Man of Steel Movie Review
In my review of Man of Steel, I am going to nitpick, because that's all I can do. For all of you who have forgotten that the one-off Superman Returns wasn't that bad, Man of Steel offers no such room for criticism: featuring a strong origin story and a second half packed with visceral action, Man of Steel is the first truly great blockbuster of the year.
In this reboot that Superman Returns made all too clear was necessary, Russell Crowe plays Jor-El who, aware that his planet is dying amidst a military coup led by General Zod, sends his son Kal-El to Earth, where he is raised by people who look like Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. As Clark Kent grows up, well aware of his gifts (curse?) that, if revealed to the world, could be received poorly, he roams the planet under false identities, looking for something that will guide him home.
But you knew all that. Just as things are starting to look up (an attractive and flirtatious reporter named Lois Lane has tracked him down), General Zod appears out of nowhere to not only reclaim Krypton's lost son but also terra-form the planet into Krypton's likeness (in other words: kill every human being on Earth).
Superman's having none of that.
And after a strong but not perfect first half that features some terrific flashbacks to Clark's childhood and an intriguing alteration to how Lois Lane and Clark Kent meet, director Zack Snyder kicks things into gear and unleashes a massive battle between Superman and General Zod and his soldiers.
Neither Smallville nor Metropolis fare very well.
Despite the amount of people who die without even the most casual acknowledgment by anyone, the second half of Man of Steel is an exciting, action-packed thrill ride featuring several great fight sequences (something notably lacking from Superman Returns, save for the airplane scene) and cool special effects. General Zod, deliciously played by Michael Shannon, is a legitimately wicked villain who is only upstaged by his right-hand woman Faora-Ul (Antje Traue), who proceeds to kick ass in every moment she is on screen.
The plot is simple but largely makes sense, and the film avoids the cheese factor that plagued its predecessor. Henry Cavill delivers a fine performance as the title character, though he frankly doesn't get a whole lot of time to interact with others before General Zod has him backed into the corner. Still, he has the charisma and charm a modern day Superman needs, and his chemistry with Amy Adams makes their budding romance work even if they too almost don't get enough time together for the audience to buy into their mutual attraction.
But hey, if I were Lois Lane and a handsome, invincible dude saved me repeatedly from aliens, I'd do whatever he wanted. And if I were essentially a god, I'd go for some Lois Lane. So hey, who needs screen time together?
As you can tell by now, if for some strange reason you are still reading this Man of Steel movie review, I enjoyed the movie. That's not too say there couldn't have been a few improvements. The CGI world of Krypton looks subpar for a Zack Snyder movie (the visual effects get much better once the movie shifts to Earth), and even at 143 minutes, the story felt rushed in a few places. A little more screen time between Clark and Lois would have been good (especially when they first officially meet), and there are other sections where transitions felt rushed as if scenes were clipped for the sake of running time. Why is his suit just floating there waiting for him? The humor is also inconsistent - there isn't a lot of it, so when a joke does arise it often feels out of place. A little more could have done the movie good.
But those complaints are mere nitpicks. Man of Steel isn't a perfect movie, but it is a very good one, perhaps even great. It is by far the most satisfying and exciting movie of the summer, more intelligent, serious and better than the likes of Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness and Fast And Furious 6. I can't wait for the sequel, and I can't wait to watch Man of Steel again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.