Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel

Here it is. My most anticipated film of the year. So much expectation has surrounded the release of this latest incarnation of the world's greatest superhero that it was impossible to escape the word-of-mouth from critics who were privy to advanced screenings. I was shocked to hear so many naysayers reporting the film to be too dour and "serious", citing its differences from the original Superman film as a criticism. While I can greatly respect what the 1978 film was trying to do with the iconic DC character, I was ready to have this reboot veer away from what has been done before and tell a Superman story we didn't already know. With a visionary like Christopher Nolan shepherding the project from the beginning and an unparalleled master of visual spectacle (Zack Snyder) in the director's chair, I knew I was in for quite an experience once the IMAX screen ignited with the movie's explosive opening scene.

Man of Steel begins on Krypton, home to an advanced civilization on the brink of civil unrest and total annihilation. Jor-El, one of Krypton's leading scientists, pleads with the leaders of their world to allow him to preserve their race after discovering an impending calamity that will decimate the entire planet. The council is unwilling to side with Jor-El, however, and soon the planet's military leader, General Zod, enacts a coup to overthrow the government. In the midst of a massive battle, Jor-El places all of his hopes in his newborn son, Kal-El. After a tearful goodbye, Jor-El and his wife Lara send their only son to Earth with the power to restore their once great race to its former glory.

I really don't want to get too far into the story, as it's a masterful unfolding of character-enriching scenes and pulse-pounding spectacle that is far too enjoyable to spoil. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful-looking films I have ever seen, particularly for a story that requires so much CGI. Snyder has an incredible artistic instinct when it comes to visuals that makes every frame of this film a wonder to behold. Particularly the opening scenes are some of the most incredible visuals I've ever seen in a film. The enormous budget of Man of Steel was clearly well spent.

One of the great surprises of this movie was how effortlessly Henry Cavill inhabited the role of Clark Kent/Kal-El. His identity crisis is really quite moving and the struggles he encounters throughout his life are portrayed brilliantly through an emotional performance I didn't expect from the relatively unknown Cavill. He embodies the character of Superman and, as my wife can attest, he's also a pretty decent-looking guy as well (which the female viewers will surely appreciate). Another stand-out was Amy Adams as the ballsy journalist Lois Lane. Unlike previous incarnations, the cleverness of Lois is not lost on the screenwriters, who respect the character's intelligence enough to not expect a pair of glasses to fool an investigative reporter.

This film is a visual wonder, but the emotional power behind Kal-El's history is paid a great deal of care to properly convey throughout the narrative. Kevin Costner's scenes in particular do a terrific job of setting up Clark's conflict, as well as illustrating the growth of a superhero in the making. Of course, the heart of the film is made even more touching and, at times, heartbreaking by the incredible score delivered by one of the world's finest film composers, Hans Zimmer. There are moments of beautiful tenderness where a solitary piano tugs at your heartstrings, and also seat-rattling crescendos during the epic battle sequences. It's also incredibly inspiring, with the final moments providing the same feeling of hopefulness that Kal-El gives to the people of Earth as he embraces his destiny.

Just like another great superhero reboot of recent years, Batman Begins, this film does justice to one of the most iconic characters ever created. I can't wait to see where future installments take the character and what new heights the titular Man of Steel can scale as he gives the people of Earth "an ideal to strive toward." This may not be a perfect film, but it doesn't matter. It's tremendously entertaining, emotionally investing, and genuinely inspiring. I could go on and on about this film, but suffice it to say that Man of Steel is easily the best superhero film of the year and possibly the best film of the year so far. I give it a solid four stars.

MAN OF STEEL is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.