For all those of you who have seen Man of Steel, or even all discerning Superman fans, you know that Jor-El isn’t a Kryptonian to be trifled with. As we would say in Hindi slang, woh toh Superman ka baap hai (literal translation: he’s Superman’s dad; but it sounds cooler in Hindi).
Now, if Jor-El were to oversee how his son’s life was chronicled on our planet, how would he have reacted to Man of Steel?
He would have been very happy.
Coincidentally, I watched this movie on Father’s Day. My dad wasn’t here to see it with me (he travels a lot), but I’m pretty sure he will like it once he sees it.
That brings me to the first point about the movie, the Fathers.
Let’s talk about Jor-El first, the biological father. Russell Crowe puts in an outstanding performance as the strong-willed and righteous Kryptonian. Even when Lara Lor-Van (the beautiful Ayelet Zurer) is torn between sending her son off to an ‘alien’ planet and keeping him with them, Jor-El steps in and makes the right decision – for the survival of the Kryptonians.
Jonathan Kent, played by the Academy Award-winning Kevin Costner, brings out Clark Kent’s moral ambiguity to the fore. Must he save society, or should he just concentrate on hiding his abilities from society? It’s a conundrum that Costner tries to answer during one of the most poignant scenes in the movie (can I continue pretending that I’m your son). This, by the way, is the performance of the movie.
And just like a father would, both of them carry the movie on their shoulders, firmly yet carefully, as if they are carrying their son.
Now, let’s talk about the son – the man we know as Superman.
Henry Cavill portrays Superman honestly and earnestly. If you had any doubts about him being the Man of Steel, cast them away. Cavill IS the new-age Superman. There is a point in his final fight with Zod when he lets out a cry of anguish – that’s when you realise how much he’s got into the skin of the character (literally and figuratively). Of course, when he takes flight for the first time is a treat to watch too. There isn’t a point in the movie where you could fault him, except when he’s with Lois Lane.
Lois Lane – she’s a tricky one.
Amy Adams does give a solid enough performance, but to me she was the weak link in the movie. Her chemistry with Cavill wasn’t all peaches and cream to start with. She is still the daring, independent woman that Margot Kidder was, but Kidder and Reeve had a special, sparkling chemistry that is somehow missing between Adams and Cavill. It’s almost as if she’s ‘scared’ of Superman – which isn’t a bad thing, but, you know, the edge is missing. Margot Kidder was never scared of Reeve, just star-struck.
She was definitely scared of the Villains, though.
When Terence Stamp portrayed the role of Zod, he was aloof, cold and very creepy. It was easy to hate him. Michael Shannon is just as creepy, but he’s a lot more passionate and you almost end up trying to understand him and why he wants to destroy Earth. As he says, whatever he does is ‘for the greater good’. And as a warrior, he’s more than an equal match for our Boy Scout. His character is so great that at one point, I almost ended up rooting for him.
Faora (hot as hell Antje Traue) makes for a brilliant evil general, and yeah, there’s no doubt that you will hate her. Especially when she catches Martha Kent by the throat – you want to kill her, beat her up that very instant.
The Mothers, Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and Lara Lor-Van don’t have much screen time, but they make a great impact whenever they’re on screen, especially Martha Kent. Along with Mr. Kent, she forms the protective shield around little Clark Kent. She helps him get through childhood. You feel really sad for Lara though, when she tells Jor-El she won’t be able to see him walk or talk. But God couldn’t have chosen a better step mom for her son.
Visually, Snyder succeeds in making Man of Steel a masterpiece (shout out to Amir Mokri, the cinematographer). Krypton looks so beautiful that you almost don’t want it to be blown up. Smallville looks idyllic; the perfect place to ‘secretly’ bring up Clark Kent. The only city that gets blown to rubble even before we see it properly is Metropolis. However, I’m pretty sure we can expect more of it in the sequel.
As far as the story goes, Nolan and Goyer (mostly Goyer) team up to give us a cracking modern-day retelling of our favourite Boy Scout. There is one major thing about the Superman ethos they haven’t introduced so far – and I’ll stay tight-lipped and leave it for you to find out. The editing left a lot to be desired – the transition between flashback and current timeline isn’t smooth at all, making the screenplay look tacky in parts.
But there is so much heart packed into this story that by the end of the movie you’re willing to forgive it. Yes, that’s the thing about this movie – it has heart, and dollops of it. Which makes perfect sense for Superman, whose heart may not be human, but it sure is humane.
I give Man of Steel a solid 8.5/10– magnificent action and enough lump-in-the-throat moments to give an overwhelming experience. Leave your preconceived notions and comic books behind and immerse yourself in this new experience – the best Superman movie there is, yet.