Man of Steel

  • Title: Man of Steel
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Date: 2013
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Fantasy, Action, SF
  • Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Cosner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishborne, Christopher Meloni, Michael Shannon
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: NTSC, Region 1

“Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?” – Young Clark Kent
“You are my son. [long pause] But somewhere out there you have another father too, who gave you another name.  And he sent you here for a reason, Clark. And even if it takes you the rest of your life you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.” — Jonathan Kent

“For 100, 000 years our civilization flourished, accomplishing wonders.” – Jor-El
“What happened?” – Clark
“Artificial population control was established, the outposts and space exploration were abandoned. We exhausted our natural resources, as a result our planet’s core became unstable. Eventually our military leader, General Zod, attempted a coup, but by then it was too late.” – Jor-El

“The people of Earth are different from us, it’s true. But, ultimately, I believe that is a good thing. They won’t necessarily make the same mistakes we did, not if you guide them, Kal. Not if you give them hope. That’s what this symbol means.  The symbol of the House of El means hope. Embodied in that hope is the potential of every person to be a force for good. That’s what you can bring them.” – Jor-El

Man of Steel starts on Krypton with Jor-El and Lara insuring the survival of their son, when their planet is about to be destroyed. The background on Krypton, and the exact means of its destruction will also be expanded upon, during encounters between an AI hologram of Jor-El and others – including Clark, Lois Lane, and even General Zod. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After introducing us to Jor-El, Lara, the Kryptonian government Council, and Zod and his coup – which fails, as well as the launch’s escape from Krypton and Krypton’s destruction – Man of Steel actually skips forward quite a bit.

We see a lobster harvesting ship, and a young man everyone calls “Greenhorn”. Only from the film’s trailers do we realize this is Clark Kent. The ship receives an SOS from an burning oil rig. When they arrive, the Coast Guard has declared the rig a lost cause and the lobster ship’s captain says the guys inside are dead already. Clark leaps into the water, gets the men to the rig’s deck that’s still somewhat free of flames, and they are rescued by the Coast Guard. Clark ends up falling into the water below the flames.

The film flashes back to Clark being overwhelmed by his senses as school. His mom helps him to focus.

The film flashes forward to Clark – he’s awakened below water by whale song, then gets to shore and borrows some dry clothes.

The film flashes back to a slightly older Clark on a school bus, where he’s being bullied and taunted by school-mates. The bus tire blows out, loses control, goes through a guide-rail and lands in a river. Clark pushes open the back door, then lifts the bus to safety on the shore. Some of the kids have seen what happened.

One of the parents confronts the Kents. Jonathan Kent tells Clark he can’t use his powers. He shows Clark the space ship and gives the S-shield key to Clark. He explains that Clark has another father out there, somewhere, who sent Clark to Earth for a reason, and Clark should strive to find out who his father was and what the reason may be.

The film flashes back to the present. In a rough and tumble bar, one of the oil workers harasses a waitress.  Clark tells him to stop it. The customer throws a beer in Clark’s face and taunts him. The waitress tells Clark it’s not worth it. Clark walks off. The guy throws a can at him and hits him in the head.

Clark walks down a highway, carrying a bag, and hitch-hiking.

Lois shows up to investigate an “anomaly”.

Clark finds a Kryptonian ship buried in ice that’s over eighteen thousand years old. He uses the S-shield key to deactivate the automatic security system. The key is an command key. Lois also follows Clark and gets attacked by the security system – Clark uses his heat vision to cauterize her wounds.

The ship departs. Lois narrates her story but Perry won’t print it. She gives the story to a conspiracy theorist website.

Meanwhile, Clark meets an Artificial Intelligence-hologram of his father, Jor-El. Jor-El gives his son, Kal-El a lesson in Kyptonian history. They had expanded across the galaxy, built outposts, even terraformed planets. Then the empire withdrew back to Krypton, abandoned its outposts and space exploration, began using genetic engineering to predetermine everyone’s role in society, and eventually exhausted Krypton’s resources. This lead to mining of Krypton’s core, which caused the core to collapse and the planet to explode.

Jor-El and his wife Lara sought a different path. They risked much to have a natural birth, the first in generations, and when Krypton’s doom was nigh, they put Kal-El in a spaceship with the Codex of Krypton’s citizens and sent the ship off, towards Earth.

The film flashes back to a teen-aged Clark, who wants to be something greater, something more than a Kansas farmer, like Jonathan Kent. He’s arguing with his father, when a tornado hits on the freeway. Thanks to Jonathan’s actions, most everyone gets to shelter, but he, himself, ends up trapped in a car (after freeing their dog). Clark goes to rescue Jonathan, but Jonathan yells at him to stay with his mother.

Clark goes home to visit his mother.

General Zod shows up and gives Earth an Ultimatum – turn over Kal-El or face the consequences.

Another flashback, as Clark remembers being bullied and conversations with his Dad about not reacting to the bully.

Back in the “present”, Clark turns up at an army or air force base, and offers to surrender if he can speak to Lois and if the military guarantees her freedom.

There’s another flashback/dream sequence of Zod’s history. Zod explains how the destruction of Krypton released him and his fellow insurgents from the Phantom Zone. They retrofit a ship with hyperdrive and search for Kal-El.  Not finding anything on Krypton’s old outposts for thirty-three years, they pick up a signal from the scout ship that was sent automatically when Clark entered it. Zod’s plan is to take the Codex and then use a World Engine to terraform Earth into New Krypton. This will, of course, destroy every living thing on Earth.

Lois and Clark are taken by Zod, and put in cells on Zod’s ship. They are tortured and experimented upon. Lois, however, has the command key – and when she uses it, Jor-El appears to her and guides her through what she has to do.

Clark manages to escape from Zod’s ship, and rescues Lois – who’s escape pod has been hit by weapons fire and is spiraling out of control towards the ground. But Clark rescues her. Zod, his female lieutenant, and his other cronies attack Martha Kent and do considerable damage to her house. Clark and Zod have a show down on main street.  But before they can re-play High Noon, the military arrives and in trying to shut down Zod and company make things worse.

There’s a massive battle between Zod, Superman, Zod’s lieutenant, the military, and Zod’s forces. Needless to say, Smallville, Kansas doesn’t fair well. Eventually, Zod and company leave.

But, Zod orders the release of the World Engine. Having discovered that Jor-El bonded the Codex to Clark’s cells – and that it’s recoverable whether Clark is alive or dead, Zod will use his machine to terraform Earth into New Krypton, kill everything on the planet, and take the Codex from Clark’s corpse.

Lois and Clark bring his capsule ship to the army, and he, Lois and Col. Hardy explain how the capsule can be used to destroy Zod’s ship. Superman will go to the second site and destroy the other half of the World Engine terraforming machine in the Indian Ocean.

The plan basically works, though Zod survives and Clark has to fight him. Eventually, Superman kills Zod.

I thought Man of Steel  was better on second viewing, than when I first saw it in the theater last Spring or Summer. The film works best in it’s quite moments – Lara and Jor-El on Krypton trying to save their child, Clark talking to his father – Jonathan Kent, and Clark learning from his other father – Jor-El. But, at times, some of the action sequences seem overblown and thus almost boring. They can just be too much and too long. I also found the constant flash backs and flash forwards to be somewhat distracting. Not that I never knew “when” I was – that was perfectly clear, but I think the film would have worked better if it was presented in chronological order, or largely chronological with only the tiniest of shots back to scenes we had already seen. I think it would have made Clark a stronger and more interesting character, and the audience would have been able to follow his journey – and route for him more. I also think some of the action sequences could have been trimmed a bit, there’s only so much CGI of collapsing buildings and flying cars that one can take. The cast was good. Henry Cavill made for a more vulnerable take on Clark Kent, and the surrounding cast of experienced actors made the film work. Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, and Kevin Cosner were all brilliant as Clark’s parents.

Recommendation: See It
Rating: 3.5 to 4 Stars
Next Film: Not sure, probably Star Trek: Into Darkness.