Man of Steel

It has been seven and one half decades since Superman made his debut in Action Comics #1 in June 1938. Since then, we have seen many revisions, especially in his big screen carnations, of this most popular and resilient of super heroes. The latest reimagining of this iconic figure comes to life, again, with the “Man of Steel.”

Laura's Review: C+

With Krypton on the verge of implosion, General Zod (Michael Shannon, "Take Shelter," "The Iceman") attempts an overthrow of the ruling committee whose energy mining has devastated the planet's core. Scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) has another plan, he and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer, "Munich") having just given the first natural birth in centuries, and although he dies at Zod's hands, he succeeds in sending his son Kal-El and the codex which will ensure the survival of their species to Earth where the Kents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), Kansas farmers, will raise the boy, keeping his secret as a "Man of Steel." With a story credit going to producer Christopher Nolan and his Batman trilogy's screenwriter David S. Goyer on board, it's clear that this Superman reboot is aiming for the dark side. But director Zack Snyder ("300," "Sucker Punch") gets mired down in origin story-itis, dwelling on the science fiction aspects that have less to do with the Superman than his planet's story. It's telling that the film's most emotional and heroic scene belongs to Kevin Costner. We touch base with Clark Kent as a young boy (Cooper Timberline, later Dylan Sprayberry, both well matched to Cavill) trying to come to grips with the over stimulation caused by Earth's atmosphere in school, his odd behavior marking him an outcast. When his school bus plunges over a bridge, young Clark (Henry Cavill, "Red Riding Hood," "Immortals") cannot resist the urge to save everyone and witnesses draw unwanted attention. The adult Clark drifts from job to job trying to maintain his human facade, but when a large object is discovered underground, encased in 20,000 year old ice, he's spied by reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams). His actions on board the Kryptonian ship also attract the notice of Zod, who, along with his followers, come to Earth demanding he be turned over. And so, at its core, "Man of Steel" is about the melding of Kal-El and Clark Kent, a man granted super human powers on his adopted home struggling to find balance. Look and you'll find Christ allegories. Snyder, however, seems more interested in rampant destruction - by the time the film's coda comes around you'll be left wondering just how The Daily Planet building was still standing. Smallville's center becomes a battlefield where planes and trains are used in hand to hand combat. The film's look is a mishmash, Snyder's penchant for desaturation evident and annoying. Director of photography Amir Mokri ("Fast & Furious," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon") certainly makes Cavill look good, but there's so much artificiality flying around the screen, it's distracting, glowing blue lights on ships calling more attention to themselves than highlighting the craft as intended. There is one great effect where Krypton's history is animated behind the actors like a great evolving silvered Diego Rivera mural, but it also appears metal pin art was big on the planet, their communication stations supplied by Brookstone. Be forewarned that the film was not shot in 3D, but converted, an unnecessary addition. One character comments that Superman is hot, and Cavill certainly looks the part. He gives the role a conflicted dignity. Shannon is a ruthless Zod, but Crowe, whose 'spirit' keeps popping up, is an uninteresting foe, perhaps confusing Krypton for Vulcan. Costner is the film's moral compass and, supported by the maternal Lane, the film's greatest asset. Also notable is Christopher Meloni ("42") as Colonel Hardy, the man who decides Superman is not an enemy. Harry Lennix ("Titus") is on hand for an Obama drone jab. "Man of Steel" booms with portent but is weak in character development. It's just good enough to warrant the inevitable, hopefully better followup.

Robin's Review: C+

A young woman (Andrea Riseborough) walks down a deserted country road at night and, from a passing van, is seen by the leader of an evil cult. Soon, they abduct the woman, with the help of a demonic motorcycle gang, with not very nice intent. This sets her battered boyfriend, Red (Nicolas Cage), on a path of vengeance in his search for “Mandy.” Sophomore writer-director Panos Cosmatos creates a funky revenge vehicle for Nicolas Cage to drive around in with his story of the brutal cult, led by the charismatic Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who kidnaps Mandy, brutalizing Red in the process. Then, comes his revenge. I have always had an affectionate spot for Nicolas Cage. He has been brilliant and awarded for it (“Leaving Las Vegas (1995)” earned him an Oscar) but also did a lot of for-the-money projects to pay his bills. Still, I have always enjoyed watching him even when not so much the movie. “Mandy” is a flick for horror fans and I am not really a horror fan. But, it is fun to watch Nic Cage chew scenery in his blood-covered persona as he does battle, wielding his hand-forged axe and crossbow, with the murderous forces of evil. But, that is about all that “Mandy” held in store for me.