Director Zack Snyder’s previous epics, 300 and Watchmen, both have merit, but lacked a certain intangible that requires repeated viewings. With Man of Steel Snyder has put together an explosively solid film which is manufactured to please, and which erases the flat entry that was the 2006 Superman Returns At two hours and twenty-three minutes and $225 million dollars this 3D film reincarnates Russel Crowe’s Gladiator from 13 years ago (2000) and has him in an advanced civilization more conflicted than the one that Marlon Brando helped conclude back in the days of Christopher Reeves.
This is the 1978 and 1981 Superman and Superman II flicks (which started filming simultaneously) reinvigorated for a new generation with no Gene Hackman corny jokes, and no silly James Bond-style asides from the Man of Steel. Lost in the shuffle is Brandon Routh from Superman Returns, who was actually a good Clark Kent Superstar stuck with a poor script
This new Superman is a no-nonsense, carefully constructed bomb fest of mega destruction. An alternative universe look at Kal El (shades of where JJ Abrams takes us with Star Trek Into Darkness), putting heritage aside for a new storyline on a familiar trademark. And it works. Lois Lane’s investigative reporter skills are far more appealing than a love-stuck gal behind the desk at the Daily Planet. Here she breaks the rules (just as Margot Kidder did) only with the stakes much higher.
Henry Cavill comes off like a Chris Hemsworth as Thor space alien that comes to planet earth as a god. A more rugged, “earthier” Superman, his powers evolving and – thankfully – oh so thankfully – we are spoon-fed his origin in limited doses that are acceptable for a story that has been beaten into the ground. It is reinvented here with new, welcome twists and lots of familiar faces from Christopher Meloni of Law & Order SVU to Diane Lane, Kevin Costner and – why not – exiles from the Matrix.
Ever aware of the pop culture now front and center with film goers you find Morpheus from the Matrix playing Perry White (as parallel a universe as Laurence Fishburne replacing Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford in TV’s Hannibal. Why not Jim Carrey as Morpheus? Jackie Chan as Cleopatra? I mean, really?). Where Frank Langella gave Perry White a bit of aristocracy in the well-cast Superman Returns, perhaps Morpheus was needed to help the reporters dodge The War Of The Worlds which, yes gets a big nod here in sight and sound as well. Harry Lennix – Commander Lock of both The Matrix Reloaded and the Matrix Revolutions is along for the ride with his old pal Laurence Fishburne again, and Superman gets to fight General Zod on the floor of some apartment high rise just as Neo and Agent Smith did in Matrix Revolutions.
What is absolutely amazing about so many new major budget films pilfering from recent movie-making history as that these re-envisioning of past triumphs actually work and, obviously, are bringing in dollars at the box office.
But don’t let my cynicism dissuade you from the fact that these blockbusters were built to be entertaining…like a casino or a fine-tuned rock concert, it’s about generating as much of a bang for the big bucks as inhumanly possible and – if the movie studios fail to edit a script properly (Superman III, Superman IV, Superman Returns, Batman And Robin) the audience reacts in the harshest of ways: it stays home.
Henry Cavill needs to bring Brandon Routh in for the sequel, Man Of Steel II, already in the planning stages, and have a doppelganger. Don’t think the filmmakers weren’t aiming for that other man of steel, the upstart Iron Man who came out of comic book nowhere to join the billionaires club. This 3D Superman movie has a lot in common with Iron Man 3 and, no doubt, will set a record at the box office for June releases and will get DC Comics back in the game like the days of old when Marvel called its competition “Brand Ecch” in a friendly war that never saw their imaginative characters ruling the world of motion pictures as superheroes do today.
I’ve actually written an additional 4-5 pages on this film, but let’s close this review out with a thumbs up, good job, and some loud fun to kick off the summer of 2013.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.