I was a bit reticent to see this latest retelling of Superman on the big screen. The last attempt, Superman Returns, was a bland tale that was relatively low on action that I would nickname it, Superman: The Motionless Picture. While director Bryan Singer did well on X-Men and X-Men 2, he lost his mojo for Returns–likely because the movie seemed like there was some anvilicious message in it. That, and the film tried too hard to be a better continuation of the 1978 films.
The only reason I dragged myself to see this new film has a name associated with it: Christopher Nolan. The same guy that brought a realistic but enjoyable Dark Knight Trilogy of films wasn’t at the helm for this Superman film, but his production company headed the venture, and his influence with the script was clearly present.
So, what did I think of the movie?
I liked it. Superman was portrayed realistically and enjoyably. The character was close enough to its comic book legend, the story background from Krypton was primal and engrossing, and the acting was very good. I enjoyed Amy Adam’s Lois (neither quite damsel nor action girl), and I liked how the storyline took a page from Marvel on the xenophobia our society would have in reality if someone like Superman would appear.
The story is filled to the brim with action. Notable roles include Henry Cavill, who did quite well as Clark, as well as Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Clark’s fathers in a potent nod to the need for strong fathers. Lovely Diane Lane was stripped of her usual Hollywood glamour and (along with the actress that portrayed Kal-El’s mom) also sent a great message to the power of motherhood.
Seems that this summer is a time for re-dos. As with situations of a previous Star Trek film making its way into Star Trek Into Darkness (yet to be seen, but I know the plot), we get a retelling of General Zod. Contrary to his 1978 movie version, you can understand where this Zod comes from as he is simply not doing terrible things just to be terrible. He truly cares to save Krypton, however flawed his reasoning. Michael Shannon is dark, determined and a great foil for Superman.
The only element of the film I didn’t enjoy is something often glossed over in most of the comics but shouldn’t have been ignored in a “Nolanverse” film. Superman’s fights bring amazingly catastrophic destruction on a level similar to having ten 9/11 attacks with several collapsed buildings and the untold deaths that come from this. The movie ends without any mention of having to rebuild half of the city, nor how the populace feels about Superman’s presence. Personally, I’d be very fearful of being “saved” by Superman if he came to town. I’d find a bomb shelter right then and there. (In contrast, the end of The Avengers lampshades this similar destruction levied on New York City briefly as news reports roll in.)
I don’t want to spoil the film further, but if you still felt unsettled by Returns, go enjoy Man of Steel. Like The Dark Knight Trilogy, this will not uphold certain comic book precepts as, like in Batman Begins, people seem less, uh, stupid. Lois figures out who Clark is in the first 30 minutes. It’s not a story of Clark as Superman, but a story of people who either become better–or worse–because they learn, quite abruptly, that they are not alone in the universe.
(Update: Added a link to a website that calculated hypothetical damage and deaths based on Chicago or NYC as analogues for Metropolis. We’re talking deaths, injuries and missing in the millions, here.)