately, by contrast, Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman, well, soars.
To be fair, Cavill’s performance probably benefits from more solid character construction than does Shannon’s. The film does a good job of introducing our hero, shrouding him as a humble, anonymous drifter whose development is revealed mostly by touching flashbacks to his youth. Cavill, nevertheless, deserves credit for truly owning the role.
People might read any number of ulterior agendas – from immigration to Christianity – into the film, but let’s remember what Man of Steel is: a summer superhero movie. And from the get-go, this movie moves. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone criticizing it for a slow pace. In fact, my biggest criticism is that it ultimately ratchets the action too hard, finally stripping its threads just before the two hour mark. But such is the nature of today’s summer blockbuster, so it’s hard to fault it too much for that anymore than you can fault a zebra for its stripes.
In the end, Man of Steel earns its stripes better than perhaps any previous Superman film, certainly better than any since Superman II, thirty-three years – or a Superman’s lifetime – ago.
Man of Steel score: 3.5 Falcone Rings