'Man of Steel' review: Henry Cavill's Superman is 'more relatable'
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5
Superman soars back onto the silver screen this summer, with a new star, a new suit, and a new story, re-imagined for a more modern Metropolis, and realistic world. Directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan, who reinvented Batman in "The Dark Knight" trilogy, is "Man of Steel" a flyaway hit? Or is it an up, up, and away miss? Check out the review below (possible spoilers ahead).Plot:
Wandering loner Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) sets out to discover the truth about where he comes from, while struggling to keep his superhuman abilities a secret, despite curious journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) hot on the trail of the mystery man who saved her.
But when a band of military outcasts from his home world of Krypton, led by the villainous General Zod (Michael Shannon), come searching for its last son, Clark must decide whether to embrace his alien origins, or follow the guidance of his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and fight for the survival of the species he was adopted into -- mankind.
A child of the 80's, I've waited my entire life to see the Superman that owned my imagination, take flight on the big screen. Christopher Reeve inspired the world that a man could fly and Brandon Routh shed glimpses of light on what it feels like to be super [in the 2006 film "Superman Returns"]. But I went into Zach Snyder's "Man of Steel" with sky-high hopes it would deliver the hero capable of rescuing the character, and reclaiming the bragging rights of the world's greatest superhero.
In short: It knocked my Superman socks off.
"Man of Steel" just gets it right in every way, especially in the Man himself, Henry Cavill. Gone, like his home-world of Krypton, is the near-robotic Superman with an uptight outlook and steel resolve. Instinctually, good manners are not on the shortlist of super abilities fans want to see Superman flex. Maybe it's the new suit (which looks stunning in action) without those familiar red undies, that allows him to loosen up a little?
That's not to say he's not a super guy, but Cavill's Clark Kent feels human emotions, like fear, sadness, and best of all anger. He's instantly more relatable to moviegoers, which he'll be sweeping off their feet the moment he rushes in shirtless and literally on fire!
One grounding force is Clark's relationship with his Earth-father Jonathan Kent, played with a fantastic passion by Kevin Costner. Snyder sprinkles these scenes throughout the film, and though they're few and far between, they pull back the cape to reveal WHY Clark chooses to become the hero, easily making them the film's emotional heart and moral compass. Diane Lane adds an important vulnerability, and surprising comic relief as Martha Kent, Clark's Earth-mother.
Even down to its exploding core, Man of Steel is an epic origin story, and Snyder's able to keep a tight x-ray focus on the tale he's telling. The director spends a surprising amount of time on Krypton with Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe. Crowe doesn't leap any tall buildings in a single bound here, but his return to the screen later in the film is more than welcome and sets pivotal plot points in motion.
There's no confusion or disappointing twists in this one (I'm turning my heat vision to you, "Iron Man 3"). Even General Zod's dastardly plan of destruction makes sense, and Michael Shannon easily plays the most formidable on-screen opponent Superman's ever faced when it comes to a good vs. evil match up. (Honorable mention to Michael Rosenbaum of "Smallville.")
Shannon and Cavill have one high-flying fight in the film that will send your jaw to the floor faster than a speeding bullet. That Zod vs. Superman battle royale is the stuff of which iconic movie moments are made of. (Think Neo's final face-off with Smith in "The Matrix Revolutions" meets the epic end of "The Avengers.") The 3D special effects here are so spectacular you can feel them.
But the crème of the Kansas crop for me is Superman's first flight. Snyder finds a way to take the audience along for the ride as Clark "discovers" defying gravity. The soaring experience exceeds my greatest expectations in just how superbly it's done.
Amy Adams also plays a terrific Lois Lane, and much to my delight, her role in the story's not as damsel in distress as one might expect. The chemistry between Adams and Cavill is not more powerful than a locomotive, but Snyder does lay the groundwork for a future Lois and Clark relationship of legend.
All in all, Snyder knocks it out of the galaxy, thanks greatly to David Goyer and Christopher Nolan's story, re-imagining the last son of Krypton in a time when superhero stories are losing their zeal. Man of Steel also firmly plants the pieces in place to launch a super new franchise and universe for Warner Bros. and DC Comics to build upon.
Critics of the film better start going by a secret identity because diehard fans and Superman newbies alike are going to fall in love with "Man of Steel."
"Man of Steel" was released on Friday, June 14. Watch the trailer below.