Man Of Steel
– for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane
Running Time: 2 hours, 28 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: June 14, 2013
A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
With the runaway success of many superhero franchises, it has seemed only natural that one of the biggest superheroes of all time, Superman, would get a new big screen treatment. He’s resided in animated and live action form many, many times over on TV and even more times over in comic book form, but Superman has only appeared in a handful of feature films. From the Christopher Reeve-starrers in the late 70s and 80s (not counting the vintage serials that preceded him), to the 2006 quasi-sequel Superman Returns, starring newcomer Brandon Routh, there was a very specific tone that had been set for the iconic alien hero. After the Batman Dark Knight trilogy wrapped, director Christopher Nolan helped craft a story with screenwriter David S. Goyer, with director Zack Snyder behind the camera, to reboot Superman from scratch. Casting Henry Cavill in the lead (the once-bratty kid from The Count of Monte Cristo!) with Amy Adams as his Lois Lane and Russell Crowe as his Kryptonian father, Man Of Steel is a truly modern retelling of the superhero’s beginnings and one that fans of all ages are likely to enjoy.
It should be known, however, that Man Of Steel is a bit of a chameleon. Snyder does everything big; his previous ventures like Sucker Punch, Watchmen, and 300, are all very violent, very stylized films. Having only seen Sucker Punch from that list (and only because Warner had sent us the film for review), I became very, very worried about Superman being in the hands of a filmmaker like Snyder. Still, while Snyder does get distracted by artsy shots, shaky cam usage and dramatic editing (like the slamming of a coffee pot into a coffee maker followed by the close-up of a slamming door — all very zoomed-in, brief, and seemingly random in their execution for… what? Style?), Snyder has his fingers on the pulse of good acting and emotional film6making. Furthermore, Snyder has a thirst for action and destruction the likes of which Michael Bay has only begun to scratch the surface of. The dizzying destruction in the trilogy of Transformers films from Bay was multiplied collectively across that trilogy in this movie’s second half alone. With General Zod & Co. making Earth into a virtual playground, it was truly a battle of titans as Superman had it out with these aliens. By the time yet another building is demolished as their bodies rocket through the structure and another skyscraper collapses, you’ll find the destruction overwhelming if not exhausting. But, surprisingly enough, Snyder knows how to use this absolute excess to his advantage. Hans Zimmer’s pounding and emotional score is utilized in a similar way as in the Batman series, and while Zimmer downplays the heroic cues that John Williams made famous with the original films (which IS missed, by the way), he does his best to keep the tone of the film grounded and gripping. General Zod is more of a military force here–trading the elegant speech of Terence Stamp’s take on the character for an almost southern drawl and brute force personality. Zod is more like a weapon personified, while Crowe’s Jor-El contrasts with a more sophisticated, upper crust Kryptonian personality. Zod is crass and unrefined, bent on destruction and self-preservation, while Jor and his son Kal have their hearts and minds in the right places. Kal-El spends the film in a sense of self-discovery that is, at times, heart-wrenching. The film opens with Kal’s birth and the fall of Krypton and then cuts to him in his thirties as he lives as a drifter of sorts. We then get little flashbacks throughout the movie that touch on Kal’s childhood as a son to the Kents–from his discovery of his alien powers in school to his struggle with knowing how and when to use his gifts. Jonathan Kent serves as the guide for Clark’s life and it all comes to a head in one painfully emotional sequence. It’s this emotion that fuels the character and therefore the story, giving it the meat and potatoes it needs to be powerful on multiple levels. The piles of destruction, which claims many, many innocent lives in the process, force Clark to become the man he needs to become.
Man Of Steel also contains some really intriguing spiritual imagery and symbolism. For starters, the very role of another being’s only son coming the Earth as its savior has always been a parallel for Superman with Christ. It’s something that Superman Returns even embelished a bit. But in Man Of Steel, Clark even finds himself in a church seeking guidance from a minister, and Snyder doesn’t shy away from blatantly displaying a beautiful image of Jesus on the stained-glass window just over Clark’s shoulder. Later, we learn that Clark has been living among the humans for 33 years of his life (like Christ), and in another scene, as Superman makes a conscious decision to save Earth, he briefly forms a “cross” position. This alone adds some extra depth to the film that is worth discussing after the credits role.
Across the board, the performances in the movie are solid. Cavill is fantastic as the Man of Steel, and he’s truly great as Clark as well. I also loved Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent and Diane Lane as his mother Martha. They played the parts beautifully, and I have to admit this may be one of my all-time favorite roles for Costner. Similarly, Crowe brought a lot to the table for Jor-El. Marlon Brando was decent in the original films, but he wasn’t given a whole lot to do. Plus, his performance was more stoic. Here, Crowe was given a lot more screen time and served as a guide for Kal once he discovered his Kryptonian past. Crowe even gets some action scenes in the opening moments of the film. Michael Shannon really turns in a strong performance as Zod, but I can’t help but miss Stamp’s more eloquent delivery. I liked that about the original Zod, whereas there wasn’t much likeable about this rendition at all. He was bent on bringing Krypton back to life, at any cost, while Stamp’s Zod wanted a world to rule as his own. Shannon proved a formidable foe for Cavill’s Superman, but the fact he wasn’t all that likeable, or someone you could even be sympathetic toward, made him less fun to watch.
The content for the movie is a solid PG-13. The language isn’t too bad, with one “S” word over a staticky airplane pilot’s feed, and a military general literally saying “effing” near the end of the movie. There’s only mild blasphemy with a couple uses of “Oh my G-d” as exclamations, and then there were a handful of uses of the “a” word and “h*ll” (and “d*ck,” as well). The sensuality is very minor, with just a passionate kiss between Superman and Lois, so the biggest red flag for the movie is the violence — and it’s intense. While it’s seldom graphic, it’s nearly constant in the later half of the movie. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s just destruction upon destruction. Zod and his people beat people, throw them around, and destroy just about anything in their path. We see the destruction of a planet and flames shoot from the ground, consuming everything, with a fireball consuming one person in particular. Incredible destruction is brought down on a major city and we see buildings collapse, cars tossed and flattened, and many people destroyed in its wake. Also, there’s a final brawl between Superman and a villain; SPOILER (You’ve been warned): In this battle, it comes to a climax as Superman has a villain in a head lock and they threaten a family of civilians with their heat vision. We see the family cowering in its path and Superman tries to stop the villain but can’t in time. When he sees what they have done (we don’t see it), he snaps the villain’s neck, killing him. It’s pretty intense, especially considering that a family, including kids, were vaporized by the enemy, so it’s definitely something some parents who are on the fence about the intensity of the movie might like to know before going into seeing it.
Overall, I left the theater wowed by Snyder’s take on Man Of Steel. It’s arguably the best Superman film to date, despite still containing some flaws. Because it’s an origin film, some iconic Superman things like working at the Daily Planet, Lex Luthor, or even Kryptonite, are all things yet to be touched on or explored here. Some other artistic liberties were also taken–including the secrecy of Superman’s identity–while Snyder’s directional style is rather an acquired taste at times (especially when the camera is way too shaky and you’d love to just smack the cameraman). All that, paired with an over-the-top finale that would make Michael Bay drool, and you have an almost-perfect fresh retelling of the Superman story. I’m eager to see how a carefully-plotted sequel would fare, but after seeing Man Of Steel, you can count me on board. It’s a meaty, action-packed superhero flick with heart and soul that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the hero, or the genre, on the big screen.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/14/13)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Lara shows cleavage in her uniform; Superman and Lois share a very passionate kiss; When Superman is an infant, we see his bare genitals in two scenes.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “effing;” 1 “S” word, 3 “a” words, 1 “*ssh*le,” 3 “h*ll,” 1 “d*mmit” (and 2 uses of “d*mn” as in the meaning “damnation”), 4 “oh my G-d,” 2 “d*ck,” 1 “cr*p”
Alcohol/Drugs: We see Clark working in a bar, serving alcohol. A man throws beer in Clark’s face; We see people drinking in a bar; Clark has a bottle of Budweiser in his hand at his house.
Blood/Gore: We see a bloody cut across General Zod’s face; Lois is shot in the side with a Kryptonian weapon and we see some blood on her jacket and a bloody hole through her sweater underneath; We see a vial of blood that has been pulled from Superman’s body; Superman spits blood on the floor aboard Zod’s ship; Superman has a vision where he’s standing on a sea of skulls and then he begins to sink into them; We see a mummified skeleton in a pod on a Kryptonian ship; We briefly see a decomposed, mummified corpse on a planet’s surface; We see a couple x-ray visions of people’s skeletons and organs.
Violence: A very intense amount of violence and destruction: Zod and his people try to take over Krypton and they shoot some of the elders, vaporizing some and killing others. Jor-El resists being taken into custody and later fights with Zod. Finally, Zod ends up stabbing and killing Jor-El. He tries to destroy Kal-El’s escape pod but is stopped by the other Kryptonians and imprisoned; Lara watches as the planet explodes and then she is consumed by a ball of fire; We see Clark grown up and rushing into a firey oil rig to rescue men trapped in the flames. Part of it collapses on him and he ends up in the water unconscious; We see a flashback of a school bus that goes off a bridge into the water after blowing a tire. Kids are trapped on board as it fills up with water, but Clark pushes it safely onto land; Some kids push and threaten Clark in another flashback but they stop when they see that his dad is nearby. When he stands, we see Clark had crushed a gate pole that he had been gripping; A man harasses a waitress in a bar. When Clark tells him to stop, the man throws beer in his face. Later, the man goes out to his truck and we see that the truck has been speared by telephone poles (by Clark in retaliation); A Kryptonian device attacks Clark. Later, it shoots Lois, wounding her, and Clark helps her by cauterizing the wound with his heat vision and we see her screaming in pain; Zod threatens Martha, flipping a car into her house and then holding her up by the throat. Superman then tackles Zod, throwing him into a town nearby. Zod and his people attack Superman, and the military show up to stop them all, destroying many buildings and cars, and crashing a helicopter in the process. Some people probably are killed during the attack; The massive finale is a tremendous amount of destruction that involves buildings being demolished and crumbling, cars being flattened and destroyed, and many, many people being killed, vaporized, or crushed (not shown graphically, though); Zod and Superman have a massive brawl through city buildings; A woman is trapped under rubble with a giant weapon that threatens to destroy her and people trying to rescue her; Zod makes Superman have a vision of Earth being taken over. We then see him standing on a sea of skulls and Superman begins to sink into them to his horror; Jor-El helps Lois escape a Kryptonian ship by telling her to shoot some of Zod’s people. She is then attacked but escapes; Superman has a man in a head lock who has heat vision firing out of his eyes, threatening to destroy a family cowering near the beam. We then see Superman’s reaction as apparently the family are killed off camera and so he snaps the man’s neck in response; A gigantic alien craft attacks the planet and begins reshaping the terrain; Superman crashes a big spy satellite; and more intense superhero and action violence.