For DC fans who’ve long wondered if anything could be done to match the successes and storytelling in the recent crop of Marvel superhero movies, wondered if there was enough unsullied heart and imagination left in Hollywood to look beyond the clichés and bring Superman to a new generation that wants to believe a man can fly, it’s safe to believe again.
Take it from a bona fide Marvel girl, Man of Steel is the Superman movie I’ve been waiting 20 years to see, and this one was worth the wait.
It has the right mix of humanity and epic, as seen in the parallels between the fathers as Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe reflect one aspect of that balance in their portrayals of Jonathan Kent and Jor-El: two very different fathers wanting to protect their son from the dangers of the world around him that he’s not yet ready to face, yet leave him free enough to choose what’s best and what’s right when it’s his turn to face them.
The reimagined history of Krypton, the chronicling of its rise, corruption and collapse, and the lengths Jor and Lara went to to be able to send their son to Earth with hopes of building a better world than Krypton became is not a new idea, but it’s done in a way that makes it easy to believe the actions that Zod and his soldiers take in their pursuit. Their fanatic loyalty to the ideal of Krypton becomes understandable, making Zod’s zeal as poetic as it is tragic.
There was some concern that the US Army leaders would end up being clichéd cardboard (which only turned out to be half-true), and about how they would handle Kryptonite if it showed up (it did, but it didn’t), but the twist is in how they handled the effect of his homeworld on him, as well as the reverse effect of Earth on the other Kryptonians.
Some of the battle scenes are filled with very quick cuts and moves that are sometimes hard to follow, but for some reason in the RealD 3D projection, that action wasn’t hard to follow or discern (see rants about unwatchable fight scenes in Bourne Supremacy). I feel the epic scale of those battles, given who the participants were and their abilities, far outweighed any minor disappointments with some of those shots being too short. I am curious if those scenes are still as easy to follow in regular 2D projection.
There may be a few minor quibbles from some about how the connection to the Daily Planet was handled, but in changing every other part of Superman’s story to fit a more modern world, there had to be a better way to reimagine that too, and it sets up the foundation for sequels. I think everyone can agree that the Clark Kent secret identity secret was one big part of the mythology that was in desperate need of a reboot.
Coming out of the theater Tuesday night, the news that talks had already begun with Zack Snyder on a sequel was welcome news, well deserved. It’s been a very long time since an entire theater sat captivated and silent through the entire film… no hushed chatter, no snarky commentary between buddies, everyone seemed to be transfixed, almost waiting for the moment when the story would disappoint them, and relieved at the end when it didn’t.
For me, this is the moment when the Summer 2013 Movie Season truly began.
Easter Egg: amongst the many corporate brand placements, keep an eye out for the label on several tanker trucks used during the street fight between Kal-El and Zod’s forces in Kansas. My guess is this may have been another seed planted towards future installments in the world built by this franchise reboot.
For those who want an unspoiled behind-the-scenes look at what changes were made to the backstory and why, there’s a 13 minute long Man of Steel featurette out there that’s well worth the time. It can be found in several places, including Hulu and YouTube: