MAN OF STEEL (M) (143 min)
Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe.
No one ever really took Brandon Routh, and the 2006 Superman Returns, to their heart.
I kinda liked that films goofy energy myself, and Kevin Spacey made for a terrific Lex Luthor, but Superman Returns was ultimately undone by its writers seeming disregard for the ‘rules’ that govern the character’s existence, and with that the film series was effectively dead in the water.
But Superman is the granddaddy of all the comic book movie franchises, and a resuscitation attempt was only a matter of time.
Director Zack Snyder, working with a script from David Goyer, (Batman Begins, Jumper) and a story in which Christopher Nolan had a hand, takes the character right back to Krypton.
We are there, literally, at the birth of the baby Kal El. Dad – Jor El, disarmingly well played by Russell Crowe, stepping effortlessly into Marlon Brando’s moccasins – is the leading scientist of the Kryptonian empire.
His nemesis is the splendidly named General Zod, the military leader of the same. With their planet tearing itself to pieces beneath their feet as a result of some very poor resource management, the two men fight to the death for Jor El’s right to send his boy into the stars, like Moses down the river, and hopefully secure the future of the Kryptonian bloodline.
Fast forward a few decades, and we are in at home in familiar territory: young Clark Kent, raised by a couple of salt-of-the-earth types in Smallville, Kansas, etc, etc.
But even here, Man of Steel makes its own mark.
We first meet Kent in his 20s, as a bearded and barely recognisable deck hand on a fishing trawler, rescuing oil-rig workers before vanishing back into anonymity.
Then as a barman in some rough snowbound town. Before he finally turns up to turn the head of fearless investigative reporter Lois Lane at a top secret ‘‘UFO crash site’’ in the Arctic wilderness.
With the persona in place, the back story explained, and enough childhood and adolescent flashbacks sketched in to give the character some shape and pathos, it is only a matter of time before a villain appears – General Zod again.
No surprises there – to give our newly costumed hero his first serious work out. At this point, Man of Steel deteriorates a little.
The set pieces are massive, inventive, and spectacular as all hell. And, like all CG driven third acts, eventually a little wearisome.
But Man of Steel has earned a whole box of brownie points up until then, and so I found myself more tolerant than usual of the animated carnage as Zod and Soopie go about it like two Greek Gods in matching onesies, and basically demolish about 10 blocks of downtown Metropolis.
For its well put together storyline, for the sheer beauty and inventiveness of the Krypton sequences, and for the very excellent casting of Brit Henry Cavill in the lead and Michael Shannon as Zod, this is the Superman movie the character and the fans deserve.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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