By Roger Thomas
CNHI News Service
Monday, June 24, 2013 —
I have seen all of the Superman movies. I watched the television series “Lois and Clark” fairly regularly for four seasons and “Smallville” faithfully for 10 years. I enjoy the Superman character and I am especially intrigued by depictions of his origin story.
I like “Man of Steel,” well, most of it anyway.
Here is what I like the most. I love all the flashbacks to his childhood and youth as the boy learns what it means to be a hero. It was clever to show the man, with his conviction to do good, saving others from an exploding oil rig and then reveal the early life that shaped the man’s righteous persona.
I also like the depiction of Lois Lane by Amy Adams. This story varies greatly from previous versions of Lane and I thought it was one of the more brilliant aspects of the film to let her plotline go off in unexpected directions. Lane is always depicted as intelligent, and yet in most versions she is never clever enough to track down the past of a hero.
Jonathon Kent’s concerns are also a nice twist. Though different than other versions, it also seems more authentic. Perhaps in past versions, Superman was existing in a different America, but the skepticism, if not cynicism, of Clark’s dad seems prudent in the second decade of the 21st century.
When I first heard that Henry Cavill had been cast in the lead role I was a bit perplexed. Cavill had been King Henry VIII’s best friend through four seasons of “The Tudors,” and it was hard to imagine him in any other role. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly he became Superman (all other roles and actors forgotten). There are a lot of good actors in this film: Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, and these are just the ones who have been nominated for Oscars. Cavill holds his own in scenes with all of these and many more.
Finally, I liked the heart of this film. It was very poignant in certain moments. There are at least two, maybe three, very emotional experiences during the 143 minute running time. I had not anticipated this when I bought my ticket to “Man of Steel.”
These are just a few things that make “Man of Steel” worth the price of admission.
But alas, the film is not perfect. The first 15 minutes are far too busy. I appreciate the filmmakers showing us Krypton and setting up events to come, but less would have been more as far as the visuals are concerned.
The same is true for the last 40 minutes or so. This section of the film is basically two extensive fight scenes. The scenes last too long and are for the most part repetitive and stagnant. Nothing new is happening. Superman throws Zod; Zod throws Superman. And buildings collapse. There is one moment when a minor character is trapped, but there is not real tension because the character has not been developed enough for the audience to care. Oh wait, it is time for someone else to be dragged down a street as asphalt flies in all directions.
The final moments of the fight redeems some of the last half hour, and the scenes following the climax are great. But when they start writing the script of “Man of Steel 2,” I say “Shave off 20 minutes of the climatic battle.”
I know I am not perhaps the target audience for “Man of Steel.” (That would be teenage boys between the ages of 8 and 80.) However, for me, everything between Krypton and the final two fights is what makes this film special. I would not have thought that the quieter moments would be the ones when the new Superman flick soared the highest.
Roger Thomas reviews films for The Stanly News & Press and thesnaponline.com.