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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Man of Steel (3-D) | Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Amy Adams | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Man of Steel  (3-D) | Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Amy Adams | Review

The long-anticipated reboot detailing galactic traveler Kal-El’s journey to Earth, Krypton’s civil war and ultimate destruction, and the two sets of parents that shaped the reluctant superhero’s life comes to the screen in a magnificent first hour of origins.

Scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and wife Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) launch infant Kal-El off of the fiery dying planet, heading for Earth with a secret – several really – that General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his treasonous, coup-inducing henchpersons (he’s got a woman among them, Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) pursue with destructive zeal after being freed from icy captivity after Krypton’s spectacular demise.

33 years later, they find him.

During that time, Kal-El a.k.a. Clark (Henry Cavill) has been discovered and adopted by Smallville, Kansas couple John and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), endured a confusing, superpower-filled childhood, and reaches adulthood drifting through a series of dead-end jobs trying desperately to be anonymous – and human.

None of these scenes takes place chronologically, by the way, but you will encounter Clark at various ages rescuing a submerged school bus full of children, single-handedly stopping an oil rig from collapsing, and wearing combustible flames like a new suit.

Discovered by reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) aboard an ice embedded spaceship in the Arctic, a vessel in which he can communicate holographically with his dead father’s spirit, Clark struggles with reining in his amazing strength, fielding advice from two fathers while keeping a low profile in a strange, new habitat that gives him X-ray vision and inexplicable, life-saving capabilities.  A Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter is the last thing he needs.  Lane works for the Daily Planet’s managing editor, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne).  Don’t even try looking for Jimmy Olson.

Then Zod and his small but lethal army hover over Earth with demands for Kal-El’s surrender, determined NOT to be anonymous.  Clark’s cover is blown, Lane is harassed and detained by the FBI, and the CGI runs rampant through the streets of Metropolis for what seems an interminable length of time.  

The second half of Director Zack Snyder’s (300) 143 minute saga slowly disintegrates into a giant video game that can’t be paused.  Battle scenes rage in a “look what we can do with 225 million dollars” SFX fest. Crushed concrete and wounded architecture fill the screen over and over and over again.  After such a long, promising beginning, the viewer’s ardor fades into a tolerable curiosity and then segues into impatient annoyance.  By film’s end, even die-hard fans could be heard saying things like “enough already” and “too long.”

Henry Cavill brings a brooding, conflicted persona to the titular character.  Russell Crowe is effective as a sort of space gladiator, moral compass, and spiritual guide.  Amy Adams seems too meek and wide-eyed to portray the savvy investigative reporter, let alone a Pulitzer Prize winning one, but the source material did originate in a comic book, er, graphic novel after all, which makes it mildly plausible in the DC universe.  Kevin Costner radiates his own cape of integrity as Clark’s adoptive dad, and Diane Lane makes for a nurturing mother figure, even though her graying hair would have been more convincing wrapped in a farmwife bun than flowing to her shoulders.  Hey, that’s in the source material, too.

Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay, along with Dark Knight screenwriter David S. Goyer.  The pair seemed to have the notion to change Superman (whose name is barely if ever mention in the film) into a version of his darker, angst-ridden colleague, Batman. If only that worked half as well as they intended,

Instead, we’re left with a visual knock-out of a film (although the 3-D effects are negligible) that builds down to an adequate middle and bombards the senses relentlessly for the last forty minutes.  Cavill and Adams generate no sparks; neither do Cavill and Crowe.  Only Costner and Lane resonate with emotional warmth during their limited screen time.

Never is Clark/Kal-El more interesting than when he grapples with the humanity he doesn’t even possess but tries to absorb.  That seems to vanish when he puts on the iconic blue and red suit and slams into inanimate objects.  Integrating more of the man (and even a little humor) into the mix would ensure that the next Man of Steel (and there will be one) won’t be quite as cold to the touch.

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