Film Review: Action-packed ‘Man of Steel’ loses the red tights, puts modern spin on ‘Superman’ story

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

By Amber M. Ward

Director Zack Snyder’s new Superman pays homage to the old movies and keeps with the story while bringing it into a more modern setting. “Man of Steel” tells the story of Clark Kent/Kal-el (Henry Cavill – “The Immortals”)  and his journey from birth to a 33-year-old with unbelievable strength and powers who must come to terms with his unearthly heritage on a planet that may or may not accept him.

The movie opens with Superman (Kal-el) being born and then jumps to various flashbacks of him as both a kid and a young man on Earth before jumping back to his birth — and the realization that the people of Krypton have disrupted their planet’s core and will soon pay the ultimate price because of it. Jor-el (Russell Crowe – “Gladiator”) and wife, Lara (Ayelet Zurer – “Angels & Demons’” will face the destruction of their planet and the forces of General Zod (Michael Shannon –”Pearl Harbor”) to give their newborn  Kal-el a surviving chance by sending him to Earth where he is raised as Clark Kent – the freaky kid with strange strength.

Clark grows knowing he is different and is advised to keep his abilities to himself by his father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner –”The Guardian”). He is constantly changing jobs and traveling due to his talents and his moral inability to let those around him come to harm. The various flashbacks with Clark as a young man during different episodes show the hardships he faced being different and the choice to use his power or not, along with the ramifications of each of those moments.

A ship is discovered and a lovely reporter saved, and it all comes with information about a family, a past and a heritage Clark has never known. This leads to the arrival of Zod for information and revenge and triggers not only the all-out fight to save mankind, but also Clark’s decision on whether to keep himself hidden or step up and be the symbol of hope that his biological parents strived for and his own morals have always  dictated.

Other critics downed the movie for having too much action and not enough romance, but for them to start a reboot of sorts, people need to understand that the first movie has to lay the foundation for the rest of them. Clark meets Lois Lane (Amy Adams), disappears, she writes a story about him and then she tracks him down with the understanding that there may be more at stake here than story to be published. With everything that happens from then, there isn’t exactly a multitude of time for the two to build a deep relationship. She believes in him and helps him with the plan to take down Zod and his forces.

This movie is the foundation; it’s about the origins and the actions that come from that, not about the romance. I fully expect that to be something that gets developed and fledged out in the sequels.

Don’t get me wrong, though. The action sequences are amazing and beautiful in a sense, and they draw you in. The costumes are brilliant and even though Snyder pushed for the return of the red underpants, I love that they aren’t there. It makes the costume and symbolism behind it more real and believable and with the quality of this film, it just looks better. Plus, longtime fans of the franchise don’t seem so bummed to see them gone.

The CGI is fantastic, although the 3D isn’t ramped up, so you probably aren’t missing too much if you watch the regular showing. The fights between Kal-el and Zod and his comrades are fast paced and spectacles worthy of praise. It’s exactly what you would expect from the director of movies like “300,” “Watchmen” and “Sucker Punch.” It’s over- the-top action mixed with a great script and story, moments of pure human emotion and decision and truly powerful music.

Despite all the action, it’s more the building of a story that fans can relate to. The film is not about Superman’s powers or being extraterrestrial, it’s actually about being human. The choice to hide away or expose ourselves and differences to our own species is an internal war that has been waged all throughout humanity. It’s what makes inhuman characters relatable and brings them down to our level. Clark won’t let others suffer if he can help it, but he also can’t trust humans to not turn him if his heritage is revealed. We have always been afraid of what is different, of what we can’t control and the idea of Clark/Kal-el being an alien is no different.

I must also give props to composer Hans Zimmer; the man is a genius with music. From favorite such as “Pirates of The Caribbean” and “The Lion King” to scores for “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” Zimmer knows his away around a studio. Though it doesn’t build on the original Superman theme, Zimmer’s music ramps up the energy and emotion perfectly and without fault; it’s truly epic.

The all-star cast is terrific and includes Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane and Christopher Meloni. Cavill bulked up for his Superman role and he does a fantastic job of conveying the emotions of a pure and lonely soul.

It doesn’t matter if you are a longtime fan or not. If you want to see something action-packed, but takes time to fledge out a much-loved story, then this is the movie for you.

“Man of Steel” currently is playing at the Driftwood 6 Theater at Lake Granbury, the Cinemark 6 in Cleburne and Stephenville and in theaters throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Run time: 2 hours, 23 minutes. Rating: PG-13.

Amber M. Ward is a writer based in San Angelo.

 

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