A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind. (from MovieWeb.com)
With the runaway success of many superhero franchises, it has seemed only natural that one of the biggest superheroes of all time, Superman, would get a new big screen treatment. He's resided in animated and live action form many, many times over on TV and even more times over in comic book form, but Superman has only appeared in a handful of feature films. From the Christopher Reeve-starrers in the late 70s and 80s (not counting the vintage serials that preceded him), to the 2006 quasi-sequel Superman Returns, starring newcomer Brandon Routh, there was a very specific tone that had been set for the iconic alien hero. After the Batman Dark Knight trilogy wrapped, director Christopher Nolan helped craft a story with screenwriter David S. Goyer, with director Zack Snyder behind the camera, to reboot Superman from scratch. Casting Henry Cavill in the lead (the once-bratty kid from The Count of Monte Cristo!) with Amy Adams as his Lois Lane and Russell Crowe as his Kryptonian father, Man Of Steel is a truly modern retelling of the superhero's beginnings and one that fans of all ages are likely to enjoy.
It should be known, however, that Man Of Steel is a bit of a chameleon. Snyder does everything big; his previous ventures like Sucker Punch, Watchmen, and 300, are all very violent, very stylized films. Having only seen Sucker Punch from that list (and only because Warner had sent us the film for review), I became very, very worried about Superman being in the hands of a filmmaker like Snyder. Still, while Snyder does get distracted by artsy shots, shaky cam usage and dramatic editing (like the slamming of a coffee pot into a coffee maker followed by the close-up of a slamming door -- all very zoomed-in, brief, and seemingly random in their execution for... what? Style?), Snyder has his fingers on the pulse of good acting and emotional film6making. Furthermore, Snyder has a thirst for action and destruction the likes of which Michael Bay has only begun to scratch the surface of. The dizzying destruction in the trilogy of Transformers films from Bay was multiplied collectively across that trilogy in this movie's second half alone. With General Zod & Co. making Earth into a virtual playground, it was truly a battle of titans as Superman had it out with these aliens. By the time yet another building is demolished as their bodies rocket through the structure and another skyscraper collapses, you'll find the destruction overwhelming if not exhausting. But, surprisingly enough, Snyder knows how to use this absolute excess to his advantage. Hans Zimmer's pounding and emotional score is utilized in a similar way as in the Batman series, and while Zimmer downplays the heroic cues that John Williams made famous with the original films (which IS missed, by the way), he does his best to keep the tone of the film grounded and gripping. General Zod is more of a military force here--trading the elegant speech of Terence Stamp's take on the character for an almost southern drawl and brute force personality. Zod is more like a weapon personified, while Crowe's Jor-El contrasts with a more sophisticated, upper crust Kryptonian personality. Zod is crass and unrefined, bent on destruction and self-preservation, while Jor and his son Kal have their hearts and minds in the right places. Kal-El spends the film in a sense of self-discovery that is, at times, heart-wrenching. The film opens with Kal's birth and the fall of Krypton and then cuts to him in his thirties as he lives as a drifter of sorts. We then get little flashbacks throughout the movie that touch on Kal's childhood as a son to the Kents--from his discovery of his alien powers in school to his struggle with knowing how and when to use his gifts. Jonathan Kent serves as the guide for Clark's life and it all comes to a head in one painfully emotional sequence. It's this emotion that fuels the character and therefore the story, giving it the meat and potatoes it needs to be powerful on multiple levels. The piles of destruction, which claims many, many innocent lives in the process, force Clark to become the man he needs to become.
Man Of Steel also contains some really intriguing spiritual imagery and symbolism. For starters, the very role of another being's only son coming the Earth as its savior has always been a parallel for Superman with Christ. It's something that Superman Returns even embelished a bit. But in Man Of Steel, Clark even finds himself in a church seeking guidance from a minister, and Snyder doesn't shy away from blatantly displaying a beautiful image of Jesus on the stained-glass window just over Clark's shoulder. Later, we learn that Clark has been living among the humans for 33 years of his life (like Christ), and in another scene, as Superman makes a conscious decision to save Earth, he briefly forms a "cross" position. This alone adds some extra depth to the film that is worth discussing after the credits role.
Across the board, the performances in the movie are solid. Cavill is fantastic as the Man of Steel, and he's truly great as Clark as well. I also loved Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent and Diane Lane as his mother Martha. They played the parts beautifully, and I have to admit this may be one of my all-time favorite roles for Costner. Similarly, Crowe brought a lot to the table for Jor-El. Marlon Brando was decent in the original films, but he wasn't given a whole lot to do. Plus, his performance was more stoic. Here, Crowe was given a lot more screen time and served as a guide for Kal once he discovered his Kryptonian past. Crowe even gets some action scenes in the opening moments of the film. Michael Shannon really turns in a strong performance as Zod, but I can't help but miss Stamp's more eloquent delivery. I liked that about the original Zod, whereas there wasn't much likeable about this rendition at all. He was bent on bringing Krypton back to life, at any cost, while Stamp's Zod wanted a world to rule as his own. Shannon proved a formidable foe for Cavill's Superman, but the fact he wasn't all that likeable, or someone you could even be sympathetic toward, made him less fun to watch.
The content for the movie is a solid PG-13. The language isn't too bad, with one "S" word over a staticky airplane pilot's feed, and a military general literally saying "effing" near the end of the movie. There's only mild blasphemy with a couple uses of "Oh my G-d" as exclamations, and then there were a handful of uses of the "a" word and "h*ll" (and "d*ck," as well). The sensuality is very minor, with just a passionate kiss between Superman and Lois, so the biggest red flag for the movie is the violence -- and it's intense. While it's seldom graphic, it's nearly constant in the later half of the movie. And as I mentioned earlier, it's just destruction upon destruction. Zod and his people beat people, throw them around, and destroy just about anything in their path. We see the destruction of a planet and flames shoot from the ground, consuming everything, with a fireball consuming one person in particular. Incredible destruction is brought down on a major city and we see buildings collapse, cars tossed and flattened, and many people destroyed in its wake. Also, there's a final brawl between Superman and a villain; SPOILER (You've been warned): In this battle, it comes to a climax as Superman has a villain in a head lock and they threaten a family of civilians with their heat vision. We see the family cowering in its path and Superman tries to stop the villain but can't in time. When he sees what they have done (we don't see it), he snaps the villain's neck, killing him. It's pretty intense, especially considering that a family, including kids, were vaporized by the enemy, so it's definitely something some parents who are on the fence about the intensity of the movie might like to know before going into seeing it.
Overall, I left the theater wowed by Snyder's take on Man Of Steel. It's arguably the best Superman film to date, despite still containing some flaws. Because it's an origin film, some iconic Superman things like working at the Daily Planet, Lex Luthor, or even Kryptonite, are all things yet to be touched on or explored here. Some other artistic liberties were also taken--including the secrecy of Superman's identity--while Snyder's directional style is rather an acquired taste at times (especially when the camera is way too shaky and you'd love to just smack the cameraman). All that, paired with an over-the-top finale that would make Michael Bay drool, and you have an almost-perfect fresh retelling of the Superman story. I'm eager to see how a carefully-plotted sequel would fare, but after seeing Man Of Steel, you can count me on board. It's a meaty, action-packed superhero flick with heart and soul that shouldn't be missed by fans of the hero, or the genre, on the big screen.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/14/13)
Strong Characters, Legendary Roles (25:59) - The first featurette talks about Man of Steel as a new take on the Superman story. Director Zack Snyder likens Superman's origin to a cross between Moses and Jesus as he and others look into the character's history. We see Henry Cavill in costume and people's reaction to him as if he really were the caped hero (which he also reflects upon), and they talk about reinventing Superman for a new generation. Topically, it gets a bit deep as people like Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon talk about Earth and its environment and the impact that the story and its heroes could have on young people and the future of our planet. (1 "S" word)
All-Out Action (26:02) focuses on preparing the actors for the intense action sequences in the film. Cavill spent 6 months training and talks about how grueling it was on his body. The filmmakers also discuss mixing digital effects with as many real, practical filming elements as possible for the action sequences. Finally, they cover the different fighting styles of the characters and then take a quick look at the action during the Smallville and Metropolis battles.
Krypton Decoded (6:42) - Actor Dylan Sprayberry, who played young Clark Kent, discusses Krypton's mysterious designs. In less than 7 minutes, he and one of the designers on the film take a look at the Kryptonian ship buried on Earth that serves as the new Fortress of Solitude for Superman, the Kryptonian suits and weapons, and The Phantom Zone. It seems more geared toward younger viewers, but it does shed some light on questions viewers may have about Snyder's new Superman.
Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short (2:03) serves as a nod to the history of Superman as a comic book hero and movie star. Opening with John Williams' iconic theme, we see a quick evolution of Superman through the years. It ends with Zimmer's score and Cavill's Superman.
New Zealand: Home of Middle Earth (6:35) - Nope, this isn't a mistake on our part. It's true; a featurette for The Hobbit is on the Man of Steel disc. It's the same featurette that appears on both feature film disc versions of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It talks about how they rebuilt the Shire (AKA "Hobbiton") in New Zealand for the film and how the previous Shire wasn't built to last, but this one is. In fact, fans can actually visit it! The featurette continues with cast and crew gushing about how beautiful the scenery and locations in New Zealand are. The neatest part is when they overlay the original footage with the finished theatrical footage to show you just how much of the scenery was actually real.
Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel (2:54:05) - Zack Snyder introduces the film and says that the interactive experience is meant to enlighten the viewer and take them deeper into the making of the movie. This is the first time I've ever seen a movie presented in whole on two separate discs but with the second presentation being a chopped up featurette/documentary style presentation. So as the movie plays out here, the movie itself is frequently interrupted or demoted to a small in-set window while an actor, writer, crew member or the director talks about the film or narrates new imagery, like concept art or on-set footage. It's fascinating stuff and it works excellent as a behind-the-scenes video, but you won't really be able to enjoy the movie this way. Make sure you've seen the movie by itself before watching this. The constant full screen, picture-in-picture and frame shifts are a bit distracting, too, but those up to the challenge will find it easy to adjust to after a few minutes. It's a unique process that offers a wealth of info (even if it is kind of sensory overload). The beginning, for example, is interrupted for a behind the scenes featurette about the Kryptonian language. Another time, Michael Shannon shows up with his action figure in hand to talk about how he wore a motion capture suit because his armor suit didn't actually exist. Soon after that, the film pauses to show us Russell Crowe filming his swimming scenes--to get to the Codex--in a water tank. Other sequences have actors like Henry Cavill and Amy Adams talking about a scene to us or we're shown set visits and B-Roll footage of any given scene being filmed. This feature is a must-see for fans of the film. Some highlights include Snyder dropping the sound effects and audio out of a scene near the climax to leave just Zimmer's score to present an emotional scene, and then pauses the film to let Hans talk about the music himself. And the commentary and multilayered examinations of the Smallville and Metropolis fight scenes are ones to certainly check out.
Planet Krypton (17:18) is actually a fake documentary that's presented as if Krypton were real. It starts with Zod's first contact signal and proceeds to cover the planet's history, weapons and clothing as though this was made after the events of the film. We also see concept art and computer schematics of the planet and weapons. Next it delves into the symbols and Kryptonian language, and we hear the narrator speak Kryptonian as an example. After covering some of the different guilds, the narrator then delves into what destroyed Krypton and warn us that this could happen on our Earth too if we don't take care of it. It's kind of cheesy but offers a lot of great insights into this new world of Superman.
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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