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In a multitude of ways, Man of Steel manages to deliver and is the best summer blockbuster film, thus far. Its scope is incredible, the action is extraordinary and is hands down the best Superman film to date. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its fair share of problems, but even with some tiny scrutinies, I loved this film very much. Man of Steel should be seen by any self appreciating comic book fan, any film goer that loves a good spectacle and anyone that wants believe in the modern mythology of superheroes, where Superman reigns supreme.
The film opens up in the proper way, the fall of Krypton, for the first 20 minutes and every single frame of it is astounding. From the rich, ornate detail, to setting the stage for the main villain, General Zod, the opening of the film is so incredible, that I when Krypton was no more, I felt saddened even more so. From here, the film jumps 33 years ahead, when Clark Kent is already an older man. The film doesn’t get bogged down by going in order to tell the story we already know, but uses flashbacks to give us just enough of Clark in Smallville, that it doesn’t waste anyones time. At a certain point, he shows up in the arctic, where the government has found a Kryptonian vessel, that was sent to Earth over 20,000 years ago. When Clark goes inside, he finds out completely who he is, the history of Krypton and where his destiny lies, as a figure for the people of Earth.
One of the best things about Man of Steel is the fact that it gets the scope of a great Superman story and just runs with it. From the imagery to the action, Man of Steel takes a 75 year old character and draws upon all of that history to present something unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. While yes, the first two Superman films are some solid works of the superhero genre, but Man of Steel is very much unlike Donner’s and Lester’s films and breathes new life into Superman. I’m sure that much of this comes from the much more serious approach taken to present the iconography of Superman, than just a typical by the numbers film.
While many of the cast do a stellar job with the material, the best person in the film is Micheal Shannon. Shannon’s performance of General Zod, is nothing short of brilliant and manages to reinforce my notion that he’s one of the greatest living actors to date. The other stand out performance was that of Russel Crowe, who plays Jor-El, Superman’s biological father. Henry Cavill’s performance of Superman was certainly stoic and much more reliant on his physicality more than anything, but does a solid job at presenting the character with a grace and humility that is required to make him feel more human. Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne also do a solid job, but they aren’t given enough screen time to merit the praise that they’d usually get for their work.
Even with all of these great things, Man of Steel isn’t without its flaws. The two biggest problems with the film are its cheesy dialogue and its heavy handed themes. While I love David S. Goyer’s work very much, there were points in the film where I just cringed. I’m sure that there’s an instance where some of these lines were lifted directly from comic books, but here, they simply didn’t work. As for the Christian symbolism and direct implications of Superman being a Christlike figure, were handled so exhaustedly, it just felt trite and a bit childish. Superman is supposed to embody the best things of humanity, it is his sole purpose for existing and acting upon the notion that humanity can be good and that they’re worth fighting for. Yes, this coincides with Christ’s sole purpose for existing on the planet as well, but having Superman sitting in front of stained glass window of Jesus Christ while talking to a priest, doesn’t come off as subtle at all.
While those things really irked me, the movie soars beyond all expectations and delivers something unlike anything we’ve seen of Superman on film. For months, I would tease the owner of my comic book shop, a huge Superman fan, that Zack Snyder’s film would be one of the worst things to come out this year. After I left the theatre last night, I was certainly eating those words and left the theatre in awe and amazement. Snyder has managed to make a riveting portrayal of one of America’s oldest superheroes and Warner Bros. have made a wise and smart investment at giving us a true taste of how a great a Superman film can be.