What we know about Man Of Steel is that DC needs it to be a box office hit. In order to build an empire for their characters, they need to get the people talking about those characters. They were successful in doing so with The Dark Knight franchise. In order to replicate that success, Warner Brothers pulled in the talents of David Goyer and Christopher Nolan. The result is a play date nearly ruined when someone invited Zack Snyder; but does the mixture of the three make for the perfect Superman story? Not quite. Spoilers ahead!
The story starts right from the birth of our hero, Kal, Son of El. His would be the first natural birth on Krypton in thousands of years due to selective breeding through the science of cloning. Unfortunately, he is born onto a dying world and his gallant and noble father, Jor El (Russell Crowe), must make the decision on how to save his Kryptonian race as well as further his own blood line. The tyrannous General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to over throw the Kryptonian High Council, murdering countless members of his own race, only to be sent to a very lose version of the Phantom Zone as punishment for his crimes. Kal, Son of El, is saved by being sent to a distant planet with a similar atmosphere and we get the sad bonus of watching Krypton explode in one of the most beautiful interstellar scenes I have ever had the pleasure of feasting my eyes on. Jor El knew very well that Kal would be a God to the people of Earth but could only hope that his son would use his power to protect rather than enslave. The Son of El lands in a field in Kansas to be found by a nice farming couple and thus begins the trials and tribulations of an alien attempting to fit in. We know this story very well and it is for that reason that Zack Snyder moves us along through this origin very swiftly in hopes of keeping us entertained without a moment of falter.
When our hero (Henry Calvill) has grown up and left the Kent Farm, he locates a ship housing information of his origin. Unfortunately, it also gives the exact location of the Son Of El to General Zod thus creating the conflict of the story and rocketing us into one hell of a battle for humanity. We learn later that when the Planet Krypton was destroyed, Zod and his allies were released from the Phantom Zone. This is a fact I have a hard time with because in the comic books, the Phantom Zone is a place where many different sorts of criminals are held; not just Kryptonians. So the idea of the space prison becoming null when Krypton explodes has me more than a little concerned about what else might have been released. Hey, that might be the plot of Man Of Steel 2: Electric Boogaloo, but who knows.
What we get is something that moves so incredibly quickly, it leaves little time for emotional story development. In my opinion, Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) are the most important cogs in this machine. If not for their parenting, Kal could have grown up to be a fascist dictator; a theory deeply explored in one of my favorite Elseworld titles, Superman: Red Son. Jonathan’s teachings of patience and virtue in the eye of tyranny are arguably what makes Superman who he is to all of us. With that being said, the Jonathan Kent in this film is not my Pa Kent. He teaches his son to hide his abilities and to refrain from risking them for anyone; even school children drowning in a bus. He teaches him to be paranoid and to fear the opinions and powers of others. The version of Clark Kent who leaves home in this movie is one that is unsure of himself and unsure of what he should do with his life and with the abilities he has. This is a Clark that is eerily similar to the brooding, hood clad Clark of the Superman: Earth One series. He knows he has the power to make a difference, but he was conditioned to hide it.
While we are on the subject of wasted emotions, I’d like to discuss our love interest, Lois Lane. While Amy Adams is my clear choice to play the always fearless reporter, the development between her and Superman was seriously lacking in my opinion. Within a few minutes of meeting our main character, she sees him performing acts of great heroism and by the next act, she already has the complete low down on his life from where he was “born” to the unexplained freak occurrences surrounding his childhood in Kansas. This is a direct reflection of her ability as a reporter and makes complete sense. I can certainly wrap my head around her figuring things out using nothing more than a google search and her intuition. It’s the lack of any romance between them until the very last moment of the movie that bugs me. Forcing a cliché romantic kiss when there had been no indication of interest beforehand left a terrible taste in my mouth and it made me feel that Lois was merely attracted to the guy that saves the day.
We know Christopher Nolan and David Goyer weave a great story of adversity. We know Zack Snyder can give us a beautiful spectacle. We just didn’t know how well those lines would cross. While I did feel the grittiness that Nolan and Goyer brought to the table, I feel that Snyder may have drowned it out with quick paced break-downs and a jumpy plot. The action is incredible in this movie, though. All the lack of driving emotional parallels aside, Snyder succeeded in keeping our attention. The fight scene between Superman, Tor-An, and Faora was especially mesmerizing and just when I thought there was a lack of super speed, Snyder ups the tempo. When we get to the battle between Kal and Zod, things don’t slow down; they speed up. There is no shortage of action in this film, and that is primarily what carries it.
As a comic fan, I had high hopes for easter eggs. If DC wanted to produce half the success that Avengers and its counterparts had, they would have to tip their hat to us. Without sounding greedy, there were only two eggs to look out for; a Lexcorp gas truck, and a Wayne Corp satellite. Neither of which provide any insight on the future collaboration of heroes or DC’s plans going forward. Although this movie does one hell of a job at entertaining us, it leaves little to imagine for a sequel that is relevant. Man Of Steel has great action sequences, a fantastic cast, and poetic one liners. It truly is a no-nonsense origin story that quickly evolves into a knockdown, drag out onslaught with an inner conflict of allegiance. For delivering a level of satisfaction without being completely satisfied, I give Man Of Steel 4 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
Oh, and what the hell; No Kryptonite!?