Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel


A coup d’état headed by General Zod (Michael Shannon) erupts in Krypton, coinciding with its then impending death as a planet. In an effort to save their race, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) binds their genetic make-up with his infant son Kal-El, who is saved from the eventual doom after being launched into space and landing on planet Earth, in a small town called Smallville in the state of Kansas. Growing up as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), he has proven to be a special kid due to his abilities, the manifestation of which often caused more controversy than a reason to celebrate. It is because of this that his adoptive parents, Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane), have dedicated their lives to protecting this secret, which is eventually threatened by the return of General Zod from exile in a black hole, released after the destruction of Krypton. His plan is to build a new Krypton on Earth, but he is not willing to share the planet with its original inhabitants. This is when Clark decides to don his infamous suit and come to the rescue of the planet that he has learned to consider his own.

Henry Cavill is perfect as this new generation’s Superman. His body is chiseled, but not exaggeratedly so; his face reminds you of Jesus, although he also looks as though he came straight from the set of 300 with all those display of facial hair in the first few scenes. What stands out the most though is his overall silent demeanor, and that air of mystery that comes with it, which in this case is a good thing because he is a superhero after all. It helps that he can act to save his life, and with this movie’s surprisingly awesome performance at the box office, he need not worry that he would end up as another Brandon Routh.

It is nice to see some regular Oscar nominees play a role that is lighter than what they would otherwise tackle. At least, in this one, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) gets to do something pivotal in the progression of the plot, as opposed to other similar ventures to the world of comics-turned-movies, such as Natalie Portman’s turn as Jane Foster in Thor, where she did not really do anything other than giggle and blush like some demure schoolgirl. The signature headstrong characteristic of Lois Lane matches the stern expressions of Adams’ face, and although we know that she is just there to be the damsel in distress, at least her stubbornness becomes a regular source of amusement.

Perhaps one of the welcome diversions here is the extended exposure of Krypton as the opening sequence. Most of the Superman movies I have seen focused more on Superman as Clark Kent and not Superman as Kal-El. Here, we are treated to a more coherent background story which justifies most of the plot points explored in the film’s run. It is just unfortunate that the latter part becomes some sort of a dragged out mess with all the rapid movements and flying that is just natural for them Kryptonians, but difficult to watch and migraine-inducing for us mere mortals.

What adds more to the desperation is the fact that Superman is all alone, and having him pop up from nowhere each time Lois needs to break a fall or some enemy needs some serious beating makes you want to wish that Batman was there; or better yet, Wonder Woman. Watching his me-against-the-world drama becomes all too predictable later on. We see him grimace from time to time out of hardship but we are already assured that he will still defy the odds and come out victorious all by himself. He is super, after all.

Despite all this, the plot is commendable somehow because it veers away from the usual Superman storyline where the story revolves around everyone not knowing that he is Clark Kent just because he is wearing glasses. This still happens at the end of the movie, but at least it does not dominate the main plot. Lois Lane discovers his identity from the get go, thus, eliminating the need to expound on the overused guess-the-secret-identity subplot.

Overall, this is a successful reboot and a sequel would be very much welcome, what with the good word of mouth this movie is enjoying despite the not so stellar feedback from critics.

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