Salisbury Press

Thursday, June 4, 2020

'Man of Steel' super-sized

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Man of Steel" is the latest makeover in the 75-year history of the ever-evolving Superman.

"Man of Steel," seen in the 3D Imax format for this review, is super in every way imaginable: super computer-generated special effects, super action, super chest-pounding loud and super long.

Yes, "Man of Steel" is super-sized.

Getting format choices out of the way first and it's a certainly a choice, as you can see "Man of Steel" in 2D, 3D, Imax and 3D Imax I think it's unnecessary to see the movie in 3D Imax, but Michael "Movie Maven" Gontkosky begs to differ.

The latest iteration of Superman has the mindset of the post 9-11 United States and works well with the Man of Steel mission statement to fight and advocate for "truth, justice and the American way."

Superman, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, debuted in 1938 in Issue No. 1 of DC Comics' "Action Comics." There have been many Supermans, many interpretations of the steely man and many actors who've played him.

Superman's been portrayed by George Reeves in the television series, "The Adventures of Superman" (1951 - ' 58), Christopher Reeve on the big-screen (1971 - ' 78) and Tom Welling in TV's "Smallville" (2001 - '11).

Zack Snyder ("Watchmen," "300," "Dawn of the Dead") directs the screenplay by David S. Goyer ("Batman Begins," "The Dark Knight," "The Dark Knight Rises") from a story co-written by Christopher Nolan (the "Batman" reboots) and Goyer.

Snyder, Nolan and Goyer take Superman in a darker direction, not unlike "The Dark Knight" and the "Transformers" movies. In "Man of Steel," the city-under-siege scenario is played out again. Metropolis and Smallville get blasted to smithereens under the deadly fire of the United States military and forces from Krypton.

Superman is clearly fashioned not as just some guy with supernatural powers in a red cape who's "faster than a speeding bullet" (and the computer-generated effects in this department are exhilarating), but as a messianic figure.

There's a scene in a church between Clark Kent and a clergy member with a stained-glass window depicting Jesus prominently visible over Superman's shoulder. I don't recall Superman hovering Christ-like mid-air in previous Superman movies as he does in "Man of Steel."

In re-creating the world of Krypton, "Man of Steel" is heavily influenced by "Aliens" in its depiction of the planet's creatures and similar to "Game of Thrones" in its representation of the planetary ruling council. The ominous Krypton spaceship has the shape of a giant stink bug, but in black.

It's a logical, even brilliant, choice in re-telling the Superman story, as what are creatures from Krypton but aliens? Superman is perhaps the most famous and heroic fictional illegal alien.

Superman's story is told in numerous flashbacks throughout the film, including his rescue (as Superboy) of fellow students on a school bus and drill workers on an ocean oil rig.

Scenes between Superman and his Krypton parents, with his Earth parents, with Lois Lane and other Earthlings are sensitively rendered.

"Man of Steel" has many grace notes. However, you, the movie-goer and the movie has to plow through lots of spectacular destruction to get to the fine points.

The fighting scenes, perhaps intentionally, or perhaps because of the 3D format, give the appearance of being blurry, or similar to the panels of a comic book. Bam! Pow! Zoom! You get the picture.

The casting is also super.

As Kal-El (his Krypton name)-Clark Kent (his Earth name), Henry Cavill ("The Cold Light of Day," "Immortals," TV series "The Tudors") fills Superman's new Kevlar-looking bodysuit, with an intriguing, stylized "S" on his magnificent chest, to a T. There was no need for computer-generated imagery for his physique.

Cavill maintains a serious, almost severe, facade. His jaw juts. His brow furrows. Even his dimpled chin seems to grimace. This is a thinking man's and woman's Superman.

Similarly, Daily Planet, now Pulitzer-Prize winning, reporter, Lois Lane is no wallflower or arm candy. Amy Adams ("Trouble With The Curve," "The Master," "Julie and Julia" "Doubt," "Enchanted" and, ironically, TV's "Smallville") is so forthright in her acting style. She also is all-business. It's almost as though she's getting on board Superman, Inc., because she believes in his cause as much as for romantic interests.

Michael Shannon ("Take Shelter") plays General Zod, Superman's immensely despicable nemesis from Krypton, well, immensely despicably. Antje Traue as another Faora-Ul, another Krptonic villain.

Russell Crowe is an effective choice as Jor-El, Superman's Krypton father. He brings a certain heft to the role, especially with his growly voice.

Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor Perry White is an interesting choice.

The supporting, but always key, roles are filled well by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark Kent's adoptive parents. Costner's onscreen persona embodies Midwest sensibilities (think "Field of Dreams"). Lane also looks right at home in the farmhouse in the midst of Kansas cornfields.

Like it or not, "Man of Steel" epitomizes the Hollywood blockbuster movie-making mentality and sets new standards for summer popcorn movie entertainment.

And what's that up in the sky? "It's a bird. It's a plane." It's "Man of Steel 2," already in pre-production.

"Man Of Steel," MPAA PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language; Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi; Run time: 2 hrs., 23 mins.; Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Man of Steel" was filmed on location in Illinois, California and British Columbia, Canada.

Box Office, June 21: "Monsters University" graduated at the top of the weekend box office class, opening at No. 1 with $82 million, keeping all those zombies in "World War Z" at No. 2, opening with $66 million, and bringing "Man of Steel" back down to earth at No. 3, $41.2 million, $210 million, two weeks;

4. "This Is The End," $13 million, $57.7 million, two weeks; 5. "Now You See Me," $7.8 million, $94.4 million, four weeks; 6. "Fast & Furious 6," $4.7 million, $228.4 million, five weeks; 7. "The Internship," $3.4 million, $38.3 million, three weeks; 8. "The Purge," $3.4 million; $59.4 million, three weeks; 9. "Star Trek: Into Darkness," $3 million; $216.6 million, six weeks; 10. "Iron Man 3," $2.1 million, $403.1 million, eight weeks

Unreel, June 28:

"The Heat," R: Sandra Bullock teams with Melissa McCarthy in the action comedy directed by Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids") about two female Boston police officers. It's the female buddy cop movie of the summer.

"White House Down," PG-!3: Roland Emmerich directs, in yet another attack on the White House what the elections weren't enough? This time it's a paramilitary attack. Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in the action-thriller.

"Redemption," R: Jason Statham stars as an ex-special forces soldier in London's criminal underworld in the action-thriller.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@