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Man of Steel
29 November, 2013
PLOT: With the planet Krypton on the verge of destruction, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) defies the evil General Zod (Michael Shannon) and sends his son Kal-El to Earth. Thirty-three years later, Zod arrives on Earth, looking for the grown Kal-El, now known as Clark Kent, or rather Superman (Henry Cavill) who's only recently begun to embrace his powers. Now, he must save his new home from imminent destruction by Zod, even though the humans aren't sure he can be trusted.
I believe a man can fly — Such an advantage did not exist when the duo began to develop Man of Steel.
The script has some pacing issues and there’s the occasional small plot hole, but Man of Steel is a smart drama that tackles some interesting ideas, perspectives, and philosophies. The heart of the story finds Kal-El/Clark torn between his two dads: the man who raised him, Jonathan Kent, and his biological father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe). The latter sees his son’s potential to be a beacon of hope for the human race – a source of inspiration and goodness. The former, however, realistically recognizes the social terror and fear that would come with his only child revealing himself to the world as an alien. Both make the audience look outwardly at our own world and ask the same questions, while the film fuses both ideas to create the Superman we know.
Man of Steel is one of the most visually stunning films we’ve seen in the superhero genre. Finding and matching the more somber tone of the story, Snyder finds a perfect excuse to once again make grand use of muted colors and high contrast. At the same time he also shows surprising stylistic restraint, severely cutting down on the number of slow-motion shots that he has come to be known (and slightly mocked) for.
Action has always been Snyder’s greatest skill, and he certainly doesn't disappoint here. Acknowledging that his hero and villain essentially have the strength of gods, the director goes full tilt in his action sequences and lets us feel the impact of the punches both in the cinematography, and in his shot construction and use of CGI. Your mouth will gape watching Jor-El whiz around Krypton on a giant dragonfly and the devastating destruction done to Metropolis when Superman and General Zod (Michael Shannon) go head to head.
An up-and-coming actor who will certainly see his star rise once the film is released, Cavill brings a great energy to the part of Superman and has a fresh-faced charm that allows him to seamlessly melt into the role. While the movie doesn’t really give him a chance to revel in his heroics, the superhero played with a more somber tone of self-discovery, there is an undeniable, charming spark within the English actor that lets him capture the pure essence of goodness in Superman while also communicating his internal struggle with his place in the world.
Surrounding Cavill is a team of actors who likewise find the all-important spirit of their characters. As the most influential figures in Superman’s life, both Costner and Crowe bring a powerful, necessary gravitas to their roles that perfectly illustrate their importance to the story and helps support their beliefs about Kal-El/Clark’s existence on our planet. Shannon provides General Zod with a deeply intimidating presence and brings to light what is really a philosophically fascinating version of the antagonist. The showstopper, though, is Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She effortlessly dials into Lois as a hard-nosed reporter, but also mixes in heart, fortitude, real intelligence and grounded morality.
Man of Steel doesn’t spend a great deal of time directly focusing on the next step for the franchise or giving hints about a long-rumored DC Comics Cinematic Universe (similar to the developments over at Marvel Studios), but it does something perhaps even more valuable: it sets up a fascinating and compelling tonal world that audiences will want to see Superman explore. It’s realistic in approach and honest in emotion, but also wonderfully fantastical and cinematic. The future is bright for the Man of Tomorrow.
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