Man of Steel (Warner Bros.) was the weekend’s super box office winner, soaring to hit #1 and earning $125 million. According to studio estimates, it earned $13 million domestically this weekend, and $12 million from showings this past Thursday, bringing the total to $125 million. Man of Steel also did well overseas, taking in $71.6 million from 24 territories, including the Philippines, India, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
I saw the movie today, and thought that it was the best Superman movie yet, despite having read some uneven reviews of Man of Steel. Those reviewers must have been watching an entirely different movie.
What made Man of Steel special to me, the best movie of the summer so far? Special effects that were off the hook spectacular, awesome casting, killer acting, and sticking to the traditional origin story of Superman but adding cool extra details to it.
Though Superman (Henry Cavill) lives on Earth in Smallville, Kansas, Man of Steel brings out his alien origins more so than any of the other Superman movies I’ve seen so far. I can’t speak about the 2007 version, though, as I didn’t see that one.
The first part of Man of Steel takes place on Superman’s home planet, Krypton. We get to see Superman’s birth, and General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) maniacal devotion to what he considers to be his duty, to “save” the inhabitants of Krypton through attempting to overthrow the government.
He and a retinue of his devoted followers bust into a meeting taking place between his planet’s royal family and Jor-El (Russell Crowe), Kal-El’s (Superman’s) father, and they shoot and kill the King and Queen.
Jor-El had been trying to warn them that the mining of the inner core of Krypton was making the planet unstable, and destroying it. They argued with him, saying what else could they do, as their planet’s people needed the energy. This sounded to me a bit like some arguments being made today about America’s (and the world’s) over-reliance on fossil fuels.
Jor-El manages to escape, and rushes to where his wife and baby son are. He has made advance preparations to send Kal-El to a place where he should be safe, and have the best chance to survive — Earth. The yellow sun there will give Kal-El godlike powers.
General Zod & Co. try to prevent Jor-El from sending his son off, as Zod believes that the ship also contains a “Codex” which has the key to the survival of Krypton on it. Until the birth of Kal-El, there had been no natural births on Krypton for centuries. The inhabitants were born through using pre-existing DNA, which was stored in the Codex.
General Zod is in his full military uniform, and he battles with Jor-El, who holds his own, despite only having on the skin-tight clothing that is the basic uniform of everyone on Krypton. This is the explanation of why Superman has a skin-tight uniform — its origins are from his home planet. He tells Jor-El that he will search for his son until he finds him, and then he’ll kill him.
General Zod eventually kills Jor-El, but not before Kal-El is successfully launched and heads towards Earth.
Help arrives, in the form of spaceships which carry other members of the military, and they promptly arrest Zod and his palls — but, they’re too late to save Jor-El. Jor-El makes further appearances in Man of Steel, but it’s his spirit that lingers on after the death of his body.
General Zod’s and his pal’s punishment is to be imprisoned forever in the Phantom Zone. The get encased in black stuff, and meet their fate — but, Krypton is blowing up, just as Jor-El had said it would.
The destruction of Krypton frees General Zod and his buddies. They then search for an survivors on other planets that had been outpost colonies of Kryptonians, but they don’t discover anyone left alive, as they couldn’t survive without getting needed supplies from their now-destroyed home planet.
On Earth, the Kents — Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) — have taken Kal-El and raised him as their own, naming him Clark, as anyone who’s even remotely familiar with the origins of Superman knows. The Kents live on a farm in Smallville, Kansas.
We see scenes of Clark growing up and learning to deal with his super powers interspersed with ones of him when he’s older, but before he has decided to take up his cape and fight for the inhabitants of his adopted planet, Earth.
Clark goes through a series of odd jobs, such as being a fisherman on a voyage right out of one of those extreme fishing shows, like Deadliest Catch. while aboard, an offshore oil drilling rig is in blazes, and there seems to be no hope that anyone will survive — but, Clark can’t resist trying to rescue them and he dives into the ocean and…does. It’s a very cool early highlight in the flick, other than the ones that take place on Krypton.
Another great highlight when Clark is young is when he and his classmates are on a bus which crashes off a bridge into a river. The bus fills up with water, and Clark goes out the back doors of the bus and pushes it back up onto dry land.
Man of Steel is not a typical retelling of the Superman story in several ways, a few of which I’ve already mentioned.
Another of the ways it’s different is that Lois Lane (Amy Adams) tracks down a mysterious person she meets in the Antarctic. It’s Superman, but she doesn’t know that, yet. He is using his heat vision to melt a passage into ice that’s 20,000 years old, where a spaceship from Krypton lies entombed.
That’s where Clark finds a key that was his father’s, which unlocks Jor-El’s spirit. Jor-El tells his son about his birth and General Zod. Lois follows Clark through the tunnel, and she is almost killed by one of the flying robots which are there to protect the ship. Clark has to use his heat vision to cauterize a wound she receives on her stomach.
I won’t say much more about Man of Steel, as I’ve already given away quite a lot about its plot. Suffice it to say, that General Zod and his pals manage to locate Earth, and that they demand for Kal-El to be turned over to them. He agrees to give himself up to them, but they take Lois, also, and then reveal their plans to terraform the Earth and re-make it into a new Krypton. This, of course, would mean the deaths of every human on the planet.
Besides the main characters I’ve already mentioned, I really liked Laurence Fishburne in the role of Lois Lane’s boss on the Daily Planet, Perry White. Also, I enjoyed seeing the actor who played Toby on The West Wing (Robert Schiff) as Professor Hamilton. They’re both relatively small parts, but important ones, and both actors do a great job in those roles.
While this review is by no means a complete picture of what I feel makes Man of Steel the best Superman movie that’s ever been made so far, I hope that it gives you at least some idea about why I think it’s a great movie, and why movie-goers around the world have made Man of Steel this weekend’s super box office winner.
Written by: Douglas Cobb