A word of warning: I think most people going to see Superman know the story well enough that there shouldn’t be any huge surprises spoiled herein, however if you want to go in fresh, don’t read this.
I went to see Superman Sunday morning and I was blown away. This is the movie I was hoping it would be – Superman taken seriously, yet without being too heavy-handed. It has just the right amount of gravitas with a touch of humor to help lighten the atmosphere a tad. Zach Snyder and Christopher Nolan have produced a wonderful depiction of the Superman mythos, done with love and care for the character and everyone in his world. I don’t know Snyder’s work as well as Nolan’s (Memento, Batman, Inception), but Christoper Nolan is a cinematic genius. In 50 years he will be discussed with the same reverence with which we now discuss Capra, DeMille, and Kurosawa. The ensemble cast is outstanding. I had my reservations regarding Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner, but they both put forth excellent portrayals of the fathers of Kal El/Clark. The film is about sacrifice and destiny, patriotism and old-fashioned values. As the fathers, Crowe and Costner sacrifice literally everything for the son they love so much – Jor El loved him enough to entrust him with everything that is Krypton and to release him to a new life on a distant world, while Jonathan loved him enough to protect him and teach him how to be a good man.Henry Cavill does an amazing job at appearing both the “man of steel” (invincibly strong, infinitely courageous) and the vulnerable, misplaced outcast. He is bullied throughout his childhood with people calling him a coward. If they only knew the strength coursing through that “weak” child – he could snap their neck with a flick of a finger – but Jonathan and Martha have taught him to turn the other cheek. When he is teaching himself to fly, Cavill’s Kal El is unsteady and hesitant, but quickly gets the hang of it and the joy on his face is palpable. It’s not like acting – he IS Superman.
Amy Adams is brilliant as Lois Lane. She is a wonderful actress who makes you believe everything that comes out of her mouth is truth rather than a script. Lois is fearless, scaling an icy rockface without hesitation and boarding an alien vessel without even blinking. She is pretty in the girl-next-store manner, rather than some knockout beauty queen. Lane also knows her stuff – she’s smart, feisty, and willing and able to join the fight. I’ve always loved Superman partly for his love for Lois. Superman sees the intelligent, witty, firebrand personality: she is his equal and he loves that.
The chemistry between Cavill and Adams is obvious. You can see the mutual attraction from the start, and the flirtation between them feels very real. You know how in pretty much every movie the male and female protagonists go in for the kiss when there is really no time for that and it feels forced? Yeah, didn’t happen here – There are at least three separate moments when they could have kissed, but didn’t. Their eyes lock, the space between them tightens, but they don’t do it. By the time they have their first kiss, you can almost feel it yourself. There’s a sigh of relief that they finally made contact.
Some other high points: Christopher Meloni in fatigues (oh yeah); Henry Cavill in practically nothing (swoon); Antje Traue as Faora-Ul (she is amazing!); the World Engine (I can’t even go into it, so let’s just say WOW!); Krypton; cameos by Julian Richings and Tahmoh Penikett; Clark being inundated by his own senses in the middle of class in elementary school; the many “Easter eggs” planted throughout the film for eagle-eyed fans to spot.
I got so excited during the penultimate battle that my body was tight and tense like an over-wound spring, holding my breath, heart pounding … when the scene reached its climax I couldn’t contain my shouts of excitement. It was a wee bit embarrassing, but I didn’t care – damn that was good!
I would be remiss to not mention the soundtrack. It’s beautifully done, swells in just the right places, pianissimo and sweet when necessary. There’s no ridiculously over-the-top booming, no sickeningly syrupy love theme. It’s subtle, yet noticeable (as a soundtrack should be) and I do intend to purchase it. Is it better than John Williams? I wouldn’t say that, but it is on a par. The soundtracks for both fit their respective films.
If you can listen to this and not get chills, well I just don’t know what to say about that:
All in all, this is an excellent retelling of a classic (a reboot done right, so to speak). I think Christopher Reeve would have been pleased. I know I sure am.
Don’t read any more if you don’t want spoilers!
There are a few differences in this Superman and the Supes of the past (here are the spoilery parts).
Lois knows Clark’s actual identity. She hunts him down relatively easily and keeps his secret after he shares the story of his father’s death with her. Speaking of, I did not care for that particular alteration of the canon. In this version, Jonathan dies in a tornado, forbidding Clark to rescue him because there is a rather large audience and he doesn’t want his boy ostracized and feared for his abilities. In the original, he has a heart attack. I prefer that because there was literally nothing Clark could do to save his dad. It taught him that sometimes even Superman can’t save everyone. It’s a valuable lesson, and I suppose you could say he learned it this new way, too, but I believe it carries more weight in the original.
One of the huge topics of discussion is Superman’s killing of Zod. Kal El always avoided killing anyone if at all possible. He had no choice in this flick. Besides, it is my belief that Zod wanted him to kill him. As explained in the film, Kryptonian’s are born predestined: programmed to be the best at what they are assigned to be. Zod was a soldier. Everything he did, every thought he had was to protect Krypton at all costs. He had no purpose with Krypton completely gone, so he forced Kal El’s hand. Kal El was visibly shaken, devastated to his core. The scene that followed (Lois quietly and gently consoling and holding him) was as moving as any of the bigger moments.
Superman/Kal El/Clark (whatever you wish to call him) has always been a complex character, at once completely foreign and yet familiar. In a way he is the embodiment of the American dream – an immigrant to our great nation, embraced by its people as he adopts the U.S. as his home. It’s no wonder the legacy of Superman lives on in our hearts, no big surprise we feel a personal connection to the character. 80 years old this year and never looked better. Here’s to another 80 years and beyond!