MAN OF STEEL
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Henry Cavill as CLARK KENT/KAL-EL
Amy Adams as LOIS LANE
Michael Shannon as GENERAL ZOD
Diane Lane as MARTHA KENT
Russell Crowe as JOR-EL
Antje Traue as FAORA-UL
Harry Lennix as GENERAL SWANWICK
Richard Schiff as DR. EMIL HAMILTON
Christopher Meloni as COLONEL NATHAN HARDY
Kevin Costner as JONATHAN KENT
Ayelet Zurer as LARA LOR-VAN
Laurence Fishburne as PERRY WHITE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Zack Snyder
BY KEVIN CARR
The oddest effect of the release of “Man of Steel” this summer was that you could stir up as much ire online by declaring it was the greatest movie of the year as you would if you said it was the worst of the year. Like many tent pole releases of recent years, “Man of Steel” loses perspective with the thirteen-year-old-girl freak-out potential of the internet takes everything. In the end, it’s a superhero movie, a Superman movie, and not a bad one at that.
Still, it’s not without its flaws. Upon second viewing on Blu-ray, there were things I enjoyed more about the movie and things that still stuck in my craw.
Since it’s Hollywood, they couldn’t just do a faithful adaptation of the comic books (or a big screen treatment of the previous animated content, even though these tend to be the best comic book adaptations of pretty much anything compared to their big-screen counterparts). It had to be revamped, reimagined and retreated.
I’ve come to just accept this when it comes to superhero films. Going back to 1978 when Richard Donner gave us an unheard-of ice planet of Krypton and an inexplicable S shield family logo, movies had to do their own thing. I resisted this idea for years, but I’ve come to expect it from the ego-driven creative process in Hollywood.
This time around, we see a new origin of Superman (which is kind of unnecessary since the character is so well known, but okay). Starting on Krypton (again reimagined with some decent nods to John Byrne’s comic book revamp in 1986), we see Jor-El (Russell Crowe) trying to convince the Elders to abandon the planet. Faced with their stubbornness, Jor-El returns home where his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) has giving live birth to their son Kal. To save his son, Jor-El and Lara send him in a ship to Earth along with the genetic history of their race.
On Earth, we see Kal-El grow up as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), learning to use his powers for good. However, the zealous General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his underlings have escaped their Phantom Zone prison and have come to Earth to turn it into a new home for a Kryptonian future, with the plan of destroying all human life in the process. It’s up to Kal-El to stop them by any means necessary.
The good parts of the film come from a strong directing style with good pacing between the powerful action sequences. Cavill makes a fantastic Superman, not imitating Christopher Reeve as Brandon Routh had, but making the character his own with the sensibilities of the comics. In fact, Cavill saves much of the movie by preserving the Supermanness of the film where so much has deviated from the original source material.
This is a good superhero movie, showing growth and a beginning to Superman on the big screen. It runs a bit long, with too many flashbacks and exposition that unnecessarily pad out the film. Only a few moments (including the final fate of Jonathan Kent, which still boggles my mind watching it again on Blu-ray) really bother me. The only real sticking point I have is the ridiculous explanation of superpowers that emerge (or are suppressed) because of planetary atmosphere.
It was recently pointed out to me that this helps avoid the cliched use of kryptonite in future films, but just because it fixes one problem doesn’t mean it’s a good fix. The Kryptonian atmosphere has a devastating effect on Superman, which shouldn’t be so potent. More over it imbues Zod and his minions with even more power, which makes little sense considering their main power should come from the sun (and Kal-El has been soaking up solar energy for three decades while they have for only about three days).
Still, I can get past the silliness of this atmosphere deal as well as I can get past the silliness of Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon in Kryptonian unitards.
Even though the film gets too big in the end, leading to questions of where a sequel could go if Hollywood continues its desire to make things bigger in the second film, it’s perfectly enjoyable popcorn fun. I’d hardly call the film smart or subtle (with painfully heavy-handed Christ imagery around the Man of Steel), but that all comes with the territory.
The Blu-ray comes with a DVD and Digital HD UltraViolet capabilities. The main Blu-ray disc comes with a few special features, including a 30-minute look at the adaptation of the character, a 25-minute look at the action in the film, a short featurette about the design of Krypton and a really neat two-minute animated film demonstrating the evolution of Superman over the years. There’s also an out-of-place featurette about Middle Earth tacked on to help generate interest in the new extended edition of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and the upcoming “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”
The second Blu-ray features an in-character television show about the mysterious of Krypton as well as the film again, embedded with commentary, behind-the-scenes videos and interviews with the people behind the film. Replacing the Maximum Movie Mode feature that has recently been seen in Warner Bros. releases, this is a nice long-form version of behind-the-scenes material that gives in-depth insight into the movie.
For more information on the background of Krypton, check out the inforgraphic below.