The Scoop: 2013 PG-13, director Zack Snyder and starring Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams, and Russell Crowe
Summary Capsule: Krypton/Superman origin story/General Zod. It’s pretty cool.
Eunice’s Rating: “He’s one of those who knows that life Is just a leap of faith Spread your arms and hold you breath Always trust your cape”
Eunice’s Review: Superman has been in my life for a long time now. I cut my teeth on the Christopher Reeve movies. During my Nick At Night days it was George Reeves’ Adventures of Superman, and I had the cartoon on VHS. I’d grab whatever comics my brothers had lying around. Then came Lois & Clark, and I watched that too. I was kinda burned out on TV by the time Smallville came around, and the way Kristin Kreuk acts through her teeth grated on me, but I kept tabs on it. I’ve seen a couple of the animated movies, and those have been pretty well done. (I’ve even seen that horrible Supergirl movie, which redefines “horrible”)
Then came Superman Returns. And that just kinda killed my Superbuzz. And the last thing I saw Henry Cavill in was my personal biggest disappointment of 2011 Immortals. I think the article from the beginning of the year summed up my feelings pretty well, “I’ll probably go see Man of Steel, but Superman Returns left such an awful, awful taste in my mouth. The franchise needs a complete restart, I just hope the final product isn’t naval gazing-y as the trailer makes it look, and I don’t know how I feel about Papa Kent telling Clark he should let a school bus full of kids die.” So was I enthusiastic about Man of Steel? Not really, to be honest.
So the big question is ‘What is Man of Steel?’ Is it a sequel to Returns? No it’s not, not even a little bit. Is it an origins movie, yes mostly, in a way (I’ll get to that in a second). If you need labels I would call it solidly a reboot. A reboot to a franchise that desperately needed it.
The movie is told in three parts:
Part One – The destruction of planet Krypton.
High scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and wife Lara have just had a son, Kal-El, who must be kept secret as he’s the first naturally born child in centuries. See on Krypton babies are genetically engineered for certain classes and incubated in a Matrix-esque baby farm using something called The Codex. The joy of new parenthood is short lived however, the planet is dying. Against Jor-El’s advice the higher ups went toying around with the planet’s core due to an energy shortage, and now it’s come back to bite them. That’s when General Zod (Michael Shannon) decides to stage a coup, in the chaos Jor-El steals The Codex and sends it off planet with his son with the hope that both he and the Kryptonians will have a chance at a future. The coup fails and Zod and his comrades are sent to the Phantom Zone, but not before Zod killed Jor-El. All is for naught since there is no stopping the planet from, literally, coming apart.
Part Two – A man on a journey
Cut to a young man (Henry Cavill) on an Alaskan fishing boat. When a SOS is sent from an oil rig on fire the man disappears, only to show up at the rig having swam through the freezing waters. He saves the men and disappears. The drifter starts over, this is a pattern. He keeps taking on odd jobs, then eventually something will happen that causes him to blow his cover and he moves on. Through flashbacks we learn the drifter is Clark Kent, and how he grew up in a small Kansas farming town hiding the fact he was an alien and adapting to Earth. In his travels he hears whispers of shadowy federal research of an unidentified object, so he gets a job on the salvage crew. Could the object (officially being called a WWII Russian submarine, but unofficially a nearly 20,000 year old vessel) give him the one thing he’s been looking for – Answers? Also investigating the object is Pulitzer winning reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Things happen and Lois ends up stumbling onto Clark’s secret.
Part Three – A menace from the past
Clark ends up accidentally turning on the vessel’s distress beacon. Which wouldn’t matter now that Krypton is gone right? Well, when Krypton went boom the defenses holding the prisoners in the Phantom Zone shut off, leaving a ship full of obsessively violent military born and bred Kryptonian convicts free in space. Led by Zod and his right hand woman Faora-Ul, they follow the signal to Earth looking for Jor-El’s son so they can get The Codex back and rebuild Krypton on Earth, after getting rid of all us pesky humans of course.
You get the prequel, the origin story, and the sequel all in one movie.
“…Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The infant of Krypton is now the Man of Steel: Superman! To best be in a position to use his amazing powers in a never-ending battle for truth and justice, Superman has assumed the disguise of Clark Kent…”
That above quote. Everyone’s heard it, or part of it, at least once probably, right? And that’s the inherent problem with making a Superman origins movie these days. Even if it’s a necessity (and it was), how do you pull it off without boring the life out of your audience?
Step one: Focus a little more on Krypton. Up ’til now in the movies Krypton’s been given a passing mention – it’s where Superman is from, it was about to blow up so his parents shipped him off and he landed on earth. In MoS we get a better look at this doomed planet, and instead of being a side story, seeds for plot points in acts Two and Three are sewn in to tie it all together. Exposition will get the job done, but if you can show it instead of tell it it makes a bigger impact. Also, I’m not the biggest Crowe fan, but I think he nailed being Jor-El.
Step two: Make Clark’s childhood mean something. Movie Superman’s childhood what do you think of? The Kents found a baby in a space ship. A toddler lifting the Kent’s truck right? A little gee whiz aw shucks mid-West right? Instead of showing it a linear fashion Clark’s childhood is shown in flashback as what happens around grown Clark reminds him of events from growing up as That Weird Kent Boy. Adapting to Earth and its yellow sun. Having to make the choices of saving people or keeping what he is a secret. The lessons his Earth parents taught him.
Step three: Don’t be afraid to cut out the hokeyness. What happened to the Superman movies? They got cheesier and cheesier. And I can sum this up for Returns in one quote: “WRONG!” I know some people (myself included) were worried that with Christopher Nolan being involved in the script, it would lose too much of its comic book feel. Yes Superman is still an alien. Yes he still wears the body suit and has a long red cape. But there’s nothing tongue in cheek or ham handed about it. Clark still fights for truth and justice, but the movie never makes fun of that fact. MoS goes the straight faced route, but I don’t think it lost anything. I will say though that the Clark hiding he’s an alien is more at the front than super heroism, though Clark is heroic, but since it’s an origin story and there is the fact that people would have to deal with being introduced to a god-like being flying around I’m okay with it. And when I say it’s played straight, I’m talking about how the material is handled, there are a couple of amusing moments so it’s not all serious the whole movie.
“How do you spell ‘massacre’?”
You know where Returns actually lost me the though? I can pinpoint the exact moment – When Lois Lane doesn’t know how to spell (I still haven’t entirely forgiven Kate Bosworth). I love Amy Adams anyways, but I really liked MoS‘s Lois. Since the question of “When is she going to figure out Clark and Superman are the same person?” is out of the equation we can just move forward with both characters as individuals and together. I approve. Also, and this is a problem I had with Thor‘s Jane Foster, she’s worked into the plot as more than just kidnap bait. Without spoiling plot, I appreciate the efforts made and that the execution was mostly solid. Amy has my okay to come back as Lois.
“…That’s because in his mind he didn’t just kill him, he baptized him first.”
That quote came from a discussion about Michael Shannon’s character on Boardwalk Empire. Shannon has mastered the art of playing crazy guys who believe they are doing the right thing because they believe in their cause, and have no idea that they are crazy and have no conscious that their actions are wrong. Where Terence Stamp played Zod to the hilt as flashy and mustache twirly as possible, Shannon’s Zod just cannot understand how no one else sees what he’s doing is perfectly logical and natural. I know some people weren’t okay with this Zod, but I liked this take.
“You know, I really enjoyed that. Not just comparing it to Superman Returns. On its own, it was really good.”
On the more technical side of things, this is actually the first movie I’ve seen in an IMAX theater, and I don’t regret it. The action on Krypton was really good and there’s lots of actiony stuff going on, but there’s one thing I want to highlight. Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) fight scenes are pretty cool. I just loved them. They were so violently pretty. Yay for pretty violence. Also, I’d argue that this is Hans Zimmer’s best soundtrack since the first Pirates movie. I’m not saying it was distracting or took me out of the movie, it fits perfectly with the movie, but I found myself a couple of times just listening to it and enjoying it. I’d say after Sucker Punch this is Zack Snyder’s best work.
“There was too many endings.”
Was there anything wrong with the movie? There was perhaps a little too much collateral damage in the movie? Is it possible for there to be too much action in an action movie? Usually you build up to the big smash bang ending, but as soon as the first fight between Superman and the Kryptonians happens the movie is nonstop leveling cities, for like the next hour. I’m not saying it’s bad or there’s no good moments, but there’s so much building smashing. This quote is from Elijah Wood talking about a conversation he had with Jack Nicholson about Return of the King, and it seems fitting here. Off the top of my head MoS has no less than five moments that felt like endings. I actually didn’t really mind this fact, while the movie is a little on the long side (143 minutes) I don’t see where any of it could have been cut. …Except we maybe could’ve shortened the final showdown between Supes and Zod (ending three by the way) it just kept going like the Enegizer bunny. And I’ll talk about how that matchup ended at the bottom of the page as it is super spoilery.
I’m not sure how I felt about Diane Lane’s Martha Kent. It’s not that I have a problem with her, I thinks it’s the accent they had going for her, I dunno there was just something off about it.
So we’ve discussed the story and some things I liked, and some things I didn’t, but what about The Cape himself? This would usually be where I write a love note to Henry Cavill, but I’m going to be above that this time (I can’t promise I won’t put something in Intermission! though). Henry Cavill plays Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman completely earnest, completely honest. I can’t find anything that I didn’t like in his depiction of Superman. I thought it was a great performance and excellent casting.
So I actually really loved it, and plan on buying it. Seriously, check it out in theaters, it’s where you’ll get the most out of it I promise you.
I have one more thing, that I want to talk about because it’s something that’s really bugging people about the movie, but I’ll make it the last since it’s a huge spoiler.
SPOILER Last chance to stop reading. Okay. So, I wouldn’t usually talk about an actual ending, but this is a big one in terms of the Superman character. He actually kills Zod, and not just a copout allows him to die ala Batman Begins, I mean he is put in a position to either kill him or watch a family be slowly murdered, and chooses to kill him. It was a little disturbing for Superman to have to kill someone, and that’s kinda how the movie treats it too in the context of scene. It was unexpected and dark, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. While Superman may have actively killed someone, it was to protect innocents, so in that way I buy it more than Batman’s “I don’t have to save you.” which was completely and definitely out of character for Bats. And then he, Supes, is all torn up over it instead of being all ‘Oh well’, apparently this is exactly the reaction that Snyder was trying to get across so… I just, I dunno.
- Lexcorp on the gas trucks. Wayne Enterprises on the satellite. (We all got excited and started whispering to each other. Because we’re all huge nerds)
- While I don’t remember anyone actually saying where Clark grew up, Smallville is on the water tower
- Wilhelm Scream alert
- The sign that says “Days since last accident 143” goes to zero while Superman and Zod are destroying the construction site. Ha!
- Superman “S” symbols
- Anyone else get chills when he put on the glasses?
- So Zack Snyder wanted to put in shirtless scenes “because throughout the film, you see [Henry Cavill] in a form-fitting body suit where he appears extremely muscular. He said the audience would think it was all rubber muscles, but it was important to show them it was indeed Henry Cavill’s body in that suit and that it was all real.” I just want to say how much I respect Snyder’s creative decision. Two thumbs up, Zack!
- In an interview with Jay Leno, Henry Cavill said he missed the call from Zack Snyder for the role while playing World of Warcraft. So hold on, he’s gorgeous, has an accent, talented, Superman, age appropriate, AND plays WoW? Henry, we’re meant to be! Call me!
- I want a Fortress of Solitude (Or as I call it the Mancave of Me Time)
- The way the trucker just bounces off Clark’s chest, I love it. Good luck with that, guy.
- I know there are a lot of comic book references all over, but it’s been too long since I’ve actually read the comics for me to remember specifics, and I don’t want to just repost other people’s hard compiling work, but it’s out there to find.
Jor-El: What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?
Lara Lor-Van: He will be an outcast. They’ll kill him.
Jor-El: How? He’ll be a god to them.
Young Clark Kent: The world’s too big, Mom.
Martha Kent: Then make it small. Focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island out in the ocean. Can you see it?
Young Clark Kent: What was I supposed to do? Let them die?
Jonathan Kent: It’s not from this world, Clark. And neither are you.
Jonathan Kent: You’re not just anyone. One day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it’s going to change the world.
Young Clark Kent: Can’t I just… keep pretending I’m your son?
Jonathan Kent: You are my son.
Jor-El: You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.
Lois Lane: You let them handcuff you?
Clark Kent: Wouldn’t be much of surrender if i resisted.
Lois Lane: What this “S” stand for?
Clark Kent: It’s not an “S”, on my world it means “Hope.”
Lois Lane: Well, here it’s an “S.” How about Sup-
Clark Kent: You killed my father?
General Zod: I did. And not a day goes by that it does not haunt me. But if I had to do it again I would.
Faora: You will not win. For every human you save, we will kill a million more.
Colonel Nathan Hardy: This man is not our enemy.
Martha Kent: Nice suit, son.
Colonel Nathan Hardy: You’re right, “A good death is its own reward.”
Lois Lane: You know, they say it’s all downhill after the first kiss.
Clark Kent: I think that only applies if your kissing a human.
General Zod: I was bred to be a warrior, Kal. Trained my entire life to master my senses. Where did you train? On a farm?!
General Zod: If you love these people so much, you can mourn for them!
Clark Kent: Don’t do this! Stop! Don’t!
General Zod: Never!
General Swanwick: How can we trust you?
Clark Kent: General, I grew up in Kansas.
Lois Lane: Welcome to the Planet.
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