METROPOLIS – I’m a big fan of “Superman: The Movie” (‘79). Christopher Reeve was the perfect Superman/Clark Kent. As a bonus, the storyline had the right combination of tongue planted firmly into its cheek. Thirty-five years later enter “Man of Steel,” an ambitious and more realistic reboot of the sagging franchise that director Bryan Singer tried to jump start with the disappointing “Superman Returns” (’06).
Borrowing elements from both the 1938 comic book and “Superman: The Movie,” “Man of Steel” opens with the birth of Kal-El (Superman/Clark Kent), on the doomed planet of Krypton which is imploding due to over mining its core. Sensing the planet’s impending doom, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), Kal-El’s father, rockets him to Earth
In the interim, Gen. Zod attempts to seize power of Krypton, but is thwarted by the Kryptonian council and placed in a frozen dimension called the Phantom Zone. When Krypton implodes, the aftershock releases Zod and his minions. Now free, Zod follows Kal-El to Earth to retrieve an energy-radiating skull called the codex that Jor-El placed inside Kal-El’s rocket ship. The codex has the power to turn Earth into a Kryptonian like planet.
“Man of Steel” is a different take on the Superman character than in previous films. “Man of Steel” is a dark and joyless CGI-laden action flick that runs 20 minutes too long. A lot of the movie could have been left on the cutting room floor to be included later on the DVD as extras. There are no blue tights, red briefs, phone booth changes or Kryptonite in this version. There isn’t even a Lex Luther. And don’t look for Superman’s signature tagline, “Truth, Justice and The American Way.” I guess it isn’t politically correct to say such things these days – especially if Warner Bros. wants to sell this film overseas.
“Man of Steel” doesn’t soar. It is, however, faster that a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive – which is punctuated during the showdown between Superman (Henry Cavill) and the Krypton baddies as they destroy a good portion Smallville and Metropolis.
“Man of Steel” is told through a series of flashbacks as Clark/Kal-El grows up in Smallville, Kan., with adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. As an adult, Clark follows a succession of odd jobs across the country as he tries to make sense of his place on Earth. Meanwhile, investigative reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) follows Clark’s trek littered with his feats of daring do.
Admittedly, “Man of Steel’s” action and visuals are spectacular, despite the annoying 3-D. I wish filmmakers would get over themselves and admit 3-D is a shtick and an excuse to raise ticket prices. The usual romantic interaction between Superman and Lois Lane is nonexistent, and Laurence Fishburn’s Perry White doesn’t have much to do. I was expecting great things from Fishburn’s interpretation of the curmudgeon editor. No such luck. The spit curl-free Cavill makes an admirable Superman, but he doesn’t get a chance to show off his acting chops as mild-mannered bumbling Clark Kent. I guess he’ll do that in the sequel that already been announced.