Tired Action Scenes Aside, Man of Steel is Serious, Substantial
- Thursday, June 13, 2013
DVD Release Date: November 12, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: June 14, 2013
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language)
Genre: Science Fiction/Action/Superhero
Run Time: 143 min.
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Christopher Meloni, Ayelet Zurer
Much like Batman Begins, the first chapter in Christopher Nolan’s celebrated Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel immediately distinguishes itself from its campier predecessors by invoking a more serious tone.
Lest one think that "serious" equals "boring" along the lines of, say, the snooze-worthy Superman Returns in 2006, that’s certainly not the case here. That said, for anyone who likes their superhero movies with a side of humor a la Iron Man 3, well, you’ll have to wait until the film’s final moments for the faintest of chuckles because this Superman is basically all business.
One of the major challenges of revisiting well-traveled cinematic territory is finding a way to inject new life into the character's journey, and that’s something that Zack Snyder (300), with a little help from the aforementioned Nolan, actually manages to accomplish with Man of Steel. By considerably bulking up the familiar origin story in the first act, Snyder gives the viewer a better sense of Kal-El's home planet of Krypton, its inhabitants, and the divisive politics that threaten its future.
On a planet where a sense of morality doesn't typically figure into mass decision-making, the sacrifice that Kal-El’s parents make for their newborn son, especially in light of their own crumbling realities, is particularly moving. It's a testament to good storytelling that not even a miscast Russell Crowe as Jor-El can hamper the emotional impact. As with his portrayal of Javert in last year's Les Misérables, Crowe is the odd man out here, too. When forced to play things serious, he's stiff, and it's almost like he accidentally stumbled onto the wrong movie set—Hamlet, perhaps?
That acting misstep aside, the introduction effectively paves the way for Kal-El's next chapter, where he will be renamed Clark by his adoptive human parents and where he doesn't exactly make the smoothest of transitions from one planet to the next. The filmmakers wisely retreat from the normal fish-out-of-water experiences and focus on the stirring emotional stakes instead.
By tapping into the very real and relatable experiences that come with being a kid, even one with superhuman abilities, Snyder shows us that Clark is often bullied and a bit of a loner. He feels isolated from the rest of humanity since he's always been encouraged to keep his "true self" a secret. Being told his "gift" could forever change humanity causes him to struggle with anger, resentment and regular panic attacks.
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