TwitLonger

Ok, I know you've been waiting - my review of MAN OF STEEL.

Now, as a Seinfeldian, clearly Superman is in my blood. I have spent many years pondering all the complexities of what life as Krypton's favorite son must be like here on Earth. I have contemplated everything from "would xray vision allow you to see naughty bits or just the bones under the naughty bits" to "is Superman poop the equivalent of tungsten steel". I have seen every incarnation on TV and big screen and I have followed the comic books over the years. If the final Jeopardy category was "Superman", I have no doubt that Ken Jennings would be eating my dust. So....

Going back to the Christopher Reeve films (and I knew and worshipped Chris) - I was so thrilled with the initial parts of that film. Krypton was epic, Smallville was beautifully evoked. I adored Brando and Glenn Ford. I loved the exploration of the complex question of Clark's purpose and the challenge of cloaking his amazing abilities. However, after the Fortress of Solitude and the re-education of Kal-El, the movie took a left turn and delivered us a Superman and a Metropolis and a Lex Luthor that were the stuff of cartoons. The movie totally changed tone. And while much of it was magical for it's time - especially the flying sequences (minus the Can You Read My Mind cloud dance) were spectacular. But the movie ultimately disappointed because they abandoned the real and epic Superman that the beginning had promised.

The Brandon Routh entry was a step in the right direction but was so over wrought and rather clinically cast. It worked hard, I applauded it's intention but it was not a memorable film. And for Superman to not be memorable - well, hard to imagine.

Then Chris Nolan reinvented the Batman genre, magnificently. We were asked to invest in Batman as if he were a real, tortured, driven genius, warrior and activist. It was complex and dark and thrilling. And suddenly, our comic book heroes were worthy of adult interaction with the audience.

Subsequent hero films have been a mixed bag, none having the gravitas of Batman but many far exceeding the silliness the genre can impose.

Now, Man of Steel - the first trailer had me. Seeing him soar upward, shattering the sound barrier was about as thrilling as it gets for a geek like me. Eventually, a moment of another trailer would spin my head as Clark asks Jonathan Kent if he was somehow "supposed to allow the bus load of school kids to die" in order to protect his identity. And Costner takes a long, uneasy breath and answers, "maybe". At that moment, I was almost no longer the master of my domain. Those are the kinds of moments a fantacist like me dreams about seeing. It is an amazing depiction of the profound complexity that having nearly Godlike ability poses. So, I bought my tickets and took my wife and teenage son last weekend.

And the result? So much good, so much right - but some enormous opportunities missed.

I was not a fan of the concept of this Krypton but I realize that I may be in the minority. I thought the combination of the morphing technology with the medieval armors and armaments with the Avatar-like flying dinosaurs was a mish-mosh of ideas that seemed like a "let's throw it all at the wall and see what's sticks" approach. But I appreciated many of the conceptual ideas - the birthing/evolutionary development and the allusions to the demise of the planet resulting from over-zealous and irresponsible depletion of the planets natural resources. And I thought the actors did beautifully.

Once on Earth, I truly adored the non-linear timeline of Clark's story - jumping to his adulthood and using different situations to trigger the relevant memories of his childhood. Wonderful and different story-telling. I also adored the ideas behind what exactly the Fortress of Solitude is and the adjacent takes on things like "how does Superman's outfit become indestructible". Lot's of good thinking and excellent decisions abound. I even enjoyed how some of the mythology was changed regarding things like Jonathan's death and the relationship between Clark and Lois. All wonderful.

For me, the re-emergence of Zod was not handled well. It is not clear, to me, how his escape was made possible. And though touched on, his fixation on Earth and Kal-El was not fully justified to me. But more importantly, and I am not the first or last to proffer this - from the time Zod arrives on Earth - the movie moves away from all the wonderful psychological and mythical and important story telling and descends into a special effects lollapalooza - a battle of the Titans that goes on for over 30 minutes with more or less repetitive sequences, actions, effects and results. And while the final moment with Superman and Zod is a very, very important development in the Superman mythos, it did not register emotionally with me because the time to create a real relationship between these two antagonists was squandered. I was left feeling, "yes, the planet was saved but if it's going to be like this every time, is it worth it"?

The very final moments are just great and I smiled from ear to ear at the last line.
Most important, Henry Cavill IS Superman. He looks great, he is believable and understated and powerful and if every woman on the planet doesn't want a night with him, I don't know why. The cast is wonderful, kudos all around. My wife loved this film and my son probably enjoyed it even a bit more than I did but with similar reservations.

I can only imagine making something like this is overwhelming beyond words and I congratulate Zach Snyder and all his colleagues for a magnificent and hugely successful work. Man of Steel is well worth your time - whether you're a Superman nut or not. It's an often great, always worthy and fabulously fun piece. I just wanted it to live a bit more in my heart and gut. Instead, it's more of a smile on my face. Hopefully it is that and more for you.

Hope,
JA

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