Man of Steel
Reboot: Successful

With the help of producer / project overseer Christopher Nolan, director Zack Snyder has been charged with completely rebooting the Superman franchise. In many respects, Snyder is faced with an even bigger task than Nolan was when he rebooted the Batman franchise.  People may love Batman, but Superman is nothing short of an American icon.  Erasing fans’ memories of the original films may be a tough task, but with Man of Steel, Snyder at least comes close.

The movie opens on Krypton and we are treated to a much more lively planet than the icy nothingness that was Superman’s home world in the 1978 film.  It’s a planet where babies are bred, not born, but Jor-El and his wife Lara have just had their race’s first naturally born child in centuries.  With the planet crumbling around them and the maniacal General Zod rebelling against its leaders, they have no choice but to send their young son away to a distant planet.  This planet is, of course, Earth, where the yellow sun will give young Kal-El unbelievable powers.

Russell Crowe as Jor-el in Man of SteelDiscovered in a field and adopted by loving Farmers, Clark Kent has a troubled childhood.  After struggling to control these powers that he can hardly understand, Clark must then keep this side of himself a secret as his human father fears the human race will not be able to accept him for who he is.  That’s all thrown out the window, however, when General Zod traces him to Earth and begins an evil plot to destroy the people of Earth and use the planet to rebuild the Kryptonian race.  Clark has no choice but to reveal himself to the people of Earth and convince them that he means no harm.  Saving them from extinction would probably be a good way to start.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing Snyder when rebooting the franchise was getting audiences to accept a new actor in the iconic role.  Fortunately, he seems to have found his man in Henry Cavill.  As soon as the actor walks on screen, you immediately accept him as the Man of Steel.  Not only does he look the part, but he acts the part as well.  Much like Christopher Reeve, he delivers his lines about morality and saving the human race in a way that you just can’t help but place your trust in him.  The only element of the classic character in which he wasn’t tested was that of Clark Kent, the newspaper man, an element that was mostly missing from this version.

Cavill is surrounded by a talented cast.  Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are especially enjoyable as Jonathan and Martha Kent.  The role of the Kents is often overlooked in the Superman universe, but if not for their lessons of making good choices and doing the right thing, Kal-El’s powers could have been used for a much more evil purpose.  Costner and Lane both do a good job of portraying this important element.  Amy Adams and Russell Crowe also do well as Lois Lane and Jor-El, respectively. Jor-El even gets his own action scene, before becoming Kal-El’s spiritual guide in the Fortress of Solitude.

The only disappointment in terms of the cast was Michael Shannon as General Zod.  It sounded like ideal casting when it was first announced, but the actor plays Zod a little too whiny, which makes him that much less menacing.  Operating under the theory that a superhero movie is only as good as its villain (see The Dark Knight), this is part of the reason that the movie just does not quite reach jaw-dropping status.  Perhaps that will be remedied in the inevitable sequel.  Although he is never specifically mentioned, Lex Luthor’s presence is visually referenced a couple of times in the film.

Speaking of visuals, the effects in this movie are very impressive, something that has come to be expected from a Zack Snyder movie.  There’s also plenty of action throughout, but nothing as memorable as audiences might have hoped.  The climactic action sequences even seem to go a little (or a lot) too far when it comes to destruction.  Zack Snyder’s trademark style is seemingly forgotten in an action climax that felt more like it belonged in a Michael Bay movie; specifically, Transformers.  It would have been nice if the action scenes could have been a little more stylish.  After all, there are only so many times an audience can watch a guy get thrown through a building.

Man of Steel may not be the landmark, mind-blowing superhero adventure we all hoped it would be, but it accomplishes its main goal:  rebooting the franchise.  This is a very good first chapter and origin story, which should pave the way for a new series of Superman movies.  The best is likely yet to come and I can’t wait.

Man of Steel is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.”  There’s some pretty intense action sequences in this film that might scare younger viewers, but other than that it is pretty family-friendly.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Man of Steel.