I was three years old when I met Superman for the first time, I have vague recollections of watching the George Reeves (no relation to Christopher Reeves…) black and white Superman series from the 1950s on a black and white television and being mesmerized by the thought that someone (he looked real enough in my three year old mind…) could fly. When you’re three you believe in things that are larger than life with all of your heart, there is no escaping a child’s imagination and when you see something like Superman, at that age for the first time, it is captivating. I can remember driving to downtown Cincinnati from the suburb that I lived in and I used to stare out the windows and look to the sky, hoping to catch some glimpse of Superman (or some other hero…) flying through the air. I was that kid, with that imagination and I can remember by dad turning to see me staring out the window and asking what I was doing, I can remember telling both him and my mom that I was looking for Superman and he started in on how Superman was fictional and that he was a make believe character in a comic book and on television. Being three and a little ahead of the curve (if not struck with a wild imagination…) I asked if everyone on television was a make believe character (maybe not in those words…) and when he replied that they were, I asked if Santa was make believe as I had seen him on television too.
My mom stopped him before he could reply to that question, but she explained that what my dad really meant was that Superman lived in Metropolis and that he wouldn’t be patrolling the skies of downtown Cincinnati. Needless to say, I was disappointed that Cincinnati never got a roving superhero like the Man of Steel but that was my first big exposure to him. My mom knew little facts like Superman patrolled Metropolis and he worked as a reporter for the Daily Planet with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. For the life of me I can’t remember her ever picking up a Superman comic book (much less any other comic…) but somehow she knew these things in the same way that all mothers secretly know stuff you would have never suspected they knew. For my age bracket Chris Reeves is Superman and likely always will be.
For children born at the turn of the new millennium, Henry Cavill is going to be their Superman and for good reason…
‘Man of Steel’ literally starts off with the birth of Superman on Krypton and leads up through a rebellion, a murder and his escape from Krypton in the rocket that carries him to Earth before the planet of Krypton is finally shuffled off the mortal coil leaving us to discover whatever became of the last son of Krypton. We are treated to a series of flashbacks showing us his life growing up in Smallville, Kansas trying to fit in and learning to adjust to his ongoing powers as they emerge. We see a Clark Kent who is struggling with the question of who he is and what is his place in the world, something that many people deal with on a daily basis. Put yourself in his shoes for a second, and imagine rather than thinking that you’re an outsider that you actually were a ‘strange visitor from another planet’ and you might begin to get the alienation and sense of loneliness that they were going for with this film. The movie’s second act kicks into high gear once Clark discovers a long buried Kryptonian scout ship and he is finally able to get answers to some of the questions that have been plaguing him for some time. This is also the watershed moment when the people of Earth (military folk lead by Special Victim Unit’s ‘Chris Meloni’…) realized that they are not alone in the universe anymore and the only person who isn’t completely disturbed by the idea and who doesn’t somehow manage to lose her mind over the fact is Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams…) who catches Clark wandering around the scout ship after having come to the site with U.S. military.
Clark saves Lois from a threat in the scout ship and then leaves with it, leaving Lois to deal with a series of emotions and questions. She writes a story that talks about this mysterious stranger and the ship; a story the U.S. Military rightfully denies and her editor ‘Perry White’ (Played by Laurence Fishburne) tells her there is no way that they are planning to publish some story about ‘aliens’, at least not without further proof. Lois leaks the story to a blogger and the story gets out, but is buried. In the aftermath of this scene Lois Lane, through sheer force of will and with a great montage is able to track backwards through all the odd jobs and incidental savings by this mysterious heroic figure going all the way back to Smallville, Kansas where she is finally able to find him and thank him for saving her life. Lois wants to tell his story to the world, not bothering to think about what it might do to all the people who knew Clark growing up or even how it might affect him. In that instant we’re given a Lois Lane that is as real a person as a person as we’re ever going to find and yet Clark appeals to her asking her not to write that story and she complies with his wishes.
Let’s stop the review for a second and talk about that: I can say that until now the idea that Superman was an alien has been mulled over before and even universally accepted. The original movies from the 70’s dealt with the matter and even waved to the idea on the way out of town, the cartoons have all dealt with his origins in one way or another and even ‘Smallville’ the series got into action (more on that one in a second…) but this is the first time that I can ever remember anyone (outside of the comics…) questioning the fact that Superman was an alien from another planet and being completely disturbed by the idea. No sooner does he put the union suit on and start flying around, when General Zod and a band of Kryptonian criminal from the ‘Phantom Zone’ show up looking to finish what they started in the opening minutes of the film. General Zod and his minions promise to leave Earth in peace if the humans simply give them ‘Kal-El’. Rather than turn himself into the rogue Kryptonians, Superman surrenders to the United States military who has already taken Lois Lane into custody after the blogger she released the story to comes forward to say she knows exactly who this ‘Kal-El’ guy is.
Once Superman is turned over to General Zod and company we find out that the General has come looking for a Kryptonian artifact that will allow him to recreate Krypton using Earth as the foundation for that template. Oh, make no mistake that isn’t to say billions of people will suddenly become Kryptonians, but rather Earth will be terra-formed and humans obliterated to make way for the Kryptonians. If you thought a mere alien invasion was neat to watch in ‘the Avengers’, then saving the planet and entire population of Earth from mass genocide is awesome to behold.
From the moment Lois and Superman escape General Zod and his minions until just about the end of the movie ‘Man of Steel’ turns into one helluva fight to save humanity with the humans and Superman squaring off against the forces that would destroy them all. If it seems like this review has given away too much, let me just tell you that I’ve given you the broadest of strokes here and that there is plenty still yet to reveal and talk about once you’ve seen this movie. I won’t reveal the end other than to say we finally get to see the Clark Kent we all love and know as he finally settles down and finds a place to be in Metropolis.
So let’s talk briefly about the actors: Henry Cavill, despite being English, is in for a helluva career. He will be the Superman for an entire generation of kids who grow up in the shadow of this movie. Amy Adams’ version of Lois Lane isn’t all that different from any other version of the character that we’ve seen before. Laurence Fishburne as Perry White is something of a change as in the comics he’s a 50 something year old white guy and Laurence Fishburne is anything but. Truthfully though, I loved him in the part and Fishburne is one helluva an actor. I spotted a couple of people from the most recent version of Battlestar Galactica in tiny supporting roles (one of whom had actually worked on the ‘Smallville series…) but what surprised me was Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s earthly parents. Say what you will about either one, but they are actors given to tremendous capabilities and talent relegated to relatively minor roles. Now that isn’t to say that Ma and Pa Kent are in anyway ‘minor’ characters in the story of Superman, but rather they have smaller roles in ‘Man of Steel’ then I thought that they would. Last but not least is Russell Crowe as Clark’s Kryptonian father ‘Jor-El’, like Gary Oldman in the most recent Batman Series, Crowe’s performance carries us through the film.
We talked about what’s good in the movie, let’s talk about what’s bad…The movie runs a little long (2 hours and 2o minutes….) and while yes they do get their point across I felt like it could be tightened up just a bit. The other thing I noticed was that things move way to quick in the movie as we don’t get any sort of transition from scene to scene, for example one second he’s in custody and the next he’s in the desert being turned over to Kryptonian criminals without any sort of transition between the two. A fade out would have been nice. Also did we need to see the origin of Superman again? I mean we all know he came from another planet, right? In my lifetime I’ve seen (actually seen…) at least 5 different versions of this story ranging from George Reeves to the most current version in ‘Man of Steel’ and I’m fairly certain that there aren’t too many people who could do without the journey from Krypton yet again. While we’re on that topic and let me say that I love this movie, but it is by no means perfect, I felt like I watched a big budget, condensed version of season 9 of the ‘Smallville’ television series which had virtually the same plot and storyline, but this time it had a much better special effects budget and ending.
Be on the lookout to some shout-outs to the Superman and DC Comics in the movie: everything from ‘S.T.A.R. labs’ getting a mention, to ‘Lexcorp’ popping up in the background, the call-sign for Chris Meloni’s character being ‘Guardian’ and lastly a communications satellite owned by a certain caped crusader’s company being spotlighted during a scene.
4 stars out of 5, you will believe a man can fly…
Keith Kilburn and his wife, Dawn, live in Leesburg with two cats and dog named Godzilla. He’s written for Herorealm.com before they were bought out by corporate interests and has written a novel that he’s working on publishing. It’s rumored that he’s seen more movies than Blockbuster rents in a year and knows more about comic books than Stan Lee himself!