June 14, 2013
Superman is celebrating being a whopping 75 years in June, because while dates are argued about his birth, comic experts agree he was found and adopted by the Kents on June 18th*. Fans of his have waited a long time for a balanced, well crafted, worthy interpretation on the big screen.
In recent years, Tom Welling has brought some popularity to the character on TV’s Smallville.
In film, actors from George Reeves (1951’s Superman and the Mole Men) to Christopher Reeve (Superman 1-4) and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) have donned the red cape, to varying degrees of box office success. With Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill, the character development and motivations are such that they create arguably the most satisfying, complex, and entertaining feature film ever created featuring the superhero. Overall, MoS will prove itself an exciting, engrossing, and thoroughly well acted reboot worth seeing. Though it stumbles a bit from an excess of explosions and fight scenes, (it is, after all, directed by Zack Snyder) it will satisfy longterm comic aficionados and create a new generation of fans who will revel in its tempered optimism and visual flamboyance.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. When Cinema Siren says Henry Cavill is distractingly good looking, this is no hyperbole. Half the audience will be drooling, the other half will wonder what sort of work out and diet got him looking believably like an alien superhero. He reveals it took a diet of 5000 calories a day and 2 1/2 hour workouts to start, followed by something with which anyone who has ever slimmed down can relate. Cavill told Glamour, “The leaning down phase is the hardest because although you’re looking great, you’re always in a bad mood because you’re so hungry.” Girls all over the world can relate, and I speak for them when I say the end results are appreciated…Likely some fans will attend more than one screening just to see Cavill’s transformed body again.
The story follows the origins of Superman, beginning with eye popping opening scenes in Krypton and his childhood with the Kents, and showing his challenges dealing with identity and struggles with adversaries determined to lay Earth to waste. That’s all that can really be revealed so as not to spoil. The script has chronologies switching back and forth from past to present, which works with great effect. There is also a poignancy and depth to the story many viewers will connect to and appreciate.
What ultimately makes this reboot so successful in this critic’s estimation, is the embrace of Superman’s optimism and morality, while showing his inner struggles and demons. No one can really get behind a superhero who is indestructible and has no weaknesses or experiences no real adversity. Kudos to writer David Goyer for creating a screenplay that elicits empathy from the too-human audience, and congratulations to Henry Cavill for finding Kal-El’s sympathetic yet tortured moral center. Cavill has finally entered the arena of A-listers, after over 10 years of repeatedly losing out to other actors, most notably in Superman Returns and the recasting of James Bond. Cinema Siren, for one, is pleased, having pegged him for stardom way back in 2002’s The Count of Monte Cristo. (ask Siren Spouse. He’ll tell you!) He is now replacing Tom Cruise as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
In Man of Steel, supporting cast members shine as well. Amy Adams makes Lois Lane a hard as nails reporter who shows a femininity without compromising a willingness to fight for herself and what matters to her. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are perfectly cast as Martha and Jonathan Kent, making indelible characterizations, and in their every scene, erasing all who have come before them. Russell Crowe as Jor-El gets to bathe himself in the gorgeousness of the opening scenes in Krypton, where visual sumptuousness in the inventive otherworldly environment hook the viewer. He also creates a heroic father figure that speaks extensively of hope, a pervasive and powerful theme throughout the film. Michael Shannon’s General Zod is a fully developed and complicated character who may represent Superman’s opposing force, but has his reasons for his supposed villainy. He continues the recent bonanza of strong, memorable, and well played villains in blockbusters.
As to the aforementioned overabundance of extensive action sequences involving explosions and fighting, for better and worse, Zack Snyder has a reputation for battle porn. It was perfect for 300, and in some respects, it’s necessary to the ultimate conclusion of Man of Steel. Some editing could have helped however, as the cacophany and visual freneticism of the special effects become too much of a good thing. There is a bit of sacrificing three dimensionality of character for action as well, especially in Lois Lane. One hopes this will be rectified in the expected sequel.
Zack Snyder and his cast should be pleased that naysayers are having little effect on sales for this weekend’s US release. Some media outlets, it seems, would have been impossible to impress or please. No matter. My readers know I don’t steer them wrong. I am, after all, guiding film lovers through a sea of celluloid! If you’re a fan, leap whatever tall buildings you must to get the the multiplex, and enjoy this well crafted reboot that reinvigorates a hero we all love. Because it’s super. Yeah, I said it.
*The art gallery owned by Cinema Siren’s alter ego, Leslie Combemale, has a new exhibit at ArtInsights that will be of interest to Superman fans, “Marvel vs. DC: The art of the superhero”, which runs through July 7th, and is having an open house on Saturday from 12-6, called “Dad of Steel”, where families can come see the art and enter their fathers in a contest where they write why they have a “super dad”. The winner will get a limited edition piece of art featuring Superman and his heroic friends. For more information go to www.artinsights.com.