Man Of Steel (2013)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/23/13
Produced And Written By: Christopher Nolan
Director: Zack Snyder
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Antje Traue, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne

This "Superman" reboot takes on a darker tone than the films that came before it, which allows for harder violence and more wholesale destruction. The planet Krypton dooms itself to extinction when its natural resources are depleted, forcing Jor-El (Russell Crowe) to send his newborn son Kal-El to Earth with the hopes and dreams of the Kryptonian people. When Kal arrives, he is adopted by the Kent family and taught to conceal his lineage and special talents, until General Zod (Michael Shannon) breaks out of the Phantom Zone and hunts him down some thirty years later. Zod has plans to transform Earth into the new Krypton, and it's up to the adult Kal (Henry Cavill), also known as Superman, to stop him.

By this point, there have been so many iterations on the Superman story that I don't even care about purity, consistency, and continuity anymore. Snyder's version is pure bombastic spectacle, and the action scenes are mind-boggling. It sports a strong cast, but I had trouble adjusting to Henry Cavill's Superman, Amy Adams's Lois Lane, and Michael Shannon's Zod. Their performances are good, but their personas and appearances never quite clicked with me. Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner make excellent father figures for Kal, and are responsible for aligning Superman's moral compass. Lois Lane is sharp, smart, and aggressive, which spares us from any silliness regarding Clark Kent's secret identity. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no chemistry between Adams and Cavill, which makes their tender moments excruciatingly uncomfortable. The maniacal Zod is given a fair treatment with a sympathetic cause, but he talks WAY too much which makes him sound like a spoiled and pretentious child. The real stand-out in the cast is Zod's second in command, Faora-Ul, played by an incredibly sexy Antje Traue. She is so striking and her presence is so commanding that you can't keep your eyes off of her. Simply mesmerizing. She has some cheesy dialog, but manages to pull it off convincingly.

Unfortunately, the script is a bit lightweight and the film nearly collapses under its own cinematic weight. Even if you're a fan of Zack Snyder's visual style, the set pieces are bloated and excessive, and could definitely benefit from being trimmed down a bit. There's also way too much unnecessary queasy-cam involved, which makes the action more chaotic and confusing than it should be. Even though it's Snyder's film, Christopher Nolan's influence is evident throughout, and Hans Zimmer's oppressively heavy music score gives it more of a "Batman" feel than it should have. Still, from a pure action standpoint, the film is fun to watch and definitely delivers.

The biggest complaint I've heard from critics has been that it's a humorless film, which I find puzzling. To me, that's a good thing, as far too many films are ruined by adding inappropriate and unfunny humor to them. Is there anything inherently funny about Superman that would lend itself to a comedic treatment? I applaud Snyder's and Nolan's serious treatment of the material, even if it is a little thin.