Film and TV

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Man of Steel

Title: Man of Steel

Will You Believe a Man Can Fly? Depends on the man: Kal-El? Sure. R. Kelly? No.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Kansas Jayhawks out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Handsome alien battles less handsome aliens for whatever's left of the planet after they're done beating the crap out of each other.

Tagline: None. I guess they figured a character called "Superman" is pretty superlative.

Better Tagline: "If you go a million miles away, I'll track you down, girl."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The destruction of his planet Krypton imminent, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) launches his newborn son to a new home on Earth. Raised incognito, "Clark" learns of his past from Earth father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and sets out to learn more of his history and alien powers. "Lucky" for him, the past is about to catch up with him in the form of a rogue military leader, General Zod (Michael Shannon), who attempted to overthrow the government of Krypton, was banished for his crimes and has come to Earth seeking something he believes to be in Clark's possession.

See It/Rent It/Skip It: See it. I'm writing this part the night before release so I know there are a surprising (to me) number of negative reviews. Meh.

"Critical" Analysis: It's difficult to talk about Man of Steel without bringing up the last Superman movie (Superman Returns). Not because I want to get into an elaborate comparison/contrast, but because so much of what that movie got wrong, MoS helps us forget, somewhat.

Example? Brandon Routh's Superman was a mopey creep who seemed to enjoy spying on his ex-girlfriend more than fighting for truth, justice and something something. Henry Cavill gives us something we haven't gotten on film in a while: a SUPERman, with all the awesome power the name implies.

Director Zack Snyder wisely avoids a linear narrative, but keeps the flashbacks to a minimum, peppering Clark's current search for answers with moments from his childhood right up until the property damage takes over in the final reel. But no matter when, or what, the character always demonstrates a desire to help people; to fulfill the destiny his parents Jor and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) hoped he'd take on when they sent him away from their doomed world.

I point this out because, a few introspective moments aside, this isn't The Dark Blue Knight. Christopher Nolan produced the film and came up with the story (along with screenwriter David S. Goyer), but keeps the brooding to a minimum, even during Clark's...difficult adolescence. Supes isn't a guy looking for the first opportunity to mothball his costume and live overseas with Anne Hathaway, he's doing everything in his power to save his adopted home. If there is a criticism to be made, it's that the movie's third act is so smash-tastic it effectively brings what character development we've seen to a screeching halt. And then drops a skyscraper on it.

Growing up, I was more of a Spider-Man guy. In fact, the first Superman comic I ever got was that "Battle of the Century" Marvel/DC crossover (Two whole dollars! In 1976!). So I can't speak to certain aspects of Kryptonian life, or how much of a fascist the comic version of General Zod is (because he's pretty extreme here). None of it really matters, because Man of Steel is much closer to the Superman movie I've wanted to see since 1982.

It might be hard to judge Cavill fairly, given how little he had to do to eclipse Routh. He benefits from not instantly reminding us of Christopher Reeve and also being yoked like a mofo. He's also bolstered by solid performances from Shannon (no small feat playing a megalomaniacal tyrant without going into full ham mode), Crowe and Costner. In fact, Pa Kent might give us Costner's best tearjerk moment since Field of Dreams ("You *are* my son," you saw it in the previews, so quit bitching).

And I'm not going to claim there are no goofy plot elements. I mean, guh, you've got pajama-clad aliens throwing satellites at each other. But I will say this: The stakes this time around are a little higher than Lex Luthor's diabolically dumbass real estate scheme from Returns.

Having seen Man of Steel in 2D and 3D, I can safely say skip the latter. The conversion isn't well done, and I didn't notice any resulting enhancements. That said, it's a fairly cynicism-free summer blockbuster and you should see it on the big screen. I'm not sure what more of an endorsement I can give.

Man of Steel is in theaters today. Only kneel before Zod if, you know, you're comfortable doing so.