Man of Steel
3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital l 2-Disc DVD/Digital l Instant
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
WRITER: David Goyer
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Christopher Meloni, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Ayelet Zurer, Dylan Sprayberry, Richard Schiff
RELEASE DATE: November 12, 2013
“What was I supposed to do, just let them die?” … “Maybe.”
That’s part of a conversation had between a young Clark Kent and his adoptive father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) after Clark saves a bus full of kids from certain death, and a good indicator of what kind of movie Man of Steel, the latest take on iconic superhero Superman, aims to be.
Directed by Zack Snyder, the movie opens on the planet Krypton with Jor-El (Russell Crowe) witnessing the birth of his son and then going to try and warn a council of leaders of the planet’s impending doom before General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts a coup and things begin escalating toward a state of chaos and destruction. Thinking quickly, Jor-El recovers a crucial item in preserving the Kryptonian race and sends it along with his newborn child, Kal-El, the first naturally born baby on the planet in centuries, off to planet Earth.
There he lives for the next 33 years, dealing with many of the things we all dealt with growing up, while also trying to keep his special abilities as secret as possible. But when General Zod finally locates the adult Kal-El (Henry Cavill) he comes to Earth to get what he’s been seeking all these years, no matter what the cost.
The central theme of Man of Steel is morality. What’s right. What’s wrong. Does the choice even exist? Many of the characters, both good and bad, face these choices throughout the film. But of course it’s Superman himself who’s constantly struggling with them. For him the right choice isn’t necessarily the best choice, being taught by elder Kent that people fear what they don’t understand. Basically, if someone sees him juggling skyscrapers, they may not invite him over for dinner and drinks after. Throughout the movie we see Clark thinking back to the lessons he’s learned growing up, including the bus full of kids. He risked being discovered, risked becoming feared. But he saved them all. Sometimes the risk is worth it. This all makes for a surprisingly deep and philosophical movie at times, thanks mostly to the wisdom and teachings of two very different fathers.
Clearly the goal with this movie was to create something a little closer to Warner Brothers’ massively successful run with the Batman franchise under the watch of director Christopher Nolan (who’s also credited as a writer and producer on this movie) than they went for with 2006’s Superman Returns. It succeeds in some areas, but when you get right down to it, Batman and Superman are obviously two totally different characters, and it’s much harder to deliver that more realistic and more believable style when dealing with the latter. Which makes the planned sequel, Batman vs. Superman, all the more interesting (though not as interesting as it would have been if it were Nolan’s Batman vs. Superman).
Still, I like the things Snyder has done in Man of Steel. For the most part anyway. The opening on Krypton was a pleasant surprise for me, who saw a picture of Crowe holding a space gun a number of months back and thought to myself “this movie may just be doomed.” But it worked, and was a unique way of getting things rolling in a world where we all feel like we’ve seen every big superhero’s origin story told 26 times over now. I also liked the struggles of Clark Kent. Making it look like being a superhero isn’t nearly as amazing as we’ve always thought it would be is rather refreshing. Maybe a little depressing if you’re looking for fun superhero action, but still strangely refreshing. The overall look and feel of the movie is appealing enough to make it worth watching, and the story and music both solid.
On the negative side of things, the movie shifts gears in a big way with about an hour left and lost me a bit. When Zod shows up on Earth the action picks up, which is something you might expect from a summer superhero flick and something I have no trouble enjoying. But the problem is the gear appears to get stuck, and the pace keeps increasing and increasing, getting to the point where it’s a little overwhelming. There’s only so many high-speed alien superbeing fights that lead to the destruction of towns and cities one can take. At times I felt like I was watching one of those famous Peter Griffin/Giant Chicken fights from Family Guy.
Man of Steel isn’t nearly as good as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, nor does it achieve the personality and entertainment level of most of the Marvel movies. But it does offer an interesting take on Superman, one that’s well worth a watch whether you’re a fan of the character or just superhero movies in general.
Strong Characters, Legendary Roles — The full behind-the-scenes treatment, looking at the making of the movie, where the comics came into play and what was new, and what Superman has meant to the cast and crew who made the movie.
All-Out Action — Another lengthy behind-the-scenes look, this one focusing on the action of Man of Steel, the brutal training regiment to get some of the actors ready for their physically demanding roles, and some of the stunt work and choreography.
Krypton Decoded — A look at the various technologies, weapons, and spaceships of Krypton.
Superman 75th Anniversary Short — 75 years of Superman, quickly celebrated in an animated short.
New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth — There is so much bonus content for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, they’re starting to throw them in with other movies. I dunno if this is an accident or on purpose or what, but here it is, a random 6 1/2-minute Hobbit making of featurette doubling as a travel ad for New Zealand. I’ll take it! It really is amazing how real and minimally digitized much of the picturesque scenery you see in those movies is.
Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel — All of the special features above are on the same disc as the movie itself, so when I put in this second disc dedicated only to special features and only found two of them, I was a tad confused. I quickly realized why that is upon starting this first one, which runs almost three hours in length.
It’s basically the entire movie, re-cut with little behind-the-scenes features for almost every scene, as well as actors and crew stepping in from time to time to share details about what’s going on. For example: there are markings seen all over Krypton and on Kryptonian weapons and armor and such. Nothing is said of them in the movie and nothing is explained, but a ton of work was actually put into creating a Kryptonian language/vocabulary and all of these markings actually say things. Perhaps the original plan was to have the actors actually speak this language where needed and Snyder ultimately decided to have them speak English, but it really adds a level of detail you can’t help but appreciate.
This juggernaut of a special feature is jam-packed with looks at the amount of work and detail that goes into a movie like this, and that always helps me to enjoy the final product that much more when re-watching the movie. Definitely a bonus content-lover’s dream come true.
Planet Krypton — If and when we do discover life on other planets—whether it be intelligent or not—you can be sure that we’ll see educational documentaries made on the topic. This bonus feature is made in that same vein, discussing the Kryptonian’s arrival on Earth after the events of the movie have unfolded.