Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA/Canada/United Kingdom, 2013. Warner Bros., Legendary Entertainment, Syncopy, DC Comics, DC Entertainment. Story by David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan, Screenplay by David S. Goyer, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster. Cinematography by Amir Mokri. Produced by Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Emma Thomas. Music by Hans Zimmer. Production Design by Alex McDowell. Costume Design by James Acheson, Michael Wilkinson. Film Editing by David Brenner.
It’s hard to imagine a superhero-led franchise more in need of making the old feel new again than that of Superman, the bland do-gooder who flies through the air and has the strength of titans. After the first two wonderful Christopher Reeve entries, a silly third film and forgettable fourth were not helped at all by Bryan Singer’s passable but mostly fan-convention-minded 2006 rehash starring a colourless Brandon Routh. It might seem too soon to reboot the series yet again, but given how long it has been since a worthwhile Superman movie was made, emotionally it has been decades in the making. Thankfully, the result of Zach Snyder’s stab at the concept, produced by Batman rebrander Christopher Nolan, is a memorable and highly enjoyable, even at its messiest, caper that does a fantastic job of depicting his beginnings without spending endless amounts of time dawdling around a cornfield. After a thrilling opening sequence on the planet Krypton, where infant Kal-El is shipped off to safety in a space pod by his father (Russell Crowe) before he and the child’s mother are killed in the planet’s destruction, we cut directly to his adult years (played by Henry Cavill) on Earth living it Five Easy Pieces in blue-collar obscurity. Flashbacks to a childhood with loving earth parents Kevin Costner and Diane Lane fill in the holes as the plot drives forward to the renamed Clark Kent reconnecting with his past and revealing himself to the world. At the same time, an ambitious reporter (Amy Adams) gets wind of strange things happening in the skies and starts to pursue the story towards her goal, and thankfully it results in a fair bit of attraction between the two of them. Unfortunately, the evil General Zod (Michael Shannon filling in for Terence Stamp) is also on the horizon, released from interplanetary prison and following our hero to Earth to exact some revenge. What this results in is a great number of scenes (possibly two or three too many, actually) of these monstrously powerful action figures getting into fistfights that topple entire buildings: if Superman is going to save the world, it certainly appears that he’s going to make a few blunders before getting good at it (or more specifically, ruin a lot of people’s livelihoods…someone owns that gas station, dude). More importantly, and what sets this film above the rest, there is a conflict within our superhero about the correct way to apply the massive superiority he has over everyone around him: humans need his help but, in their typical rejection of anything they do not understand, are likely to make a pariah of him and prove themselves unworthy. Should he use his powers for angry evil, or should he be the benevolent saviour even if it goes unappreciated? This is a wonderful addition to a colourless series that could really use the boost, and it is helped by the casting of a genuine grown woman in an industry that has gotten far too used to having teenage girls play professional adults: Adams is actually nine years older than Cavill, and goodness knows that by the time their romance comes into play it will take a mature woman to handle his above-the-board sexual energies. Terrific experience all around, and the technology is bountiful and exciting as well.