Movie Review: Man of Steel (2013)

Directed by: Zack Snyder 

Written by: David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 2hr 28min


In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I have never read any comic books, nor do I know the back stories of the characters. So I always go into these movies with a bit of trepidation. I'm always concerned that I won't follow the story and it will become boring. So it was a pleasant surprise for me to enjoy "Man of Steel" as much as I did. The film begins by providing the backstory on Superman (Kal-El). He comes from the planet Kryptonite. After exhausting all of the planet's natural resources, its demise is imminent. Jor-El and his wife have managed to have a natural birth of a child as opposed to the artificial reproduction program that has become the norm on their planet. They realize that their child holds the key to the survival of their people. But when one of their own, General Zod, stages a coup, it becomes clear that the child cannot stay on Kryptonite. Jor-El then sends his infant son to a planet with a similar atmosphere and intelligent life, the planet Earth.  As he does so, he also sends the genetic code for their species. General Zod attempts to stop this from happening, but is unsuccessful. Zod is then tried and convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 3 consecutive terms of reconditioning. He and his crew are then frozen and launched into space. 

Meanwhile, little Kal-El lands on a farm in Kansas owned by the Kents, who find him and raise him as their own. They call him Clark. He discovers early on that he has certain strange powers, but on the advice of his father, he learns to rein them in and keep his identity a secret. Throughout the movie, we revisit his childhood at various points to see his experiences. Of course, as he gets older, he finds himself in situations where it is becoming increasingly difficult to hide his identity. Finally, with the discovery of a strange object frozen in the ice at the top of the world, his destiny catches up with him and he must make some fateful decisions.  

Lois Lane enters the picture when she goes to the arctic to write a story about the discovery. Her curiosity gets her into some trouble and Clark is there to save her. But when she attempts to report on her findings at her newspaper, The Daily Planet, she is told that she cannot print what she has seen because no one will believe it. Being a rebel, she finds a way to get the story out there anyway, thus causing more trouble for herself. 

At this same time, somewhere out in space, General Zod and his crew have been freed from their prison and are searching for Kal-El. Their search brings them to Earth where they confront the US military and ultimately Kal-El. I don't want to spoil anything else for anyone who hasn't seen the film, so I'll stop with the synopsis at this point.

"Man of Steel" is a much darker version of Superman when compared to the many incarnations over the years. It comes as no surprise that it was written by Christopher Nolan as it reminds me of the Batman movies. I found the script to be very well-written and the story was easy to follow. I prefer a darker superhero. It's unbelievable for them to be so flawless. To show their flaws and weaknesses makes them more relatable. I enjoyed watching Clark struggle through the years with who he is, not unlike most of us as we are growing up.  

The one aspect of the story that almost lost me was the comparison of Superman and Christ. Throughout the film, there are many similarities: he is the savior of his people, he is asked to sacrifice of himself for others, and there is even a scene where he has crisis of faith and finds himself in a church right in front of a stained glass window with Christ on his knees. Even though I liked the first half of the movie, I almost walked out during this scene. It was so in your face. They even  have a few scenes where he is hovering in the air with his arms outstretched, much like Christ on the cross. I would think a lot of people would be offended by these scenes, but I stayed to watch the rest of the movie.

The acting in the film was excellent. I have been a fan of Henry Cavill for many years after watching him in The Tudors. I noticed even then that he has an amazing screen presence and is able to evoke feelings of compassion and sadness just by the look on his face. It was evident back then that he was destined for a long acting career, but I had no idea how perfect he would be for Superman. Cavill went through a dramatic physical transformation to play the part, bulking himself up with a high calorie diet and intense strength training. His workout has even been used by the National Guard as a commercial. He also darkened his hair to look more the part. And the result was stunning. I don't think they could find a better Superman. His hair was perfect, his jawbone chiseled, and his eyes were crystal blue. 

The young actors they had playing the young Clark Kent were amazing as well (Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry). I'm sure the fact that they look a lot like Henry Cavill helped, but the acting was really good. 

Of course, Michael Shannon was excellent as the evil General Zod. I first saw Shannon in 2011's "13" in which he is the announcer of a live Russian Roullette competition. He was very creepy and otherworldly in that role, and he continues to show his acting chops as Zod.  

Russell Crowe is strong and convincing as Kal-El's father. He gives an authentic portrayal of a brave man and father who will do what it takes to save his son and his people. 

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were great as the hardworking, salt of the earth Kents. I don't want to spoil anything, but there is a scene involving Costner that brought me to tears. 

The special effects were amazing. As Superman flew around, it really looked like he was flying. It didn't look fake like so many depictions of Superman in the past. I was really shocked that they were able to pull it off. The scenes on Kryptonite and the final battle scenes on Earth were also quite believable, albeit a bit too long for my taste. 

Hans Zimmer scores the film and the music is incredible. It truly lifts you up and carries you through the story. He is such a talent and does not disappoint. 

I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the costume that Superman dons in the film. Much like the updated Batman costume, this one is much more modern. It fits his body like a glove and looks very high tech. The material appears to be very reptilian, with what look like scales that move with him. The crimson cape is made of what appears to be silk and flows behind him with the breeze. It is at once beautiful and strong. Perfect for the new Superman.

All in all, I would have to recommend the film. Even though it wasn't perfect, it was entertaining. We did take our 7 year old, but I wouldn't recommend it. He didn't get scared or anything, but there was some language that made all of us feel a bit uncomfortable. I would say 9 or older should be fine if they don't scare easy.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my review. Let me know what you think of the movie by commenting below. Come back soon and get buzzed!!