It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s – Kal-El, son of Jor-El, from the planet Krypton. In this dark Superman reboot directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and written by David S. Goyer (Blade: Trinity) and Christopher Nolan (Batman), Man of Steel steps out of the cheesiness and into maturity of the modern serious Superman. More realistic in the sci-fi sense, the story unfolds from the planet Krypton in its fantasy-like environment and takes us through Superman’s formation: the beginning of Superman, before he leads the life of bespectacled Clark Kent at the Daily Planet. As of yet, he is not called Superman but Kal-El, and he tells Lois Lane that the “S” stands for hope in his world.
Henry Cavill (Immortals, The Tudors) makes his first appearance as the chiseled, other-worldly featured Clark Kent, farm boy turned hunky steel man. Born and raised by two strong sets of parents, Russell Crowe with Ayelet Zurer and Kevin Costner with Diane Lane, a boy can only grow to become something extra special. As Jor-El, Crowe delivers a guiding and stoic father-in-spirit figure, helping shape Kal-El and teaching him the nature of his birth. The background story has never been brought out in detail before in Superman films, digging into the ground that Kal-El is indeed an alien being. Kevin Costner as Clark’s Earth father brings heart to the film, forming Clark’s sensitivity to the earthly humans.
The rest of the cast perform well despite the comparisons with their characters in Superman films. General Zod (Michael Shannon) is solidly frightening if not dry, even though he was programmed by birth to protect the civilization of Kryptonians at all cost. German born Antje Traue as Faora-Ul, General Zod’s right-hand gal, is beautifully unemotional as well, albeit a bit lacking in the sadistic nuances Sarah Douglas as Ursa portrayed in the 1980 version of Superman. Perky and cute as Lois Lane, Amy Adams falls a little short on chemistry with the man of steel, with none of the spiciness Margot Kidder had as the incorrigible Miss Lane. The character of Jimmy, who was Lois’ sidekick, has not entered the story yet. Laurence Fishburne plays Perry, the Daily Planet’s boss, straight laced, yet concerned with Lois’ well-being. Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU) is the hardline Colonel Hardy who comes to realize on which side Kal-El fights. Cavill’s Kal-El is not the fumbling and shy Christopher Reeve version, and he is believable and passionate, a welcome revision to fit modern times.
Man of Steel is epic, action-packed, stunningly executed, and its cinematography beautifully displayed. There is a breathtaking pace to the stunts, with Kal-El using and showing more of his powers than ever before. Even the Kryptonian wardrobe is spectacular. The best summation of the film comes when Kal-El has to let go of his past in order to protect his future in a memorable heart-wrenching scene. It’s filmmaking with heart, and this is the best blockbuster of the year, with probably the best director-writer combination.