Man of Steel Review (spoiler-free)

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Guest blog by Kenneth Alexander Wright Vazquez

“His name is Kal, Son of El”

For the last 35 years director Richard Donner’s ‘Superman The Movie‘ has been the cinematic representation of the beloved hero for a generation and considered by many to be the best movie of the super hero sub-genre (despite needless camp and holes in its plot). Now, visionary director Zack Snyder and writers David S. Goyer and Chris Nolan have delivered what could very well be the Superman of a new generation with ‘MAN OF STEEL’; in fact it is.

Zack Snyder has achieved, along with Goyer’s and Nolan’s sharp and deeply layered script, nothing short of greatness. This is the Superman film all of us, not just fans of the character, but movie goers in general have been clamoring for since the closing of the last one. Disregard, yet never forget, the Christopher Reeve films, for ‘MAN OF STEEL’ is a spectacular re-imagining and re-telling of the Superman mythos in modern day brought to us by the genius of Zack Snyder.

Every scene of ‘MAN OF STEEL’ belonged to Snyder and that’s evident in everything from the editing and photography to the signature kinetic use of the camera. Goyer and Nolan have written the definitive cinematic Superman with a script that explores the inception and growth of a hero on multiple levels. A smoothly-flowing narrative that moves eloquently from memories to present day beautifully depicting the creation of an icon.

No aspect of Superman is left untouched thanks to Goyer’s respect for the comic book source material and yet, Nolan’s technical and thematic approach is complementary to the mythos. Some were afraid of Nolan’s well known ultra-realism seen in his Dark Knight Trilogy with its unique and gritty vision of Batman, however in ‘MAN OF STEEL’ his sensibilities are faint in the grandeur of it all. It might be Goyer’s and Nolan’s words, and rightfully so, but it is Zack Snyder’s world.

There’s a delicately woven balance of drama, humor (yes there’s humor) and non-stop action in this seriously epic sci-fi experience. Snyder has evolved as a director and ‘MAN OF STEEL’ is the apex of his illustrious career. It’s as if Snyder used comic book panels from 75 years worth of Superman adventures to lay out the course of this film. Trust me, this is virtually ANY Superman comic brought to cinematic life.

Special effects are quite extensive and a sight to behold especially when it comes to the depiction of Superman’s many powers chief among them, flight. Damn, can this Superman fly, and well enough to make the wire pullers from the Chris Reeve films proud. In Snyder I continue to trust.

Superman needs to soar musically and the score, that grandiose music score, was beautiful. Somber, serene, harmonious, thunderous and downright magnificent (it surely reminded me of Vangelis musical renditions for Blade Runner). It lacked that “Superman music” sound that a hero like him invokes but it makes up for it in so many ways. Hans Zimmer re-invented himself as a composer just as ‘MAN OF STEEL’ re-invented Superman as a hero.

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Snyder is known not just for that bold eyeball of his when it comes to capturing amazing imagery but for spotting talent in a cast. And what a solid cast this is. Let me be blunt and straight to the point, Henry Cavill IS Superman. His portrayal of the greatest hero in pulp fiction is on point from shy and humble beginning to stoic, generous and powerful end. His is a Clark Kent on a journey, a life affirming quest of self discovery that will take him from the relative safety of Smallville, Kansas (a Norman Rockwell and homely Plano, Illinois), a re-rendered Krypton, a perilous ocean, a mysterious and cold tundra to a gleaming Metropolis. When Cavill dons the legendary suit (and what a gorgeous suit it is) he becomes heroism incarnate complete with a smile. Yes, this Superman freakin’ smiles!!! Please, don’t even bother to compare Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman to the amazing late Christopher Reeve, this is a very distinct version of the character.

What’s Superman without his Lois Lane? Incomplete, that’s what he would be. As powerful as he is, Superman needs support and “protection” and that’s what Amy Adams’ Lois Lane provides in threes. She’s ambitious, tenacious, clever, persistent and above all caring. Snyder chose wisely.

Perry White, in MY opinion, is as vital a part of the mythos as Superman’s cape and Laurence Fishburne stepped up to the bullpen portraying a man dedicated to the truth and integrity of his newspaper and that of his reporters. I could not be happier with Mr. Fishburne’s skill.

The foundation of Superman’s heroism is his parental units. Both his Kryptonian and Earth-based parents do a brilliant job at shaping a savior. Russell Crowe embodied Jor-El with plenty of fatherly presence as well as surprising physical ferocity. This is a Jor-El with brawn as well as smarts. Giving birth to Superman requires a heck of a mother and Israeli actress Ayelet Zurher (Angels and Demons, Vantage Point) portrays Lara Lor-Van as a heartfelt matriarch and supportive wife.

He was born in a neo-medieval Krypton but raised in a rural and idyllic Smallville by Mr and Mrs Kent. Kevin Costner was so loving and protective that as a viewer I felt as though he was my father. Jor-El was the father, of course, but Jonathan Kent was the dad. A still attractive Diane Lane (The Outsiders, Streets of Fire) was the sweetest mom, an anchor for Clark to hold on to and quite the tough lady.

A hero is only as good as the villain and in ‘MAN OF STEEL’ our hero has quite a few to face off in order to save the day. The most interesting villains are those who do not think of themselves as such and Michael Shannon (Premium Rush, The Iceman) is exactly that. As General Zod, Shannon portrays, with his notorious intensity, a relentless former war hero that will go to great lengths to save his people’s legacy even if it means genocide. Again, do not make comparisons to past versions of Zod, specially that of the brilliant Terence Stamp for his was a highly operatic and comic book flamboyant Zod, while Shannon is just a complex force of nature.

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Exotic and petite German actress, Antje Traue (Pandorum), plays the fierce and psychotic Kryptonian warrior Faora Ul while the enigmatic Mackenzie Gray (Shooter, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnasus, Smallville) portrays Jax-Ur with cold and calculating finesse. He even reminded me of Superman villain, Brainiac.

Making memorable appearances were Christopher Meloni (12 Monkeys, 42, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), Richard Schiff (The Lost World: Jurassic Park), Harry Lennix (The Matrix Reloaded) and Dylan Sprayberry.

The only thing that bothered me about the film was the absence of a supporting character to the saga of Superman. In the end it did not keep me from enjoying the overall presentation.

Phenomenal action, stunning visuals, powerful performances and subtle nods to both the comic books and previous films in the franchise make Zack Snyder’s ‘MAN OF STEEL’ quite the film to behold. This is the true return of a superhero who will forever reminds us of the greatness that lies within us all. We may stumble as we follow him but in time, we will join Superman in the sun.

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Man of Steel Publicity Special

 

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