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Man of Steel: Script So-So, But Great Acting Lifts Film

Russell Crowe plays Superman's father in the new Man of Steel movie.

Russell Crowe plays Superman’s father in the new Man of Steel movie.

“Man of Steel” is a stunningly good story… for the first third of the movie. It’s punctuated by great performances from Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, and Amy Adams. Costner’s so good as Superman’s earth dad, he could nab a Best Supporting Oscar nom.

Michael Shannon, from HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” is terrifically menacing as the film’s bad guy, General Zod. In fact, he’s just as good at being bad as Benedict Cumberbatch was in the latest Star Trek opus.

That said, so many things are blown up and the characters move so fast in the the last third of the movie, the narrative is stretched a bit beyond belief.

Growing up, I read the original Superman comic books, collected them and watched with great interest the various movies, as well as the TV series. Just for the record, I thought the TV-show “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, was just totally insipid.

Ironically, the movies with the late-Christopher Reeve, though widely panned at the time, have sure endured the test of time. Cavill is a worthy successor, bringing just the right amount of gravitas to the role.

The movie opens with Crowe as his Krypton-Dad Jor El, doing battle with Zod and realizing the Krypton is a doomed planet. His child is born and quickly jettisoned to Earth.

I was one of the few who thought Crowe was terrific in last year’s movie “Les Miserables.” He’s sensational here, even participating in some of the game play, suit and all. Marlon Brando played the role in the Reeve movies, but Crowe ultimately makes the character his own.

While Kal El (Superman) is off to earth, Zod and his crew are banished to the Phantom Zone.

Man of Steel: Script So-So, But Great Acting Lifts Film  1

Henry Cavill plays Superman in the reboot.

Growing up, Cavill had listened to his earth father and kept his powers a secret, although he uses them to avert a disaster or two as a youth.

Traveling as a lone-wolf, he finally discovers, hidden in ice, a ship from his planet that finally reveals to him his origins. Also, he has his first encounter with Lois Lane (Adams).

With the destruction of Krypton, Zod escapes the Phantom Zone and goes in search of Superman, vowing to destroy him. Director Zach Snyder has directed a rather wonderful character play here and only misfires, to me, in the final act.

His portrayal of Krypton is just sensational; comic-geeks should love what he’s done. I especially liked the explanation, which I won’t reveal here, about exactly what the S stands for. For long-time fans, the movie is filled with great easter eggs about the Superman-canon. This is a tribute-film for fans.

Also outstanding in the film are Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, as Perry white (a brilliant casting move), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order); and Ayelet Zurer as Kal El’s mother.

The talents of Jonathan Nolan is felt throughout and actually is a very good thing. He’s brought a rich, narrative thread to it all.

The film is perhaps the best yet, effort to re-imagine this classic story. They’re already working on the sequel. I’d definitely check this one out.


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