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No Lex Luthor. No Kryptonite. No big deal . . . (about Lex and the rocks, we mean. Just because Warners hasn't announced a trilogy, dontcha just know they're dreaming of it. It is the thing to do these days . . .)
IN SHORT: A serious, serious Superman movie . [Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language. 143 minutes]
PARENTS TAKE NOTE: Given that circumcision is pretty much the norm in this country, parents with little kids should be prepared to answer the question "What's wrong with baby Superman's pee-pee?" with an appropriate "Nothing's wrong. He's an alien, silly." and that should be that. That Man of Steel includes nudity, even how-shall-I-put-it? explicit baby nudity, strikes yours Cranky as absolutely lacking any sense in what should be the family film of the year.
Seriously. Doesn't everybody know that baby Kal-El was sent to Earth, wrapped in the red blanket that eventually became Superman's cape? Not anymore aka Tweak Number One, which is proof positive that Supes ain't Jewish. Still, nudity is not appropriate for a family film. It just isn't.
This isn't going to be a great review, folks. We were in terrible shape when Man of Steel aired for press and lucky fans. We didn't believe what our reviewer guts told us when all was said and done . . . that this wasn't the Superman to make us cheer. It's not that star Henry Cavill is a bad Superman. It's just that the story seen on screen isn't the Superman that's been part of our lives since always.
For those with heads buried in the sand the last decade and a half, producer Christopher Nolan helmed the Batman/Dark Knight trilogy of films -- Batman being the DC Universe's serious serious character -- all written by Man of Steel screenwriter David S. Goyer . Director Zack Snyder did the same for the successful adaptations of Watchmen and 300, though we didn't care much for either. The three combined bring that serious serious attitude to Man of Steel, seeming to forget that Superman, who isn't yet called "Superman," is the guy who actually allows himself to have fun with his abilities. Most of Man of Steel pretty much ignores that. . . , but that might be us.
Other fanboys have been screaming elsewhere on the 'net about how the icon has been tampered with. We, a fanboy since John Byrne's reboot of the character in the 1980s, try to ignore most of that. Some of the adjustments that can only be displayed with a moving image, like showing how Superman learned to fly, are brilliant. Some of the events that are omitted, well . . . somewhere along the line someone with Ultimate Control of this film made the decision that, after Krypton explodes, Man of Steel should be told from Clark Kent's point of view only. Therefore, certain iconic scenes -- like the Kents discovering the rocket -- aren't present in Man of Steel. Big Mistake. There is a replacement idea. It fits with the "on earth" portion of the screenplay but it is insufficient. Lana Lang and Pete Ross have become Easter Eggs. Those who are in-the-know will recognize them. But we're getting ahead of ourself.
If we have to explain Superman to any reader out there, you probably didn't grow up on this planet. Even aliens now receiving the 1930s radio broadcasts in deep, deep space know Superman's basic story <g>. The tweaks make minor, eminently acceptable changes to the story, which teases that Kryptonians settled on our Earth 20,000 years ago and then changed their minds. That will come in handy when Kal-El (Cavill) son of Jor-El (Russell Crowe) faces off against General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his partner Faora-Ul (Antje Traue), criminals sentenced to the Phantom Zone in a time before Krypton went kablooey. Zod is a racist of sorts, and Kal-El is his Kryptonian equivalent of the n-word, in all its 15th century, toss 'em over the side of the ship, brutality. We won't explain any more than that. We'll let some other site spill the beans about the other, tiny tweaks to the origin story seen in the Krypton portion of the film. We've told you all you really need to know.
We're not going to explore how brilliant a reporter the new, serious , Pulitzer Prize winning Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is and how this film mercifully relieves the viewer of four decades of stupid comic book continuity . Or of how the Daily Planet's serious editor-in-chief, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), refuses to believe her latest scoop about an alien roaming the world, doing heavy labor and the occasional miracle.. Or how well Diane Lane and Kevin Costner perform as serious Martha and serious-er Jonathan Kent; ditto for Julia Ormond and Russell Crowe as Lara Lor-Van and Jor-El (who somehow manages to survive death. Go figure). All are A-list actors and all deliver A-list performances. But . .
<sigh> Have no doubt, readers, this is a serious, serious Superman movie.
When Zod comes to Earth gunning for Kal-El, the U.S. military get involved. That would be Harry Lennix as General Swanwick and, in more important role, Christopher Meloni as Colonel Hardy. Hardy doesn't like illegal immigrants, especially of the alien kind. The weight of the back half of the story falls on Meloni's shoulders, but the script doesn't live up to the transformation his character is expected to undergo. Things blow up real good, so to speak, when Kryptonians clash.
We've left out a ton of material that will fill your movie screens. Don't want to spoil everything for the fans that didn't catch the sneak preview or the opening day midnight screenings. We attended both. The reactions were the same both times out. There was a shocked silence from both audiences when the Third Act reached its conclusion. We won't tell you why or what happened. We had to see it twice to be sure that we actually saw what we did and that the audience sitting around us was reacting as it did. That the relative silence at the end of our first screening was not an anomaly.
The ending of this particular story makes absolute sense, and if you read what little I've written you'll find a clue to the film's reasoning. I'm not going to spoil this point, either. That said, perhaps we're old fashioned to believe that (you) should be cheering by the time all is said and done. We sat through Man of Steel twice. Neither audience cheered. Both auditoriums were somewhat filled with scattered clapping as the viewers shuffled out, silently.
Silence speaks volumes.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Man of Steel, he would have paid . . .
Man of Steel has forgotten that Superman is supposed to be fun. Even in the face of an alien invasion.
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