REVIEW – Man of Steel

Steel, a man
Review by Vives Anunciacion
Published
Inquirer Libre

Man of Steel
Directed by Zach Snyder

This is not you father’s Superman movie. In a way, this isn’t a Superman movie at all. That’s why it’s Man of Steel.

Man of Steel tells practically the same origin story of the boy from a dying planet sent to Earth to live as a human, except he grows up being more than just human. There are several tweaks to this story, but essentially it’s the same Superman on its 75th anniversary this year.

What is new to this story is that it shows Kal-El/Clark (Henry Cavill) as the son of two parenthoods. Right from the beginning, we are shown Kal-El’s special birth, one that his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) believes has a special purpose that the child must use when the time comes.

But on Earth, Clark struggles to contain that power within him because his Earth father, Jonathan (Kevin Costner) believes that Earth isn’t ready to accept a god-like alien in its midst, period.

This conflict of paternal moralities is the overriding arch of Man of Steel – not coincidentally aimed at a Father’s Day crowd on its opening week.

It’s a strong concept telling the story of Superman from the perspective of his two fathers. Maybe the intent was to establish who and what Superman is when he finally decides whether he is the first adoptive son of Earth, or the last son of Krypton.

But of course, there must be villains. In this case, they are led by Krypton’s military leader General Zod (wonderfully played by Michael Shannon) who wants Kal-El captured in oder to retrieve the DNA Codex and rebuild Krypton on Earth.

And this is where the movie falters – because it has a good emotional story built around Kal-El’s/Clark’s parents, and then it has the generic blockbuster maniacal antagonist bent to destroy Earth. One-third good movie, two-thirds slam-bang blockbuster. Director Zach Snyder (Watchmen, 300) retains his reputation of not being able to hold a character-based screenplay intact without resorting to fireworks.

It’s a pity that the good parts with his Earth and Krypton parents are relatively underwritten, except maybe Jor-El. I like Martha Kent’s scenes (Diane Lane), even though she’s just your basic doting mother. Perry White (Lawrence Fishburne) and Superman’s GF Lois (Amy Adams) have good repartee on the Daily Planet, but there’s not enough.

The film looks A-grade spectacular, aided by Hans Zimmer’s occasionally soaring music. But that is what’s lacking in Man of Steel. It doesn’t soar, the emotions don’t rocket to the heavens. It’s great when the emotions are down to (and on) Earth. But when Kal-El saves the Earth, it just feels like a protracted eventuality delayed by endless Super-Sayyan smackdowns.

It’s okay as a reboot of a story we’re already familiar with. It lays the groundwork of establishing the main characters and their interrelationships for the eventual sequel. Having set who Superman is in a world unsure whether he will abuse that omnipotence or not (on America, selfishly), the sequel is set for more intense action and intriguing new anti-heroes. Did you see the LexCorp logo on the buildings, and the Wayne logo on the satellite? Maybe you should see the movie again.

Until then, we’ll wait for the Super to truly emerge in the next Man of Steel edition. Meanwhile, welcome to the planet, Kal-El.

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