Man of Steel is a superhero film based off of the Superman franchise. The film is directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan.
Jor-El (Russel Crowe) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) briefly celebrate the first of their son, Kal. The world of Krypton is in disarray, crumbling all around. Jor-El tells Lara to prepare a launch sequence before leaving for Krypton’s high council, urging them to start a new race of Kryptonians elsewhere. The high council argues that they can’t leave the planet, and Jor-El makes it clear that excavating resources from the planet core made it unstable. General Zod (Michael Shannon), interrupts the meeting to stage a rebellion against the council, which he deems unable to solve any problems. Jor-El escapes and acquires a codex deep within an incubation farm of Kryptonian babies and returns to Lara and Kal. They prepare the ship, but Zod pleads with them that he can institute a new Krypton with the use of the codex Jor-El acquired. They refuse, and Zod kills Jor-El in frustration. The ship is launched and Zod is arrested for high treason along with his crew. They are all sentenced to 300 cycles in the Phantom Zone, but not before Zod warns Lara that her son is not safe.
The movie flashes forward 33 years later, where we find a fishing crew en route to a burning oil rig. The crew examines the damage on the rig and assumes everyone dead, but one of the members of the crew abandoned the ship. After saving the people on the oil rig, this missing crew member sustains the rig as everyone else escapes. He falls into the water and dreams about his childhood. The man is revealed to be Kal-El, renamed as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) by the farm family that found him. The scenes flash through various challenges he faced adapting to the world and concealing his powers as best as possible. He travels to various places and hides his identity until he comes across a research site in Northern Canada, headed by Dr. Hamilton (Richard Schiff) and Colonel Hardy (Christopher Meloni). During the excavation, they are interviewed by Lois Lane of Metropolis’s newspaper, The Daily Planet. Following Kent, they come across a vessel believed to be a Soviet submarine but is instead a Kryptonian ship. Clark activates the ship and finds a recorded conscious of his dead biological father, who tells Clark of his true origins and the plans of General Zod. Jor poses a task to Clark regarding a new hope for Kryptonians and bridging relations with the humans of Earth. Clark saves Lois from the ship’s security system and soon after starts his journey as a superhuman tasked to protect his people.
Overall, the pacing of the plot was well done. It hit its beats and had a few funny moments to break up action sequences or dramatic scenes. My only real complaint is with the ending, which I can’t really get into so I don’t spoil anything. Not that it’s bad, but it isn’t exactly good, either.
Character development here is a must. Kal-El/Clark Kent is pretty obvious, and his development is well-placed throughout the film. Lois seems to have an active role as opposed to being a damsel in distress. Clark’s parents, both biological and adoptive, each have their own rooting interests. I mean, it might go without saying, but you have to imagine what kind of person will result when both his biological and adoptive dads are both Robin Hood. Give it a second.
One final thing I want to cover are the themes of the movie. There are the obvious ones, like carving out your own niche in the world and how your decisions affect those around you, but there are more subtle ones that are touched on in the beginning of the movie that ultimately led to the destruction of Krypton. The reason for Krypton’s destruction was the excavating of important resources in Krypton’s core, which I thought to be some sort of allusion to the excavation of fossil fuels and the threat of climate change. Also, Zod’s accusation of the high council constantly arguing and debating, resulting in nothing getting done. I’m sure there are more than a few people that think that the US Congress seems to be two quarreling parties that argue back and forth while there are big problems that need some sort of solution. These topics couldn’t be discussed after Krypton’s destruction, it would be out of context. Is it something worth considering, or am I overthinking?
Plot: 8/10 (Struggling Clark Kent discovers his origin and is left with a choice regarding “his people”)
Characters: 8/10 (Many interesting characters)
Language: 7/10 (A few moments of vernacular that require a bit of knowledge of the Superman franchise)
Theme: 8/10 (Self-fulfillment, the burden of choice, perhaps the consequences of indecision and excavation)
Music: 7/10 (Very few licensed songs, but there are sweeping orchestrations to move the plot)
Spectacle: 8/10 (Some interesting choices, but flashy enough to satisfy most audiences)
Star Power: 8/10 (Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russel Crowe, Kevin Costner)
Who to watch with: 8/10 (Comic book/superhero fans, those who like Zack Snyder’s movies)
Post-movie thought: 6/10 (Just the ending, there could have been a bit more)
Reboot: 8/10 (Perhaps not the caliber of the first two Superman movies, it makes up for the less-than-stellar performance in Superman Returns)