Man of Steel had the opportunity to be a lot better but as it stands, I actually found it enjoyable and kind of liked some of the changes Zack Snyder, David Goyer and, in small part, Christopher Nolan, made, but I can understand why others would be fervently against them. However, and acknowledging it doesn’t hold a candle to the Donner classic, it’s a new beginning for what is hopefully a serviceable franchise and universe.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 143 min. – $35.99 | November 12, 2013
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Writer(s): Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster (characters); David S. Goyer (screenplay), David S. Goyer & Christopher Nolan (story)
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christophe Meloni, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne
Theatrical Release Date: June 14, 2013
Features: Featurettes, DVD Copy, UltraViolet Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 3
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 38.8 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
Note: This review does contain SPOILERS about the plot, so procede with caution or skip to the features.
Not since perhaps Superman Returns has a super hero movie caused a rift amongst the online community than the arguments over Man of Steel, Warner Brother’s latest attempt to revive one of the most iconic characters who has suffered underneath two lame sequels and, in the views of this writer, the downright aforementioned dull quasi-reboot/sequel.
The story opens on Krypton as Jor-El (RUSSELL CROWE) witnesses a power struggle as General Zod (MICHAEL SHANNON) leads a coup to overthrow the government as they fail to take action or heed the warnings that Krypton is doomed. However, Jor-El and Zod do not see eye to eye and refuses to join in Zod’s quest. Instead, he and wife Lara (AYELET ZURER), having given birth to the first natural born Kryptonian in centuries, sends his son, Kal-El, to Earth knowing their planet is doomed. As the ship takes off, Zod kills Jor-El and due to the murder, as well as the coup, he and his cohorts, are sent to the Phantom Zone though Zod does get the last laugh as soon after, the planet does indeed explode.
The movie then takes us back and forth in time a la Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (and Nolan, along with producing, did some work on the story) fast forwarding to Kal-El/Clark (HENRY CAVILL) doing his “Deadliest Catch” routine, rescues workers on an oil rig which has caught on fire. Throughout, we get glimpses of his childhood being raised by Jonathan (KEVIN COSTNER) and Martha Kent (DIANE LANE), troubles at school being bullied, and having witnesses to a heroic act of saving his classmates as it plunged into a lake.
Meanwhile, we next meet Lois Lane (AMY ADAMS), a trepid Daily Planet reporter has inserted herself at a military installation, run by one Colonel Nathan Hardy (CHRISTOPHER MELONI), in the arctic where an unknown vessel has been uncovered though what it is and the origins are unknown. Also there is Clark making tunnels with his heat-seeking vision and finding the vessel which is in fact of Kryptonian origins and, using an emblem given to him by Jor-El, creates a hologram utilizing his memories and guiding Kal-El/Clark to his origins and place on Earth amongst humans. It’s a nice update on the old body-less hologram which, even today, is kind of cool, though more to do with Marlon Brando.
Just as Superman gets his footing, or more appropriate his flight, with a new suit that not only is conveniently in a vessel which crash landed in 18,000+ years ago but also is formed fitted, but that pesky General Zod is back, returning from the Phantom Zone in search of Kal-El and more importantly a codex, which Superman unknowingly has, which contains Kryptonian DNA. Zod’s master plan is to repopulate the planet with Kryptonians but it leaves no room for the human species, thus Superman, despite being offered to join, chooses to oppose Zod in his endeavors.
Given the mythos and history behind each of the main characters, I decided to break them down one by one:
Clark Kent/Superman: Henry Cavill’s take on the Man of Steel isn’t anything special though he has the looks and charm to pull it off. However, unlike some of the more recent (i.e. 2000s) super heroes on film, he’s not quite there with the likes of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man or even Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, but hopefully with subsequent sequels we will see the dual roles between Superman and Clark Kent.
Lois Lane: As with Cavill, Amy Adams really doesn’t have a lot character to work with. Yes, she’s attractive and a fine actress but the scenes between her and Cavill haven’t quite meshed and compared with the palpable on-screen chemistry by Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, it’s a bit disappointing this one couldn’t come close to it. That said, this isn’t Adams fault and with the next film, with any luck we’ll see their relationship flourish more.
General Zod: Oh, Michael Shannon, you dastardly fellow. While he does ham it up quite a bit, early on especially, I did like his take on Zod showing the right amount of menace but giving the character a soul with a purpose not because he’s evil just for the sake of being evil, but someone with loyalty and conviction for his people. No, doesn’t hold a candle to Terrence Stamp, but it’s yet another good change.
Jonathan and Martha Kent: Probably the biggest impact and best change, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane both get some great scenes with Clark providing him with the wisdom and advice, to the best of their ability, and showing the most emotional depth of the entire film. No offense to Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter, but these two were perfect as Clark’s human parents.
Jor-El: Russell Crowe, like Marlon Brando before him, provides a certain amount of weight to the film giving it some credibility, though Crowe’s choices in films have been loose of late. Still, he gets a lot to do after his death and the destruction of Krypton and his scenes with Cavill are wonderful and even seeing Jor-El interact with Lois was a cool new concept.
Perry White: Laurence Fishburne is an interesting change-up and I will give him credit for doing so much with very little, if anything, to go on. He has maybe one solid scene otherwise it’s a forgettable performance.
As for the remaining supporting players: Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton is a nice addition which could come back for an interesting plot thread in a sequel; Henry Lennix as General Swanwick sets up for the military side interaction with Superman and how can you not love his voice?; Christopher Meloni shows some presence playing a hard-nosed but heroic Colonel Nathan Hardy; and relative unknown Antje Traue is fantastic as Zod’s right-hand woman, Faora-Ul, so much I hope she somehow makes a return in a future installment.
As for Zack Snyder’s involvement, I think he’s an OK director with two solid movies in his résumé (Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen), one OK action-er (300) but his Sucker Punch, while stylistic, had an inane story. But it seems when it’s someone else’s work, Snyder excels and although the editing was a bit wonky here, the action scenes are thrilling and well put together. I still don’t know why Nolan selected him but I suppose they could have done worse though.
For my money, while Man of Steel has plenty of problems, and it is in fashion to hate on it (for many reasons), I do appreciate what the filmmakers did and the foundation laid out hopefully pays off with future DC properties, though give it is Warner, I’m not going to hold my breath.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.25/5
This 3-disc set comes with a glossy slip cover. Inside is a DVD Copy and UltraViolet Digital Copy download code.
Strong Characters, Legendary Roles (25:59; HD) – In this fairly in-depth featurette, explore the roles of the “Superman” canon and how they have evolved in this new iteration of the “Superman” story. Interview participants include: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Zack Snyder and others.
All-Out Action (26:02; HD) – This featurette takes a closer look at the fight and action sequences and the amount of preparation it took to film them.
Krypton Decoded (6:42; HD) – Dylan Sprayberry (Clark Kent, age 13) gives the lowdown on all the Kryptonian tech, weapons and spaceships featured in the movie.
Also included is Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short (2:03; HD) and, oddly, New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth (6:35; HD).
Preview – Pacific Rim
Journey of Discovers: Creating Man of Steel (2:54:05; HD) is what amounts to Warner’s Maximum Movie Mode where Zach Snyder guides users as we watch the movie. Throughout, others within the production and cast (including Cavill, Crowe, Shannon, Adams, et al) are included. Via some picture-in-picture as well as interview and behind-the-scenes footage interrupt the movie.
Planet Krypton (17:18; HD) explains the background for the planet and the invasion by Zod on Earth. It’s played out like a mock documentary.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Warner Brothers flies in and releases Man of Steel onto Blu-ray presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a brilliant looking 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture has incredible clarity throughout, with sharp detail levels and wonderful balance in colors from the darker scenes on Krypton and some of the brighter elements especially when Superman’s shield sheens in the sunlight. Yes, this might be a grittier version of the character, but the picture still looks amazing.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
The movie has been given a robust 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which packs a mighty punch. From Han Zimmer’s exhilarating score to the numerous action sequences which really shows off depth from each speaker and impact with the LFE channel kicking it into gear. As with the picture, I can say that this is reference quality that will show off your home theater.
OVERALL – 4.0/5
Overall, Man of Steel had the opportunity to be a lot better but as it stands, I actually found it enjoyable and kind of liked some of the changes Zack Snyder, David Goyer and, in small part, Christopher Nolan, made, but I can understand why others would be fervently against them. However, and acknowledging it doesn’t hold a candle to the Donner classic, it’s a new beginning for what is hopefully a serviceable franchise and universe.
The Blu-ray released by Warner Brothers offers excellent audio/video transfers and there’s a good amount of bonus features making for a fine release worth picking up.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.