12. Man of Steel (PG-13) - Runtime: 143 minutes
Starring: Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: David S. Goyer
I had a pretty good feeling going into this movie I was going to enjoy it. Previous Superman movies always have felt stale and rather dull to me. Part of that is the character himself: who can stop Superman? He's deathproof and that to me, kills any sense of suspense or drama from his story. But here Snyder and Goyer hit the reset button and create an all-new, more grounded and gritty take on the iconic superhero. Don't believe the haters out there - this is a great way to start a new comic book franchise.
The film opens up with 20 minutes of exposition on Krypton, Superman's home planet. Some say it was too long, but I don't care - we're never going to get to see that world again on film, so why not indulge the fans? I thought it was a perfect set up to actually understand Supes origins. And then we're briskly taken to Earth where we see Clark Kent living his life as a nomad. Until Lois Lane (Amy Adams) ruins his life by exposing him as an alien. Even though her Pulitzer Prize-winning ass can't save her from ridicule - she gets validated by the invasion of General Zod - a man we've seen from the beginning hell-bent on seeing his version of Krypton thrive on planet Earth.
And Zod is hugely menacing - Michael Shannon shouts and glares his way through this role and it is believable (at least I enjoyed the over-the-top performance!). And after donning the iconic suit sans the outside underwear - Superman makes it clear he has decided to become the hero everyone needs. Much of the movie is all about the choices Superman has to make - does he reveal himself to be the Man of Steel? Or does he quietly live out the rest of his life incognito? And the choice is thrust upon him when Zod shows up.
Aside from all the Christ-like metaphors and heavy-handedness of his daddy issues, Man of Steel is a very visceral and thrilling action film. Zack Snyder was by far the best choice to breathe new life into the father of all superheroes. Much of the fight scenes have an extra umph to them - whenever there's two Kryptonians duking it out - the punches come fast and you could almost feel the speed and pow in their punch. It is such a great feeling to see these larger than life figures battle each other and Snyder has such a great way of showing it.
Besides Shannon, the rest of the cast is pretty good - Cavill dons the suit admirably and is in good shape to carry this franchise forward. Amy Adams was good as Lois Lane, but her character felt a little underdeveloped as did the romantic angle of her and Superman. But the standout? By far Antje Traue as Faora-Ul. As much as Zod likes to stomp around like a big baby, Faora is silently sinister and distressing. She seriously is amazing and I don't know how her character fits into the rest of the canon, but honestly she could be the main villain in a later movie and I'd be overjoyed - she's that good! Kevin Costner and Diane Lane do a fantastic job of portraying the Kents and they have their moments in flashback scenes. Russel Crowe and Ayelet Zurer also do a great job of playing Superman's biological parents.
As much as I loved the direction of the movie and the visual punch Snyder brought to the film, there were some issues. First of all, there was way too much action at the end. It felt like it was never going to end! There's only so many times that they can show Zod/Superman crash into buildings and not even flinch. We get it - these guys are titans and anytime they battle, cities will be leveled. Speaking of which - Buzzfeed has a great article on how badly the destruction would reign down on NYC - and I kept thinking to myself during the movie "Who the hell is going to pay for all this???" So as much as Superman is the savior for humanity, he's also the financial doomsayer for Metropolis because he just cost the city billions of dollars in repairs. But that's kind of nitpicking in an otherwise great movie.
I'm not a huge comic book guy, nor do I particularly love Superman. But this movie hits all the right notes and finally makes Superman more modern (at least in film terms). It's a really good superhero movie that packs a punch (quite literally) and I highly recommend it to pretty much anyone who's looking for a good action flick.
Rating: See It!