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Friday, June 21, 2013

James Halcomb: Man of Steel does Superman franchise proud, delivers strong performance

What I saw last night:

Let’s bring bias to the forefront of this review. Superman: The Movie (1978) starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder is my favorite movie of all time. It was the movie that showed me what a movie was.
I also have a personal attachment to the film and comics as well. But, that is for another column. Today we are going to discuss the newest attempt at rebooting the franchise with Man of Steel. I wasn’t disappointed in the least.
The film is directed by Watchmen‘s Zack Snyder, and produced and conceived by The Dark Knight Rises‘ Christopher Nolan. Man of Steel treads a familiar route but with a new CGI sparkle.

Henry Cavill, shown here in 2011 at WonderCon, is Superman in 2013 production of Man of Steel. (Photo from commonswikimedia.org)

Henry Cavill, shown here in 2011 at WonderCon, is Superman in 2013 production of Man of Steel. (Photo from commonswikimedia.org)

Russell Crowe is stellar as Jor-El, scientist and Kryptonian doom-sayer. Crowe gives it all he has and does some of his great boxing moves that turn even this sci-fi epic to an awesome bar brawl.
When we leave Krypton, we get the extremely chiseled Henry Cavill doing an impersonation of Bill Bixby in the old Incredible Hulk TV show, as a drifter, thumbing rides and righting wrongs. Cavill is more than serviceable as an unsure-of-himself loner with a constant furrowed brow. His performance is strong and he dons the cape well.
The movie finds some great emotional strength in flashbacks with Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Ma and Pa Kent. It offers the one strong homage to the Christopher Reeve films in some familiar dialogue, but now the words are twisted and meant to convey almost a sense of dread as to the “reason” Clark is here on Earth. Turns out with good reason.
The rebellious General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his cronies are on Earth to take over and only Clark can stop them. CGI battles ensue, with lots of firepower and buildings blowing up. Pretty cool stuff and truly on par with Marvel Comics films’ “bag of tricks”, although I didn’t find Zod very compelling and the CGI battles, while spectacular looking, did seem to drag a bit.
The Daily Planet brings us Amy Adams as persistent reporter and constant “damsel in distress” Lois Lane and Lawrence Fishbourne (who I hope is given more to do in the sequel) trying to track down the truth about who this new Mystery Man is. This storyline felt the weakest to me – very tacked on and seemed to bog us down. Adams and Cavill have pretty solid chemistry but it’s going to need to be built upon to make it plausible.
The battles are epic and you should enjoy the CGI magic. The direction is solid and so are all the performances. The film is a lot of set-up for sequels, but with the new take on things it feels fairly fresh.
Man of Steel is a great popcorn flick and lots of sci-fi fun. Did it make me “believe men can fly?” No. Will it serve as a fresh take that may spark love for all things Superman? Yes.
The film served as a great starting off point for a barrage of DC Comics heroes to compete with Marvel. I love super hero movies, especially when done with some excitement and what seems a bit of passion for the material. They have served the franchise well here. My hope is that this movie will get kids to pick up an old Superman comic and take an interest in the medium, or have a desire to watch the older films and find some real magic.
The movie ends on a note that left me hopeful for the sequels. I hope they don’t disappoint. Hopefully, next time we will get more Clark, less Kal. Until then, three stars from me.

James Halcomb is a nurse tech at the University of Kentucky Hospital. The Lexington resident has spent much of his nearly 40 years of life with his nose in a book, his eyes staring at a screen, ears covered by earphones or his mouth stuffed with food. As a result he became an avid film nerd, TV geek, food snob and book buff. He somehow lucked into meeting the love of his life, Tammy, and married her. They also have a 3-year-old-son, Quinn.



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