“You’ll believe a man can fly.”
This tagline graced one of the first posters of 1978’s “Superman The Movie.” It was made for a whopping 55 million with a total worldwide gross of over 300 million, and made the unknown Christopher Reeve, a proverbial Hollywood star. Despite the campy “Truth, Justice and the American Way”, we embraced him as an icon of good,giving our country hope for the future. We all fell in love with the man of steel.
After 3 sequels and an overly dramatic, meagerly action packed reboot attempt to reignite the franchise, 300 director Zack Snyder actually hits the target that Richard Donner struck 35 years ago with Man Of Steel. Considerably less campy than any of it’s predecessors, and less dry than Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns”, Snyder offers up a more earnest account of Krypton’s last son. Probably more earnest than some fans would like.
Man of Steel begins as you would expect a Superman franchise reboot, on planet Krypton. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) prominent scientist, fervently warns it’s council of leaders that they all must evacuate the planet due to their unwise mining of energy from the core ,causing it to destabilize. Even in this part of the universe, the laws of physics apply. Just before the planet is destroyed and after the villainous General Zod (Michael Shannon) orchestrates a government coup, Jor-El and his wife Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) hurriedly launch a small, but stalwart spacecraft to earth containing their newborn son Kal- El to save him from the inevitable catastrophe.
Rabid Superman fans know the rest of the story forwards and backwards along with those who just know the basic tale. Snyder’s version follows it, using periodic dramatic flashbacks of Clark Kent’s childhood, becoming a foster kid to Martha and Jonathan (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) and the many pro-blems he encounters into adult hood. It’s quite interesting because we actually see “mild mannered” Clark grow up, instead of skipping right to the Fortress of Solititude.
If you’re thinking that this might be a total make over of 1980’s Superman 2, you’re right. It’s simply more ferocious, especially the brutal hand to hand combat between Superman, Zod and his two sidekicks, Faora (Antje Traue) and Nam-Ek, a considerably amplified Non from the 80’s sequel.
Anyone who has watched the epic 300, knows Zack Snyder’s adoration for gra-phic violence. He doesn’t let up here either. This is a Superman you have never seen before. Snyder deliberately pulls out all the stops, letting The Tudors alum Henry Cavill inhabit the role, and without imitating any predecessors, exhibit an intense aggressivenes that some may not be accustomed to seeing.
Sporting some modest comedy, David Goyer’s dialogue thankfully bestows stronger personalities among the supporting cast. Shannon’s General Zod is a classic “man you love to hate”, partnered with Traues’ Faora who, depending on your point of view, is probably much worse. Laurence Fishburne gives new definition to tough editor in the role of the Daily Planet’s Perry White, and Amy Adams’ Lois Lane nixes her damsel in distress mode, getting more dynamically involved from the inside of Kryptonian technology.
It has been said, frequently with marriage, the third times a charmer. Unfortunately, the adage has not always applied to the movies. However, it could be said that Man of Steel has broken it, since this is only the second time Superman has been resurrected. And with much more positive results sans potential for further adventures. At this writing, Warner Brothers has already confirmed a sequel with the caped crusader himself, Batman, as co-star. If the much anticipated team up of two of the greatest superheroes of all time is as good as Man of Steel, comic giant DC may finally be a match for Marvel’s franchise success.