a review by Helen Stubbs
Man of Steel was a surprisingly fresh and deep exploration of the Superman story. I don’t love many movies I felt this one got a lot right in ways I hadn’t expected. I liked that Superman, A.K.A Cal-El, (Henry Cavill) seemed confident in who he was. There was less existentialist angst than the Reeves movies, I thought. There seemed to be more meat to the story and I didn’t find it particularly dark.
I loved the violent collapse and coup on Krypton, and Lois Lane’s (Amy Adams) empowered and brave story arc. I liked the egalitarian efforts by the movie makers: women in the military, black people in key roles, the scientist as hero. It all adds up to a more enjoyable movie experience for someone who cares about stereotypes and plot lines that often betray the female lead’s strength. I thought Lois kicked ass well.
Compared to the Reeves movies, I liked the stories of what was happening on Krypton and Earth a lot more. But I wasn’t sold on Cal-El’s mother Lara (Ayelet Zurer) putting her baby in a spaceship and sending him off to god-knew-where. She went from refusal to agreement way too easily. This scene could have been executed more convincingly to give her a sudden strong motivation to do it.
At times the dialogue was cheesy, especially the stuff coming out of Jal-El’s mouth (Superman’s real Dad, played by Russell Crowe). But I’m so used to cheesy dialogue from Russell, when he’s looking so pompous and dignified, it seemed to fit.
Another negative for me was the traditional place names; Smallville and Metropolis shook me out of the movie, harking back to a more innocent time. Even the Daily Planet itched uncomfortably, but I can forgive those in the name of paying homage to the comic it originated from.
I think what I loved most about the movie was Superman’s gentleness towards, and trust in, humanity, before they did anything to earn that trust on the good advice of a priest.
I heard The Movie Show compare the story to Christian mythology, but I can’t see too much similarity. Certainly not enough to annoy me. Yes, a son was sent to Earth, but his dad wasn’t a god, his mum wasn’t a virgin and he wasn’t sacrificed to save us. Was Zod (Michael Shannon) the devil? Maybe!
I loved Superman’s restraint. He was strong but never violent towards humans. And he was very nicely built, with a streak of darkness in his personality which I’m having some trouble putting my finger on. Maybe the darkness was just the groovy outfit.
I thought Diane Lane did a great job as Martha Kent, and Kevin Costner was okay as Dad. Sure, the ending was predictable, but I enjoyed the journey there. I think it earned the 7.9 stars it got on IMDB.
Helen enjoys literary explorations of humankind’s future. Her current project is editing the Gold Coast Anthology. Her published work is dark with pointy edges, with stories inNext, Tales from The Bell Club, Midnight Echo, Winds of Change, and Dead Red Heart. She won the AussieCon4 Short Story Competition with “The Perforation,” and was a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Award. She is @superleni on Twitter.
Photo of Helen courtesy of Helen, published with permission.