Clipper Staff Writer
RatedPG-13 for action, violence, destruction and some language.
Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan, and others
Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russel Crowe and others.
We no longer believe in perfect heroes, which makes things tough on Superman.
The character was created to be the ideal man, nobler and kinder than us as well as stronger. Making him darker and more violent, the usual procedure when adapting comic book heroes for the modern world, would destroy the very thing that made him famous for so long. At the same time, we no longer accept him for who he is.
“Man of Steel,” the new movie by Zack Snyder, comes remarkably close to solving the problem. This new Superman is good and decent without being perfect, susceptible to the same frustration and sense of isolation as the rest of us. Though the movie as a whole doesn’t quite rise to his level, it marks an important step in the transformation of one of our most iconic superheroes.
Henry Cavill, the latest to put on the cape and tights, is a more solemn Superman than some of the previous incarnations. He’s struggling to find his place in the world, and has to wrestle constantly with the choice between protecting himself and doing the right thing. Cavill’s silent vulnerability is what really makes the character work, maintaining his heroism while giving him a very human heart.
Amy Adams is equally fantastic, making Lois as noble and strong in her own way as Superman is. She throws herself into danger with intelligence, not reckless abandon, and has a genuinely good heart that comes through without being shouted from the rooftops. The scriptwriters also wisely eliminate her inability to tell that Clark and Superman are the same person, which thankfully eliminates one of the most ludicrous tent poles of the Superman myth.
As General Zod, the villain of the story, Michael Shannon never falls prey to the common clichés of supervillains. He has a very good reason for everything he’s doing, and it’s only his absolute dedication to the task that tips him over the edge. We see him as a bad guy, but for his people he could have easily been the hero.
The movie, however, is less fantastic than the leads. I realized about three quarters of the way through the movie that the plot is almost identical to one of the “Transformers” movies, which is not a fact that anyone should be shouting from the rooftops with pride.
Snyder also drains the movie of what humor I suspect it was originally supposed to have, leaving lines that should have snapped with wit to get lost in the middle of the story’s dramatic weight. He’s a little too dedicated to that weight in general, burdening the film with an unsubtle Christ parallel and too many slow-motion flashbacks to more idyllic times.
Still, this is a good launch pad for a Superman we can learn to love again. Hopefully, he’ll soar high above this and come back in a sequel as wonderful as he is.