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mansteel

Every Friday I can’t wait to check my mailbox. It’s magazine Friday which means that I get my Entertainment Weekly and People. Last Friday I was more excited than usual because I knew the Man of Steel reviews would be out. When I opened my EW and searched for that letter rating on the movie my heart sunk. C+? Seriously? I read the review. Basically the reviewer had two major complaints: 1) no chemistry between Amy Adams (Lois Lane) and Henry Cavill (Superman) and 2) Not enough Clark Kent. Plus, the reviewer was less than stoked that this origin story of our hero focused on, well, his origin.

Okay…What did People have to say? 2 1/2 stars out of 4. Not bad considering it’s a super hero movie reviewed by People, so my spirits lifted a bit. Then I went over to Rotten Tomatoes to see what the movie scored there: 52% of critics liked it, 82% of people liked it. Ah huh…something is off with the critics.

So, I started thinking. Why are the critics so hard on the reboot of the Superman franchise? It probably has something to do with Superman being the all-American icon. It’s important to understand that Superman was created during the Great Depression as the epitome of hope when people were desperate for a miracle. He was the protector of the average Joe. He gave kids something to believe in when life seemed hopeless. I believe is was EW that said that Superman in American history has become more than just a comic book hero, he became a part of American mythology.

Growing up Superman was always Christopher Reeve. I loved all of the movies, even the awful ones, and would re-watch them whenever they came on tv. For me, super heroes were a wonder and topic for amazement. My obsession with them never went past the movies or tv into comic books, but I never missed a chance to watch. Lois and Clark, you know the Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain version, was my favorite show while it aired. I even watched Smallville for the first few seasons, until it wasn’t as good anymore and I lost interest. And don’t get me started on Superman Returns. All I can say is: not good. So, it makes sense that the critics would be a little harsher given Superman’s history.

Despite the conflict in reviews I went out tonight and I watched Man of Steel. My conclusion? The critics are stupid.

Man of Steel is about conflicted Kal-El, not Clark Kent. Kal-El must decide the best way to use his powers and how to go about revealing them to the world. Growing up, his father, played by Kevin Costner, urges “Clark” to keep his powers a secret. Yet, a string of people throughout Kal’s life witness his amazing abilities even bringing a few of them to his parents attention. His father is insistent, however, that “Clark” maintain control and hide who he is…for now. It’s not until Kal is in his 30s that he discovers the intentions of his Kryptonian parents and why he was sent to Earth. Faced with his true identity and a threat to all of man-kind, Kal-El must decide the kind of man he is going to be and take his place in the world.

First of all, I LOVED the idea that this story is about Kal-El and not Clark Kent. Clark Kent is Kal-El’s secret identity, not who he truly is. I love that people call him Kal throughout the movie, with only a select few – Lois Lane and Martha Kent – calling him Clark. I love that he doesn’t dawn the tie and glasses until the end, when he truly accepts his place among us.

Another part that I loved about the movie was that Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe (who is superb by the way), had a bigger role to play. In the past, Jor-El is only ever seen when Superman visits his “Fortress of Solitude” in the arctic, and even then he’s this boring, holographic guy who has about five minutes of screen time just to tell Kal-El where he comes from. But this new Jor-El is more present and takes a more proactive role in Kal’s life. Jor is able to guide his son and fully explain what happened on Krypton and why they gave up their only son. In fact, it is Jor who gives Kal his Superman suit! How perfect is that? Not his mother sewing him some spandex and a cape, but his Kryptonian father passing on a piece of their Kryptonian culture. Even better, the “S” on the suit doesn’t stand for “Superman,” it stands for “Hope” in Kryptonian and is the symbol of the El family. Ahhhh…now it makes sense right?

Now lets talk about the actors! When I heard that Amy Adams was cast to play Lois Lane, I had my reservations. I mean, a red-headed Lois Lane is like a blonde-hair, blue-eyed James Bond (which I love, by the way). She also didn’t do that great in a few of the promotional interviews I saw her do as she came off a little pompous. However, I will say that she did a great job. She was focused and determined when she needed to be, yet she was human and had a sense of morality that held her back when she had the opportunity to go to far. Thus, I can happily say that I will be looking forward to the next installment with Ms. Adams as Ms. Lane.

The star of the movie, abs and all, is definitely Henry Cavill. I was first introduced to the Brit when he played “Charles Brandon” on the Tudors. I fell in love with him. When news broke that he was cast as the new “Superman,” I was ecstatic! This excitement was only solidified after watching the movie tonight, and I can honestly say that Mr. Cavill is the best “Superman” since Christopher Reeve. That is saying a lot! Yes, Henry Cavill is hot. Okay, there has to be a better word for “hot” because it just isn’t good enough, not to mention that once you put him into that suit heaven help us all. But, what’s more important is that Mr. Cavill brought so much vulnerability to the character that the audience can really identify with what he’s going through. It’s really a beautiful thing to watch a lost, struggling, and angry transient become a serene, empowered individual with a sense of purpose. Despite being from another world, Henry’s “Kal-El” is, well, human and it’s this humanity that he brings to the character that him real and authentic.

Let me also add that the cinematography is extremely well done. The use of hand-held cameras was a great idea by director Zack Snyder. As Superman bounces about the Earth the audience almost gets the sense that they are watching a news story unfold. Again, the word “authentic” comes to mind. I will also throw out there that the action sequences are fantastic. I found myself wincing several times throughout as “Superman” or “General Zod” crashed through entire buildings. The destruction of Metropolis is incredible!

Is Man of Steel perfect? Of course not. There can always been improvements in writing and dialog. It would be nicer if there was just a bit more development between Lois and Kal when they first meet. And a few other relationships could be expanded on…but that’s what sequels are for right?

I’ll conclude by saying that if you listen to the critics and skip out on Man of Steel, then you are seriously missing out.

Rating: A-

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