Let me start by saying I was born in the 70s, which means – in terms of Doctor Who – Christopher Reeve was my Superman. Other versions have been fine, I really have no quarrel with any of them, but Reeve is still near and dear to my heart. I didn’t even mind Superman Returns. Brandon Routh did a decent job and hey, Kevin Spacey was in it being awesome.
So I go into Man of Steel thinking I’ll be entertained for the 2+ hours, but that was about it. Holy crow was I wrong. Mild spoilers ahead if you have lived under a rock and have absolutely no idea what the Superman story is at all.
You almost immediately get the story of Krypton, which moves at a pretty fast pace towards destruction. Russell Crowe as JorEl? Kick. ASS. He’s not just an intellectual like the earlier movies suggest, he can hold his own in a fight too.
Michael Shannon plays General Zod, and his portrayal is fantastic. Determined to save Kryptonians the only way he knows how (by killing Kryptonians?), he ends up banished to the Phantom Zone only to be reawakened when Kryton imploded (and then exploded. It was a pretty epic destruction). Rather than Terence Stamp’s evil, mustache twirling portrayal of Zod (don’t get me wrong, he was awesome), Shannon actually gets you to feel sympathy for him. Just before you want Supes to kill him.
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Jonathan and Martha Kent, both excellent casting choices. I was wary of Costner, but I thought he did a great job doing his best to help his adopted son navigate his moral dilemmas, and both actors were more appropriate ages to play the roles. Earlier versions always seems to be closer to grandparent ages to me.
Amy Adams was an interesting choice for Lois Lane. Gone is the typical raven-haired Lois, but her grit and determination keep the character familiar. Like Margot Kidder, she exudes confidence and gets the information she’s after, gets herself in trouble, but never acts the damsel in distress.
Of course Henry Cavill takes the title role of Clark Kent/Superman, along with a couple of younger actors for the younger versions of Clark. Both kids pulled off their roles perfectly, conveying the internal struggles of a child who can’t fathom why he’s so different from others, and doing his best to calm his frustrations. Cavill portrayed a rather zen Clark Kent, having over the years obviously perfected the act of turning the other cheek in the face of aggression. It is not until General Zod threatens his adopted homeworld that he really focuses on what’s important to him.
Most of the movie is a simple re-telling of the Superman origin, with a few differences. The movie establishes that the atmosphere between Krypton and Earth are different enough to be physically demanding, requiring Lois to wear breathing apparatus on Zod’s ship, and causing Zod incredible pain when exposed on Earth. Yes, JorEl still speaks to Clark Kent to teach him about Krypton, but he comes across as more sentient and interactive. In fact, it is through JorEl that Lois Lane learns how Superman can defeat Zod and his group, and acts as a Kryptonian Jedi in helping her escape from Zod’s ship. Lois also knows him as Clark Kent and Superman – she is a smart woman, a pair of glasses certainly would never fool her.
I miss my Christopher Reeve, but in all honesty, this movie was incredible to watch. There is also one specific point in the movie where I could swear they worked a little CGI magic and made Cavill’s facial features to look like Reeve, so much so that I actually teared up. The action was thrilling, the struggles felt real. I can’t wait to own whatever special edition comes out so I can absorb more of the behind the scenes details. Five bright yellow suns for this movie. ENJOY!
EDIT: My husband found this article which backs up my claim to have seen a CGI glimpse of Christopher Reeve – at the time I wrote this review, I could not find a screenshot of the part where I saw him, but this article shows some of it…