For the longest time ever, Superman has languished in mediocrity as far as movies based off of him are concerned. This in itself is an irony and really sad because Superman is the king when it comes to superheroes. He's basically the grand daddy of everyone from DC AND Marvel, and without him, superhero comics as we know and love them would not exist (and so would the movies, which have become such a pop culture staple). Sure there was that Superman Returns deal, but let's face it. It didn't really capture what our boy Supes is supposed to be capable of, and it bombed. And was the cause of X-Men: The Last Stand sucking due to Bryan Singer leaving its production for Superman. Yeah, not too happy about the double feature crapfest. Luckily, the powers that be decided to reboot Supes. Not a continuation of the Richard Donner movies, a complete new one, one for a post-9/11 America.
Much like the original Richard Donner film, Man of Steel opens up with a dying Krypton and Superman being born. It is then told via a series of flashbacks while Clark Kent works multiple jobs under different identities to cover up who he really is. Eventually a bunch of Kryptonian dissidents from the first act show up, threaten earth, and all hell breaks loose in more ways than one. It's a pretty straightforward plot, but then again, Superman is a pretty straightforward character. That's why he's Superman.
The acting was about as good as it should have been for a superhero movie. Henry Cavill did a pretty good job capturing that boy scout/do gooder mentality that Superman is universally known for. He wasn't quite emotionless, but every time he opened his mouth, he was basically the nicest guy in the world, until you piss him off. So in other words he was dead on. Michael Shannon did a good job as the Megatron-esque villain who only wanted to preserve his race, even if he had to wipe out an entire other world to do it. He was a decent moral foil to Superman. Ok, so that part was kind of generic.
For me, the real stars of the film as far as the acting went were Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Amy Adams. I will willingly admit that this is probably one of Crowe's best performances I've seen to date, especially because he was so...regal as Jor-El. Both Costner and Crowe were perfect father figures for Superman. Especially Kevin Costner. He just kind of reminded me of any typical father who wanted the best for his son. Amy Adams was a pretty good choice for Lois Lane. As I've tried to emphasize, this isn't an age of damsels in distress like it was in the 70s. This age needs a stronger female lead, someone who can take care of herself. Adams captured that strong, independent woman vibe perfectly while giving off a lot of this irresistible girl-next-door charm.
The musical score and the effects dominated. As far as the score is concerned, some people will argue that you can't beat the John Williams Superman March. And maybe you can't beat it. But you can certainly match it. Hans Zimmer is the John Williams of our time. Everything he puts his hand into is just so over-the-top and full of emotion. The score fits the movie perfectly here. It starts out slow and eventually crescendos into an orchestral climax that just so adeptly captures the magnificence of Superman. When you hear the score climax, you can almost imagine Superman taking flight in all his glory.
The effects were top notch. In fact, some of the best CGI I've seen. A lot of people will bitch and moan about how it was too gratuitous, but guys, this is Superman we're talking about. In a movie about Supes done right, there has to be a lot of destruction whenever he does what he does, especially when he happens to be fighting a bunch of villains who are probably on par with him physically. It was just plain spectacular.
All in all, Man of Steel had its flaws. Yes it had a generic story, yes it was gratuitous in CGI. But it's all necessary. This is a completely different type of movie from Batman. Superman is a much more straightforward character who will probably end up having much more straightforward movies. And as for it being really serious and not lighthearted. This is the post-9/11 America. We're a little more jaded and less perfect, and that's why Superman lost a lot of popularity in the first place. Well they updated him for the modern age. Ladies and gentlemen, the king has returned.
8.5 out of 10. Welcome back, Supes.