Superman reboot has its ups and downs
Director Zack Snyder, whose credits include 300 and Watchmen, was given the task of rebooting the Superman franchise. He didn’t have to worry about fans complaining that the comic book icon was just redone in 2006 by Bryan Singer because Superman Returns was so darn forgettable that Brandon Routh has barely been heard from since.
Actor Henry Cavill is a Jersey dude, from the Bailiwick of Jersey in the Channel Islands. Translation: that makes him British.
In Man of Steel, Snyder and his writers, David S. Goyer and Batman Trilogy director Christopher Nolan (who is also a producer), have provided an extensive preamble about Superman’s parents (in particular Russell Crowe as Jor-El), his home world Krypton and why General Zod has issues with his family.
The film then skips over the infant’s crash landing on earth, providing the Kent family background in several flashbacks instead. Basically Clark Kent’s adopted father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) warned him that his powers would frighten the world and he should keep his alien identity on the down low.
As an adult that turns Clark Kent/Kal-El into a job-to-job wanderer much like Wolverine, until he needs to use his power’s to save someone and has to disappear again. When he pulls this hidden hero trick while Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from the Daily Planet is watching, his cover is blown.
This is when the film dives into the familiar territory of the Clark Kent/Lois Lane dynamic that has a nice modern update thanks to Adams, whose determination and smarts make her the best embodiment of Lane in the history of the movie franchise.
The romantic element, however, gets shoved aside by the computer-generated action when General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives ready to release his rage against Kal-El and the puny planet that he calls home. Zod has an agenda for colonizing earth but Superman has other plans. You get his anger up when you mess with his mama (played by Diane Lane).
The problem with Man of Steel is that while the background story and character development are solid, the action sequences are distressingly generic and bland, hammering away, loud and meaningless, like outtakes from any of the Transformers movies. Unlike say Iron Man 3’s emotionally charged action sequences as a recent example, the action in Man of Steel doesn’t feel connected to the story. And that’s with Shannon, the current king of eye-popping anger management issues, doing his thing with gusto as General Zod.
That brings us to Henry Cavill in the title role. He certainly looks the part of a superhero with his gorgeous exterior, including piercing blue eyes and a steel-like chin. As for his performance, Cavill isn’t bad but he doesn’t fully engage us either. He begins to show signs of superhero style when spunky Lois shows him that humans might jump to unfortunate conclusions when confronted with something they can’t explain, but that if you give them a chance they will show you enough courage and loyalty to be worth saving. He doesn’t blow us away as Superman, but you sense that he has the capacity to fully embrace the cape down the road, perhaps as soon as the next chapter of the series.
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