Man of Steel Review: An Invincible Alien Gets Humanized

I have avoided spoilers in this review.

I was lucky enough to be at the San Francisco premiere of Man of Steel, Dan Snyder’s take on one of the world’s most iconic characters. Is it the next Batman Begins or is it a Green Lantern?

The story for Man of Steel follows the basic tenants of Superman’s origin story — his parents sending him to Earth while his home planet of Krypton is destroyed, him being found by the Kents (Costner does a fantastic job as Pa Kent, by the way), and his romantic interest in Lois Lane.

But the story takes many deviations from Clark Kent’s well known story as well. the first 20-30 minutes are filled with action led by Russell Crowe’s Jor-El and Michael Shannon’s General Zod. It sets the stage for Zod’s eventual arrival to Earth, which results in a series of epic fights whose epic scale is tough to describe. The damage done to the Earth by the alien invaders would have to be at least a few hundred billion. Cities get leveled, punches destroy buildings, and fights end with casualties, despite Superman’s best efforts to save everyone.

general-zod-man-of-steel-superman

But the movie isn’t about the action — it’s about Clark Kent’s attempt to find his place in the world, his quest to learn of his heritage, and his first appearance to the public. Henry Cavill makes for a convincing Superman. He’s good hearted, confused, and forced to make sacrifices that eat away at him. He’s a flawed hero who doesn’t feel like a god, but a human. That might have been the toughest job of this entire movie.

The movie intelligently doesn’t just start out with Clark’s childhood. Instead, it weaves the important pieces of his past into his present quest for answers. Costner shines in this role — he is truly Clark’s father, despite not coming from the same world.

The main adversaries also do a fantastic job of providing Superman with enemies he must struggle to overcome. Shannon does just as skillful of a job playing General Zod. His motivations are clear, his brutality is just as apparent, and his soldiers make for some lively fights that capture the attention. He isn’t a one-dimensional villain, but a man whose intentions are understandable but whose methods are deplorable.

Amy Adams may have done the best job though with Lois Lane. She isn’t a damsel in distress — she’s a hard-nosed reporter who does her part while connecting with Clark Kent in a way nobody else has connected with him. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about Lois and Clark, but that’s why sequels exist.

superman-man-of-steel

In fact, many of the most iconic parts of Superman lore do not make an appearance in this movie. I won’t spoil it by saying which ones make the cut and don’t, but Snyder does a masterful job of not trying to tell too many stories at once, and has just enough fan service to please the die hards. It also opens up a lot of plotlines to be explored in the sequels.

The action does go a tad long, and there are a few minor plot items that make you scratch your head, but overall Snyder and Nolan deliver on the gigantic promise of Man of Steel. This movie lives up to expectations.

  • Jay

    my goodness, I have to stop at the 3rd paragraph. You are spoiling too much of the movie dude! At least give people warning!