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Film Review: Man of Steel

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

Superman is one of those characters that is so embedded in our cultural mindset that it’s hard to imagine a world without him. Though I can’t state that I am a fan who can quote him from the comics, watched the older movies, or even watched the pretty good animated series back when I was kid, I can say that I do consider Superman to be my favorite superhero based on his ideals and all that he stands for: truth, justice, integrity, honesty, decency, the drive to do good and be good. When going into Man of Steel, a film I knew about but saw almost none of the trailers, I was afraid that they were going to try to make Superman dark and gritty and all that stuff that Hollywood believes makes superheroes interesting to modern audiences. Much to my surprise, and relief, they didn’t. They made an honest to God good Superman film that you should see.

Let me start by saying that this film is a sight to behold, but only when it wants to be. It starts on Krypton, and portrays a rough, alien world that looks to be on the verge of destruction (spoiler, it is), and with its destruction we jump to a fishing boat on Earth that is heading towards an oil rig on fire. Beyond anything of Kryptonian origin, it’s your average and modern American imagery. Not any sort of idealized versions that border on cheesiness or a 1950s Norman Rockwell piece, but stuff you could actually relate to and see yourself in; Smallville has an IHOP and a Sears along with their local businesses. But when you’re not in the familiar, you’re in the alien and the astonishing.

The movie is surprisingly silent in terms of soundtracks. There is a lot of talking, some explosions, plenty of noise, but almost no music. I recall reading only three titles in the credits, which should be telling in terms of copyrighted songs, but I can’t honestly tell you what I thought of the music because I didn’t notice any. I don’t want to say it’s forgettable, but subdued would imply that I remember it. If we go beyond music, the audio is fine. You won’t be confused about what anyone is saying because they’re too quiet or anything like that.

How the story was told can be debatable, but I enjoyed it. Like almost any Superman story, we get his origin: he is born on Krypton, Krypton blows up, baby Kal-El lands in Kansas and is named Clark by his adoptive family, Clark discovers he’s an alien, and then he becomes Superman. What I like, and what I’m glad they did, is that the first half of the movie is an adult Clark Kent traveling the country like David Banner in the old Hulk TV series, and we receive flashbacks of his childhood where we learn how even as a young boy Clark knew he was different, and had an urge to save people even at the risk of being discovered, as well as the trouble he had growing up as an alien on our planet. It’s not until the second half when he dons the iconic suit and starts his journey into being a hero, which is where the bulk of the film’s action scenes take place. The first half can feel a bit slow in comparison, but I think understanding where it is that Superman is coming from with his life experiences, and how those experiences affect his actions, makes him more relatable, compelling, and human.

British born actor Henry Cavill (The Tudors, Immortals) is, perhaps ironically, a good fit for playing the all-American Clark Kent. His natural accent never bleeds over while performing, he is roughly the same age as Superman in the film, and he portrays Superman as a rather serious but not somber character: he takes responsibility, wants to save people, and he will do what he can to make people comfortable with their vulnerability. Amy Adams (Julie & Julia, The Master) portrays a Lois Lane that is a more hands on journalist and isn’t just your typical damsel in distress.  While she does need to be saved by Superman a couple of times, the particular situations she found herself in would require Superman, since the alternative would be a gruesome death. And then there’s General Zod, played by Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter). While I can’t help but see the man as Nelson Van Alden, he does perform Zod in a way that leaves him both intimidating and almost bordering on a well-intentioned extremist… until you remember his plan is anything but well-intentioned if you’re not a Kryptonian.

The film is definitely worth seeing. While it might not break new ground, and it is a reboot, this is one that can be justified since it is an absolute wonder to watch. The action is phenomenal, the characters are enjoyable, and you owe it to yourself to watch this film. If nothing else, you should watch it just to see why I think this is a great way to portray Superman, and argue why I’m wrong if you feel strongly enough. And I’m sorry to spoil this, but don’t stay after the credits. There’s nothing. They didn’t copy Marvel in this regard.

Rating: 7.8

Visuals: 9
Audio: 4
Narrative: 9
Acting: 9
Atmosphere & Experience: 8

  Director: Zack Snyder

  Producer: Christopher Nolan

  Studio: Legendary Pictures/Syncopy

  Release Date (U.S.):  Jun 14, 2013

  Release Date (U.K.):  Jun 12, 2013

  Release Date (JP):  Aug 30, 2013

Final Verdict:


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