Man of Steel is a superhero movie, no doubt. It’s Superman flying through the sky at faster than the speed of sound, crashing into buildings, and fighting his enemies in epic fashion. The fight scenes are almost exclusively computer generated. This film doesn't mess around. It’s Superman so there’s nothing realistic about what he can do. The combatants are borderline cartoons with human heads spliced onto them. I can't disparage any of the computer graphics, but I found myself bored with the fight scenes. I think maybe I just don't enjoy extended fight scenes anymore. The ebb and flow is predictable and the violence is what
you expect, and the decisive moment is never all that surprising.
A reboot of the franchise, Man of Steel is also an origins story. The planet Krypton is dying, its leaders having mined its core for energy. In the midst of an attempted coup by General Zod (Michael Shannon), Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) send their infant son to the distant planet of Earth. Their hope is that Kal, infused with the genetic history of their people, will keep the Kryptonian race alive amongst the similar looking human species. Eventually Zod and his exiled team come looking for Kal, who is living on Earth as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill).
The opening scenes on Krypton are immediately very intense. The computer generated scenery is grand and the costumes and set design ornate, reminiscent of classic space science fiction. The plot involves the death of a world, and the desperate measures people are willing to go to in order to save it. Dramatic music pervades every early scene.
On Earth Clark Kent flies under the radar. As he grows he learns of his powers and has trouble harnessing them. His parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) help him control them but also demand he hide his gifts, knowing the world is not ready for them. Despite that, a young Kent cannot help but use his strength for good. His father urges him to wait for the right time to reveal himself to the world, even stopping Kent from saving his own life.
I generally liked the film. It had a serious tone but could also be humorous and heart warming. Clark’s concern for his family and other’s safety is really what the idea of Superman is all about, and I think Man of Steel does a good job portraying that. I’m not a superhero expert but it does seem that deep sense of responsibility is what makes Superman more than a guy in a cape that can fly.
Michael Shannon is great as Zod. Like his role in Boardwalk Empire he plays a great villain. There is no humor in his face in either role. I can foresee him having a long career playing the bad guy.
These rebel Kryptonians (including his second in command Faora, played by Antje Traue) differed from my memory of Zod from the Christopher Reeve series. Whereas Zod and his acolytes from those films come off as cold and arrogant, these Kryptonians are passionate about their cause. The original villains, in their tight black suits, looked like they were straight out of a professional wrestling character brainstorming session meant to find the next hated bad guy. In this round Zod and his are in futuristic military uniforms and operate more like a military unit. The fire in Zod’s eyes comes from the death of his home planet and the coup he attempted, while fueled by ego in some ways, was born of a legitimate grievance against the failures of the ruling class. You almost sympathize with him.
I liked Christopher Meloni in a non-sex crimes investigator role as Colonel Nathan Hardy. Harry Lennix and Richard Schiff, are also not bad as members of the American military leadership. I thought the Daily Planet staff could have been better. Amy Adams was fine as Lois Lane. I don’t know if Laurence Fishburne fit well as her boss. Michael Kelly (House of Cards) also appears.