It was my most anticipated movie of this summer, with a kickass trailer that has been in theaters since last summer! It has a guy who LOOKS just LIKE Superman! It has a star-studded cast! It has the director who directed “300” and “Dawn Of The Dead!” It has Christopher Nolan writing the script! It has EVERYTHING in place! So it HAS to be awesome…right? RIGHT?!?!?!
With THIS much anticipation, obviously nothing can stand the weight put on it…except maybe a super-strong alien from another planet. With his flowing red cape and his incredibly good looks (yeah…he IS good lookin’ ladies), the Super dude is ready for a rewrite. But what happens when there is SO much baggage BEFORE Supes can rev his engine and get rolling? Obviously, with Christopher Nolan in tow, it’s going to have some drama. And in the case of DC Comics’ biggest hero, he almost drowns him in it. Not that Superman isn’t worthy of some drama because, quite frankly, he has been called boring by many in comparison to the likes of Batman. So, unlike all the other Superman movies, let’s give him a little brooding, a little confusion, a little sadness and THEN he will be more like us, right? So that’s what Nolan and crew do. And, unfortunately, they almost make him downright catatonic. Here you have the world’s most powerful man, he’s an alien from another solar system and…then what? How do you make him more human? And how do we make the story MORE INTERESTING?
In Nolan’s case, you tell the story out of order. And this, in effect, almost kills the entire first half of “Man Of Steel.” I’m not gonna rail against the machine here because, quite frankly, Nolan’s use of juxtaposing narrative is his calling card. He LOVES to tell a story out of order and make it as confusing as possible then put it back together again at the end. And normally I don’t begrudge him that. Hell…in “Memento” he writes the entire story in reverse, for crying out loud, so you just KNOW he’s gonna do something to make this movie more “interesting.” Unfortunately, it’s not. The story of Superman doesn’t HAVE to be told out of order. We already KNOW his story. In the case of “Man Of Steel,” they could have easily skipped the entire opening scene when baby Kal El is rocketed from Krypton and sent to Earth because we already know that story. It’s been told countless times! So really, later in the movie, when Kal El is retold the story by his holographic father (played by Russell Crowe), that could have easily been our retelling of the prelude of his story. Nevertheless, we are forced to rewatch ANOTHER version of how Supes is jetted across the universe to Earth and then raised by Ma & Pa Kent. However it can’t be told in order. No….we have to piece it all together while a grown Clark Kent wanders the north, working odd jobs and saving people along the way. It’s not that the scenes aren’t good, because they are. I just don’t understand why they had to be out of order. Just tell the story in order and be done with it! Okay…that is my negative rant about “Man Of Steel” because, quite frankly, this IS a very good action movie! So let’s talk about that instead, shall I?
Ok…so we know the opening. Baby Kal El is shipped to Earth. What is different from this version though is that his launch is almost stopped by a group of Kryptonians who believe that sending him to Earth is a form of heresy. Despite their arguments, Jor El launches the ship anyway and is killed by General Zod (Michael Shannon), the leader of the group. Zod is then arrested by the government, tried and then sent to a “Black Zone” where he and his soldiers are left for a life in captivity. Obviously, Krypton’s core blows up and everyone on the planet dies and the explosion reopens the door from the Dark Zone, allowing Zod and his army freedom. And thus a bad guy is born.
Meanwhile, down on our planet, Kal El is learning how to deal with his “special gifts,” which include X-ray vision, heat rays in his eyes, super strength and super speed. He grows up under the tutelage of Jonathan and Martha Kent and after reaching an age where he is ready to do good, he sets out on his own to see what our country is all about. Obviously he saves lots of people and is soon followed by an ace reporter on the hunt for a good story (Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams). At some point (and this point gets a little muddled), he is working on a military base that is investigating an object that has been found in the ice of the Antarctic. Kal enters the ship and it is there he Kal meets his “holographic” father and is told the story of his background. It is also where Lois meets Superman for the first time and is hellbent on telling the world that an alien is in our presence. Okay…blah blah blah…let’s speed forward. Eventually Zod and his cronies make it to Earth and demand that we give him Superman. However no one even knows about him except Lois and no one believes her…until now. Superman comes forward and that’s when the ass-kicking happens.
Believe me when I tell you…you ain’t never SEEN so much destruction in one film! Zach Snyder takes such glee in destroying Smallville & Metropolis that you wonder if any of the inhabitants will survive! Buildings collapse, trains and cars and trucks are sprayed everywhere, fighter planes are launched out of the sky! It’s complete bedlam and it…is…AWESOME! I thought “The Avengers” ending was one of the most action packed things I had ever seen but this takes the cake! I dunno how long it is, but Superman, Zod and his cronies tear it up in a way that I could never imagine! It’s a tour de force of destruction and if seeing cities getting leveled is your thing, you’ll be in heaven! Is it too long? Yeah…maybe a little bit. But watching Superman take on his own kind on our soil is exactly what summertime moviegoing should be. It’s non-stop action for a good 45 minutes and it never lets up. And it saves the movie from becoming a dramatic chick flick. Not that I’m against chick flicks, but it would have been a shame if this Superman movie got as bogged down in drama as “Batman Begins” did. THIS ending is a spectacle! Needless to say, you probably aren’t gonna see anything like this until “Pacific Rim” comes out later this summer.
To wrap up this review, I’m gonna give this one a a thumbs up…but with a warning. The NEXT one better dispense with all the quirky narrative mumbo jumbo and just give us Superman straight up. Henry Cavill is a perfect choice for the man in the cape. He has now been accepted by society and he’s living his life in Metropolis. Let’s get down to getting him a story that is fun and exciting and as dramatic as “The Dark Knight.” Who is gonna be the next villain to take on Supes? Who knows? But I can tell you this…when the next one hits the theater, I’m gonna be waiting at the door to see it!
Overall Rating First Half: B- Second Half: A