Thursday, June 27, 2013

Man of Steel - Theatrical Review

Release Date: June 14, 2013

'Man of Steel' soars to new heights for the franchise and packs a helluva punch.

Review Vital Stats:  
Theater: Edwards 22 Ontario
Time: 10:30 pm June 14, 2013   
Projector Type: IMAX 3D  
Film Rating: PG-13   
Film Runtime: 2 hr 28 min
Studio:Warner Bros.

Loves: The 1976 original Superman movie
Likes: Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe
Neutral: Superman killing thousands of innocent people as collateral damage
Hates: That there wasn't any real Justice League stuff in this
Henry Cavill: auditioned for and did not get the part in the 2006 "Superman Returns"

As the distant world of Krypton is on the brink of destruction and a rebellion led by the nefarious General Zod (Michael Shannon) brews, the stubborn Kryptonian counsel denies rumors of their fate forcing respected scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) to make plans to send their natural born son off world towards a distant star in hopes of saving him and the future of their people. After landing on Earth and being raised by his adoptive parents, Jonathon (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), the now adult Clark Kent/Kal-El (Henry Cavill) departs on a journey to discover who is and where he comes from. It is then that General Zod arrives on Earth in search of Kal-El and the secrets he holds that he believes will save the people of Kyrpton.

Superman has a had a rough life on the big screen. Aside from the original 1976 Richard Donner film, and to a slightly lesser degree its 1980 follow up, ole Supes has been saddled with some rather lackluster and even godawful films. Back in 2006 director Bryan Singer tried a very ambitious reboot of the franchise which ultimately failed to catch on with audiences. Superman has had to sit on the sidelines while his DC Comics counterpart Batman absorbed all the fame for himself. Well, all of that has changed with director Zack Snyder's retooling of the iconic super hero in the latest feature to try and re-introduce us to the last son of Kyrpton, "Man of Steel".

This is not your father's Superman, nor is it your brother's, this is a Superman for a whole new generation. You need to know this up front, because the long standing image of Superman as this flawless individual who stands for honor, justice, nobility and the American way is nowhere to be found in this latest iteration of the superhero, at least not at first. That is where the 2006 Singer film fell apart, it tried to give us a Superman that was from a bygone era. As beloved and as engrained in our minds as that image of the perfect hero was, it just comes off as hokey and a bit pretentious to audiences today.

Much like what Christopher Nolan did with his Dark Knight trilogy (Nolan is credited with both producing and writing credits for "Man of Steel"), and how James Bond has be re-invented over the past few years, Superman is treated with a level of reality that he has never been associated with before. No person, Earth born or otherwise, is as blindly noble and trusting as Superman has been in the past, not in the real world that is. That was a Superman for a different time, when we, the American people, had our own blind faith in our country. Now there is little faith left and mostly doubt left in its wake and this new take on Superman reflects that notion perfectly, for better or worse.

This Superman, this Kal-El/Clark Kent, this is someone who has been raised to not trust humanity with his secret, his power. And why should he? The human race can't even trust itself, why should we be trusted with the knowledge of who this person is and where he comes from? At least not blindly trusted, we need to earn Superman's trust in us, as he needs to earn our trust in him. That is the story that Snyder, Nolan and the rest of the writing team have decided to tell and they couldn't have picked a better time to do it.

It's not that this new vision of Superman is without those most noble of qualities, he just hasn't learned them yet. When we first meet him, he is already an adult, already exploring the world in search of who is and where he comes from. He has become a drifter more or less, wandering the country, picking up odd jobs here and there, interacting with the human race and in turn dealing with good natured individuals as well as the dregs of society who unintentionally paint a distorted picture for Clark.

It's only when he discovers a relic from his home world and the feisty Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) when he finally begins to understand what his true purpose and potential is. Reinvigorated by a peptalk from his Kryptonian father from beyond the grave and how Lois Lane eventually becomes his gateway into trusting the human race, Superman is a rediscovered man, he now has all the pieces to the puzzle needed to inform him of which decisions to make. But that decision is made a even more difficult and put to the test when General Zod arrives.

As much as Lex Luthor is considered to be Superman's true arch nemesis, in the film world he has never been all that exciting of a villain for the man of steel. Superior intellect versus superior strength was fun the first time around and maybe even the second time. But having Lex be Superman's main nemesis in 4 out of 5 films starts to become some major monotonous overkill. Add in the fact that Superman's powers were never put to real use until he faced off against Zod in "Superman 2" and what you get is a Superman who seems like he is constantly picking on the little guy instead of truly being challenged.

So, while it is still a little sad that we are getting yet another recycled villain (where's Doomsday?), at least we get what we have been craving so long for finally...a good fight! Character development and a good story are to never be neglected, but for fans of Superman, this is the first time we have ever gotten to see him strut his stuff against foes of equal or greater power. Zod as a character (and played to perfection by the always engaging Michael Shannon), is a much more complex person this time around, but that doesn't mean he won't get into some bare knuckle brawls when the time calls for it.

To anyone and everyone who has been waiting to see Superman get into some real throwdowns, you will not be disappointed with what Zack Snyder and crew have cooked up for you. These are real super people who use a small town in much the same manner a pro wrestler would their ring, by using anything around them as a weapon and fighting just plain dirty at times, Zod's henchwoman Faora (Antje Traue) is a particularly delicious sort of evil for instance. The final showdown in Metropolis is a level of destruction almost never seen before which concludes with probably the most controversial moment in Superman's history.

There is more to these skirmishes than mere spectacle though, there are stakes at hand. Stakes that present Superman with only bad choices, where he must decide which one is better than the other. By giving Zod an actual purpose, a reason for his insanity that can actually be explained in a very rational way, it only helps make the decisions Superman must make even more devistating. By the end of the film Superman is not the innocent he was at the outset, he has done some s**t that he will have to live with the rest of his life which will forge him into a man of steel of both body and mind.

Like any re-imagining, there are going to be people who don't like the changes made, but its impossible to make everyone happy. Sure, staples such as the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen and the goofball Clark Kent are missing, but that doesn't mean they won't appear in the inevitable sequel. The groundwork has been laid out for any number of exciting possibilities. This was the makeover he needed, this was the Superman we needed, this was the movie we needed. Here's hoping to a long line of sequels that will only build up what was started here. Bravo!





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