A very reputable movie critic once told me that if you aren’t sure how to start writing a movie review, take a short break and then think back to the film and write down the first thing that you remember about it. Unfortunately, whenever I try to think back to last night’s showing of Man of Steel, I keep coming back to the scene in which Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent strides into the office of the Daily Planet, carrying a messenger bag and looking better in hipster glasses than any of us mere mortals ever will. Yeah…it’s not helping. I’ll try really hard not to fangirl.
Thankfully, the rest of the film is just as good-looking as its star. It’s a visually striking adventure from the dark, metallic opening credits to the overcast final battle. Even the Superman suit has changed to navy and crimson in place of the primary colors Christopher Reeve wore. (The red underpants are also mercifully gone.) That being said, it’s hard to compare Man of Steel to the 1978 Superman. This reboot is an origin story, but it’s an entirely different plot. It takes itself almost too seriously (not surprising, since Christopher Nolan’s a producer), to the point where by the end of the movie there are more collapsed skyscrapers than jokes cracked.
Man of Steel contains some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in a long time. Superman fights General Zod (Michael Shannon, as your typical “ends justify the means” villain) and his Kryptonian warrior team with a refreshing element of improvisation–it’s clear from the way Superman resorts to punching them repeatedly and slamming into them with his body weight that he’s never been trained to fight before. It’s a very long movie, but these scenes are so well done that I didn’t really notice. Normally, action isn’t enough to keep me interested–I’m looking at you, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen–but with the addition of above-average character development, Man of Steel makes it work.
Henry Cavill may be the most handsome Superman ever (all right, he’s a good actor, too), but it’s Amy Adams’s Lois Lane, gutsier than we’ve ever seen her before, who steals the show. After Clark saves her from the Kryptonian ice cave (it’s complicated, but yes, that’s how they meet) she relentlessly searches for his identity, taking a much more active role in the story. When Zod’s crew puts into action a plan to turn Earth into Krypton 2.0, it is Lois who knows how to stop them, because she figures out how to communicate with the hologram of Superman’s biological father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), after she and Clark surrender to Zod and his crew. Her budding romance with Superman is understated, but Adams’s Lois is much more Superman’s equal–she may not have his physical strength and alien abilities, but she makes up for it with curiosity, courage, and determination.
Though Man of Steel probably won’t be winning any Oscars, it’s still a wildly entertaining summer flick. It could have been shorter and a bit more lighthearted, but I would still recommend it. By the end of the film, it’s obvious there’s going to be a sequel, and I can’t complain–Cavill does look really good in those glasses.