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Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe
Director: Zack Snyder
*NON SPOILERS AND SCORE AT BOTTOM*
In 2012, one of the most successful movie trilogies came to a close with The Dark Knight Rises. I went to a movie marathon, and couldn’t help but smile at the joy this series brought me, and I wondered if we’ll ever get another movie of this caliber from DC. When the Dark Knight Rises preparing to premiere, it had one trailer before it. Shots of a bearded man, arctic environments, and farmlands covered our screen, but the dialogue behind it was what caught me: “You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They’ll race behind you, they will stumble. They will fall. … But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Then the title card… Man of Steel… I almost screamed with joy. After the boring attempted reboot four years earlier with Superman Returns, a lot of fans, myself included, have been eagerly awaiting a new Superman movie, and one year after the famous Dark Knight Rises, we’ll be getting it?! We were all stoked!
However when it came out, not everyone was so excited anymore. The viewers were split down the middle, some calling this one of the best Superman movies ever (I am in this group) while others call it a destructive mess that does no justice to the character. With the follow-up, Batman vs. Superman, coming out this week, I felt this was the perfect time to go back and review this reboot-turned-stepping stone to the DC expanded universe. It’s been quite a while since I watched it, so I mentally removed the non-reviewer, Superman fan out of my system and sat down to judge this as the reviewer I’ve become. So does my opinion hold? Or is it really as destructive and messy as critics claimed it to be? Let’s dive in and find out…
The story is an adaption of the well known Superman origin with a twist. As Krypton begins falling apart, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his newborn child Kal-El to earth after he imprints a codex containing the genetic code of every Kryptonian family in him. After Kal, now called Clark (Henry Cavill) lands, he is raised by a pair of farmers while he tries to find his place in the world. When he finally finds this when he becomes the protector of Earth, an evil group of Kryptonian prisoners, led by General Zod (Michael Shannon), arrive looking for the Codex that's in Clark’s bloodstream to remake Krypton.
I actually don’t think there really is anything wrong with the story. I’ve heard complaints about the over-complicated and dark plot of the movie, but really I think it took very interesting steps to make it step out. We see a Krypton where children are programmed to fill certain roles in society and abandon colonies to further their war efforts. It’s a dark version of the planet we never get to really see, as even in comics we either see it destroyed or as a shining, but pompous civilization. When you actually take it into consideration, it makes the villain of General Zod a little bit more interesting. Terrence Stamp’s portrayal in Superman II was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but Shannon’s Zod was a villain made. What I mean by that is, and this is how he put it, he was designed to fight for the greater good of his people. He is a product of Krypton’s failures. Compare that to the “Hope” that Superman represents and you get a conflict that makes the Kryptonian element much more fascinating.
Speaking of Superman, Henry Cavill nailed the part of the protector, maintaining a presence of power as a protector should, but also a more human Superman. You see it in his actions, but Clark doesn’t know what he wants and what he should do. Granted Christopher Reeve's’ portrayal was lost, at first, the moment he got the costume it became a pretty straight forward story. Cavill’s version, however, has to question when is the time for him to step up… which leads me to what I disliked about the movie.
PA KENT IS A JERK. Kevin Costner brings a version of the character, rather than a father figure who inspires Clark to protect the people of Earth, we have a man who wants to keep him so hidden he says he should have let kids drown. I’m not even joking, HE SAID HE SHOULD HAVE LET KIDS DROWN! I understand why, and if Clark clearly wasn’t having a mental dilemma because of it I would have agreed, but he was 10! And he's afraid of what he’s becoming! COMFORT YOUR DAMN CHILD!
While we’re still talking about the negative side of things, and this is a little bit of a nit pick… It seems unnecessarily dark. I’m fine with a darker tone to my superhero media, but some things were just absolutely unnecessary. For example, Pa Kent dies when he gets sucked into a tornado after he tells Clark to let him die to keep his secret… Except not only have people survived getting sucked into tornadoes but also it wouldn’t have revealed the secret AT ALL! Pa Kent usually dies due to a heart attack, nothing grandiose, just a heart attack. Why do I say it like that? A heart attack is something that can’t be stopped if it isn’t treated as soon as possible. It shows that human life is precious and fragile, and a lesson Superman could carry. Picture how much more heartbreaking it would have been if Pa Kent had a heart attack during the Smallville attack from Faora and Non. Instead, we have an unnecessarily dark scene involving his leg getting crushed before getting sucked away. Scenes like that, the gray tone in the scenery, and the massive destruction in Smallville makes me want to put the “Not an S, it means hope” line on loop.
Before I get on with my final score, I felt I should touch on the BIGGEST negative that people seemed to have...
The Metropolis Issue:
So if I had an issue with Smallville’s fight, I must be angry at the Metropolis destruction, right? Not really, and I’ll tell you why. Metropolis is the city of Superman, which also includes his villains. Brainiac with his ships, Mxyzptlk with his reality altering powers, The “Kryptonian T-Rex” Doomsday… HOW DID ANYONE NOT EXPECT THERE TO BE SO MUCH DESTRUCTION?! Especially since they aren’t prepared for threats as strong as any Kryptonian! Smallville’s destruction got me annoyed yes, but in comparison to most people’s reactions to Metropolis!? No way! Guys, it's a city with huge buildings and landmarks, with two powerhouses who are throwing down. How the hell didn’t you expect this much destruction? Oh and about Zod’s Death? Decide whether you keep the code, or have the super powerful alien whose exact words were, “I'm going to make them suffer, Kal. These humans you've adopted, I will take them all from you one by one.” With the only prison now cut off, what else could we do? It’s not even that Clark is doing it coldblooded, he is doing it to save a family and is still depressed that he is now the only Kryptonian left on Earth.
Despite the overly dark moments and lame Pa Kent, I enjoyed myself. It’s a fresh plot that introduces a whole new version of a timeless character. The story introduces us to a more realistic world, with more human and relatable characters. The action is intense and adrenaline filled and really makes for a fun experience. If you haven't watched it yet, I warn you that this movie is nothing like the Reeves' Superman. This is a Superman for a whole new generation of moviegoers.