Superman, of course, has always been the heartbeat of DC Comics, with Batman running a close second. “Man of Steel” was co-produced by Batman trilogy director Chris Nolan, and his fingerprints are all over it.
Let’s get right to the questions that most need answering. Yes, it’s a terrific film. Yes, it was worth remaking. Yes, Henry Cavill, until now best known for playing Theseus in “Immortals,” has nailed the role of Superman. To the point, aside from some visual effects overload in the last reel, this is the Superman movie fans have wanted to see and that newcomers to the longtime superhero will dig.
Superman, of course, has always been the heartbeat of DC Comics, with Batman running a close second. “Man of Steel” was co-produced by Batman trilogy director Chris Nolan, and his fingerprints are all over it. But it was directed by a different sort of visionary: Zack Snyder, whose resumé; of effects-driven films includes “300,” “Watchmen” and “Sucker Punch.”
Now, about those effects in “Man of Steel.” I’m giving them an extra “E” for “excessive.” But that’s not a complaint. When they’re done right, as they are here, even if they go to excess, as they do in the final act, in which Metropolis takes a shellacking that would make Godzilla proud, I’ll gobble up as much as Snyder wants to dish out.
You know the story. The spectacular opening segment on the distant planet Krypton is rife with political turmoil. Bad decisions have exhausted the planet’s natural resources, leading to a worse choice, one that will destroy it. The planet is on a course to explode, yet there might be a way to fix things, insists proud and dangerous military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon). Scientist-leader Jor-El (Russell Crowe, playing it stoic) and his wife don’t think so, and realize that the only way to save their newborn baby is by shipping him off to Earth, where atmospheric conditions will give him superpowers. Then all hell breaks loose, and the infant Kal-El is soon zooming through the universe, en route to the farmland of Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, and I’ve gotta say, they do make one fine-looking couple!).
From there, Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer (“Batman Begins,” “Dark City”) go the nonlinear route, liberally jumping around in time and place. There’s a daring sea rescue led by a strong young man named Clark Kent (Henry Cavill, slightly earnest in the role), then the film cuts back a few years to a younger Clark at school where he’s labeled a freak, and it jumps to a current-day reporter named Lois Lane (Amy Adams) working on a story and proving that she’s tough, feisty and inquisitive.
Yes, the action becomes relentless, with fight sequences galore, pushed forward by Hans Zimmer’s propulsive, percussive score (some of which is credited to his “drum orchestra”). But the reason this is a great film is because it also smartly and effectively examines all sorts of emotional matters while things are roaring around them. Clark Kent has lived a life of conundrums, never quite fitting in anywhere. He’s dealing with the meaning of his own life. General Zod looks to be a man of pure malevolence, but the script eventually reveals some reasoning behind his behavior, a sort of warped Kryptonian patriotism. And then there’s the film’s central concern: heartfelt father-son relationships - the one between Jor-El and his son Kal-El, and the one between Jonathan Kent and his stepson Clark (nee Kal-El).
Page 2 of 2 - Perry White is around. He’s black and has a stud in his ear. But there’s no Jimmy Olsen or Lex Luthor. Well, if you look close, you’ll see a LexCorp reference, which should make you smile almost as much as the film’s spot-on last few lines of dialogue.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.