‘Man of Steel’
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By Don Gibble  June 21, 2013 12:00 am

The most anticipated movie of the year has finally arrived! You don’t have to be a Superman fan to enjoy this movie. This movie is what going to the movies is all about.

Director Zack Snyder’s huge, backstory-heavy extravaganza should remain firmly planted around the world for much of the summer.

With Christopher Nolan’s mammoth “Batman” trilogy having wrapped up last year, the quick return of the other great DC comic hero was inevitable, even if the last attempt, Bryan Singer’s  “Superman Returns” (2006) was horrific. Nolan’s involvement here as a producer and co-story writer with David S. Goyer, his collaborator on all three Batman films, will encourage fans to look closely for his fingerprints, and a first impression might suggest his hand in deepening the hero’s roots to such a serious extent and insisting upon using Hans Zimmer to compose the score.

Visually and rhythmically, however, Snyder has gone his own way, summoning up memories of “Dune” in the sculpted architectural look of Krypton, echoing Jesus by underlining the sacrifice Clark Kent is called upon to make for the good of mankind, and simply by hardly letting five minutes go by without inventing some new excuse for a staggering action scene, any one of which cost more than the combined budgets of all this year’s Sundance competition lineup.

      Even the inevitably expository first 18 minutes on Krypton are spiked with an amazing amount of visual stimulation. As Jor-El (Russell Crowe) lays it all out about the planet’s road to ruin, its failed intergalactic colonization efforts and his discovery of a planet to which he can send his son, we’re witness to both large-scale calamity and the intimate treachery of the rebellious General Zod (Michael Shannon), whose murderous campaign gets him packed off to the deep space equivalent of Siberia.

Snyder doesn’t miss a beat once the tale spins down to Earth. We see a flashback of when Clark Kent (Dylan Sprayberry/Henry Cavill) saved the day lifting a school bus out of the water after it’s gone off a bridge and his adoptive father (Kevin Costner) then realized its time for a heart-to-heart. He shows Clark the old pod that brought him to Earth. Parallel to these scenes are present-time flashes of ace Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) gets on to a story about a foreign object that’s been buried in ice for 20,000 years, while Jor-El abruptly rematerializes to teach Clark more Kryptonian history and present him with his long-awaited suit and cape so he can begin his entertainingly staged flying lessons.

For a movie that has thus far spent an hour basically setting the table, writer Goyer and Snyder have found a way to sneak in at least a half-dozen big-time action sequences. Suddenly, there are two more, a Midwestern twister big enough to send not just a house but a whole town to Oz, and the spectacular spaceship arrival of Zod, who breaks Clark’s cover by giving him 24 hours to surrender. Here the Jesus parallel asserts itself, especially when it’s stressed that Clark has spent 33 years on Earth anonymously before being asked to sacrifice himself. Not much more is made of this, but the subtext persists.

Given the almost relentless pursuit of big scenes, “Man of Steel” manages to find the time to develop a relationship between Clark and Lois, who must balance her compulsion to deliver the scoop of the century with the suspicion that the world is not ready for the likes of this superman. This is a smart, active, modern Lois, one who does  need to be rescued on occasion but is always keen to be in the thick of things. 

Visually, Snyder and cinematographer Amir Mokri employ hand held shots noticeably more than is the norm in such mega productions, and the very tight, short-focused shots of the hero’s face while flying have an unexpectedly intimate nature, quite beautiful in their way. 

Becomingly modest in the character’s low-key early scenes and gradually reveling in his power,  Cavill has a pleasing presence that makes him easy to accept. This is a movie the whole family will enjoy which is rare to find nowadays. Kids are hard to impress. My mom took my nephews and they all enjoyed the movie. And don’t see it in 3D. You will enjoy the movie without that distraction.

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