Superman has never really been one of my favorite superheroes. For one, I’ve always been more of a Marvel girl at heart, and for two, he just seemed too perfect. I’ve enjoyed overall what I’ve seen of him in TV shows and movies, but he’s never really been one that I completely fan out about the way I do some other heroes.
But I’ve been excited for Man of Steel ever since I found out Christopher Nolan was involved, even if only as a producer. Plus, with David S. Goyer handling the screenplay, and Zack Snyder directing, there was a lot to recommend the movie.
After actually watching it? This is, hands-down, the best live-action Superman movie* I’ve seen.
I loved the way the movie started, with the prologue on Krypton. It sets up so much: the culture Superman came from, his biological parents, who Zod is, and not to mention the absolutely fabulous visuals and action sequences. I mean, holy shit, I felt like I’d gotten my money’s worth after the first 15 minutes of the movie.
Once we get to Earth, we bounce back and forth between present day and Clark’s childhood in Kansas. The flashbacks integrate his growing up with the man he’s trying to become, and keep the story moving without taking us chronologically through all the significant events of his life. It really shows you what he’s had to deal with, being so different from everyone else, trying to command his insane powers when he’s only six or seven years old.
In fact, the pacing was fantastic overall, which was one of my biggest problems with Superman Returns. Man of Steel never felt like it dragged; in fact, I was surprised to see how much story they fit into two and a half hours. It bordered on almost overwhelming a couple of times, but really, they did a brilliant job with it.
I didn’t expect to like Russell Crowe as Jor-El, but he was amazing. I’m really glad we got to see more of him than we have with Jor-El in the past movies, particularly at the beginning.
Henry Cavill made a phenomenal Clark Kent/Superman. He never came across as self-righteous or smarmy, and he did a great job portraying the struggle to understand himself, his history, and what kind of man he should be. I actually liked him and felt for him. You see the weight of his choices.
And Zod? WOW. He was far from a one-note villain. You actually got to know him, to know why he took the actions he did and why he was so intent on finding Clark/Kal-El. By the end of the movie, I almost felt sorry for him, even as much as I wanted to see him go down. Michael Shannon was great.
I also loved how most of the human characters had a crowning moment of awesome. It was like we were getting glimpses, at least on an individual level, that humans were worthy of the hope that had been placed in us.
I did have a couple of gripes: while I liked Amy Adams as Lois Lane and thought she did a great job overall, the relationship between her and Superman didn’t feel too fleshed out. I thought they made a great team, but the romantic aspect felt a little forced.
And there was a tornado scene that very nearly had me screaming at the movie in the middle of the entire theater. It was easily my least favorite scene in the movie, not because of its significance (I totally got what they were trying to do with it), but because of how poorly it was handled. In fact, considering how important it was, I really, really wish it had been handled better.
Fortunately, the rest of the movie was strong enough that the missteps didn’t ruin it. The visuals were gorgeous (though I didn’t catch it in 3D), and Hans Zimmer once again puts together a fantastic score, memorable enough that it was still in my head the next morning.
Fair warning, though: This movie is loud. I originally thought it was just our theater and so didn’t really think much of it, but apparently other people have had the same issues. I think it’s even louder than normal, because I don’t recall noticing the noise level with Iron Man 3 or Star Trek Into Darkness in the same way.
Much like Batman Begins (which is to date my favorite superhero movie), Man of Steel is about how Clark Kent really becomes Superman. Even if he’s been helping people for years, this is how he figures out what kind of man he wants to be and how he wants to interact with the world. Because his human father is right: he can’t stay hidden forever, and at some point, he will have to make those decisions.
If you get a chance, check this one out in the theater. It was well worth the trip, and the audience at our showing gave the movie a hearty round of applause.
*I still think the best Superman movie I’ve seen is an animated one on Netflix called Superman vs. The Elite. It was the first one that really brought home to me how powerful Superman was and how absolutely vital his moral code is to his character. It’s seriously fantastic and if you haven’t seen it, check it out. I beg you.