Saturday, June 22, 2013


I grew up on the George Reeves version of Superman via the Adventures of Superman TV series that ran throughout the mid-1950s, and then for many years thereafter in syndication. That was probably the peak of my interest in Superman. I remember regularly watching and enjoying the show, but hindsight suggests that may have had as much to do with limited choices for anything else to watch as a genuine fondness for the character.
As far as comic book super heroes in general, my tastes very early on ran more toward Batman and the Challengers of the Unknown. Superman was simply too much --- too invincible, too perfect, etc. Without trotting out some tired old variation of exposing him to krypton, where was any sense of danger or risk or suspense?
I will admit to enjoying the first Superman movie, with Christopher Reeve in the role, but never paid much attention to any of the ones after that (which, from all reports and from the bits and pieces I've since seen of them while flipping through cable TV channels, got rapidly and progressively worse).

Therefore --- getting to the subject at hand in a rather roundabout way --- I was somewhat surprised to find myself interested in seeing the new Superman "reboot", Man of Steel. I guess all of the preview trailers did their job: They hooked me. The edgy tone, the promise of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder, etc, all played a part.
In the final analysis (at least mine), Man of Steel is a good action movie that could have been a great film if not for the almost total lack of humor and the excessively long CGI action sequences at both the beginning and end. In between, the heart of the film --- how Kal-el was sent to earth, how the Kents of rural Kansas raised him as their own son Clark, how the boy and then young man learned to cope with and eventually develop his phenomenal powers, how he finally presented himself to our world in order to protect and ultimately save it --- is extremely well done. The performances in rather brief roles by Diane Lane and especially Kevin Costner, as the Kents, are outstanding. And Henry Cavill stamps the lead role as his, pretty much blowing away all who previously have donned the cape and slapped the big S on their chests. Even though Cavill's acting chops may not be that strong, he still sells the hell out of this part. I mean, after all, we're talking Superman here, folks, not Hamlet.

Where the movie falters, in my opinion, is:
First > In the overblown, overlong "framing" sequence on the world of Krypton. There's everything from childbirth (the first natural one, we are told, on that planet in centuries) to flying, four-winged dragons to civil war to manmade environmental disaster to the rebels being condemned to the Phantom Zone … and still the planet implodes, as we knew all along it was going to, but only after the baby Kal-el is placed in an escape pod and launched into space where he will land on Earth and one day become Clark Kent/ Superman.
Second > After the Krypton rebels, led by General Zod, are inadvertently freed from the Phantom Zone by the destruction of their own planet, they search the Universe until they finally track down Kal-el/Superman. From there, a series of battles ensue in the attempt to force Superman to hand over the codex (trust me, some of this is too convoluted for me to begin to try and explain) that will allow them to take over Earth and re-populate it with a new race of Kryptonites. These battles go on and on and on and on and on … get the point? … and involve the destruction of hundreds of Metropolis skyscrapers and various other buildings, buses, cars, planes and helicopters --- not to mention demolishing the farm where Clark/Superman grew up, along with his nearby hometown and, just for good measure, a few anonymous chunks of countryside in between.
I don't have to tell you who ends up winning.

When the dust finally settles (literally), the stage is set for the next entry in this series (which there is certain to be, given the huge monetary success of this one). Man of Steel fades on newly hired "stringer" Clark Kent being introduced to his co-workers and fellow reporters at the Daily Planet newspaper …

All in all, I liked this movie more than I might have made it sound. I'd give it, say, a 7.5 out of 10.
I only wish there was somebody with the balls and/or authority to rein in these wonder-boy director/producers who have one or two huge hits and then are turned completely loose, unrestrained, on a subsequent movie that snowballs into a bloated, excess-laden piece of work that could have been so much better if only there'd been someone there to hold them back a little. (Classic example: Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong.)

Man of Steel is worth seeing, especially if you can catch a lower-priced matinee (like I did). And, if you're smart, avoid the scam of paying extra for 3D.

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