Man of Steel

"Look! Up in the sky!" No one ever actually says, "Truth, justice, and the American way," but the general idea of that still permeates the entire movie and I couldn't help but think of it a lot. At least they do acknowledge now and then that there is a world outside of Metropolis and Smallville, which is more than a lot of action / disaster movies do. It kind of is a disaster movie, though that isn't too surprising. When Superman fights people of roughly his own power level, the collateral damage is going to be huge.

It takes a while for people to start calling him Superman, but of course they get there eventually. He's played by Henry Cavill (Cold Light of Day), except here he actually gets a real script and the chance to act. Pretty much all of the old, familiar story is here, though they had to rush to get it all in, despite the movie being over two hours long. Occasionally an abrupt edit left me feeling like I'd missed something, so I anticipate lots of deleted scenes on the DVD. I should really get used to using Blu-ray, but DVD is so much easier to type.

Anyway, the planet Krypton is doomed, and Russell Crowe (The Man with the Iron Fists) as Jor-El knows it, though no one else seems all that worried about it. To be fair, they do have a military coup going on, though they should really first make sure what they're fighting over is still going to be around next week. Michael Shannon of Premium Rush is leading the coup as General Zod, though he seems to get a little too distracted with his vendetta against Jor-El and family and fails. He and his compatriots are sentenced to the Phantom Zone, which they don't entirely explain here due most likely to all that wild editing. The general idea of it is still the same, though.

The point is, Jor-El and wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer, Angels & Demons) manage to send their newborn son off towards Earth in a small ship, where he is found in Kansas by Mr. and Mrs. Kent, just as he should be. They're played by Diane Lane (Jumper) and Kevin Costner (Mr. Brooks), and they have their hands full raising him since in this version, he gets his powers quite young instead of at puberty, as in some variations. He's bullied in a way that would send whole towns into a frenzy these days, but back then is mostly considered something you just have to put up with.

After struggling for years to fit in, Clark leaves Smallville to walk the earth. It seems like the old Incredible Hulk series with Bill Bixby -- he settles in one place for a while, working at a bar or on a fishing boat, until eventually trouble strikes, he has to use his powers to save people, and it's time to vanish again. He must attract trouble like blood attracts sharks, really, considering how often he seems to move on.

Enter Lois Lane (Amy Adams, The Master). She encounters the mystery man just as he finds a long-buried piece of his past, and I mean that literally. Since she is, as always, a nosy reporter, she can't rest until she finds out who he is and eventually tracks him back to Smallville. Then she feels sorry for him and drops the story, much to the surprise of editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne, Contagion). If you're looking for Jimmy Olsen, however, you will look in vain; he isn't there. They do have Steve Lombard, though, played by Michael Kelly of Now You See Me.

Since they have Zod in the beginning, you just know he'll resurface sooner or later, and that's when the military gets involved. They're led by General Swanwick, played by Harry Lennix (who was also in State of Play with Russell Crowe) and Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU), here in charge of the Air Force contingent.

After that, things get broken. Seriously, there is massive destruction at almost every turn. As I said, it makes sense, but wow. I kept cringing as buildings collapsed and gas stations blew up, and don't even get me started on the way Superman accidentally wrecks half the ice floes in the Arctic. No wonder they're disappearing. Metropolis ends up in pretty sad shape, but Smallville must have been practically wiped off the map.

Good points include the casting of Henry Cavill, who is a marvellous hero, the acting overall, and best of all, the fact that I didn't leave the theatre with a long list of plot holes. It's been a while since that happened. Less good is the look they gave to the Kryptonian technology -- I think they were going for a sort of living metal feel, but at times it just seemed silly and distracting. Overall, though, it gets a solid four out of five. Russell Crowe wasn't jarring, like I was afraid he would be, and while there should have been a little more editing of the fight scenes and a little less editing of the scenes where they explain stuff, it strikes a decent balance between the two. There are hints of this being the lead-in to an eventual Justice League movie, and if so, at least they're off to a good start. Up, up, and away!

Superman prepares to smash a glacier into ice cubes with a power takeoff.


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