Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Man" Steals

I saw Man of Steel in a bistro theater full of gray-hiared people like myself - all the others couples - literally out for a dinner and a movie. I was the only person of color in the theater - but this may have had more to do with the location of the theater (far suburbs) than anything else. Anyhoo, I was moved by Man of Steel - surprisingly so as I have always been a Marvel Man and have gone on record as to how corny and ridiculous I consider most DC Characters (his power is that he talks to fish - really?).

Over the last five decades the most popular DC character has clearly been the one without any super powers. In fact, the problem with Superman, DC's first and most durable superhero is that, over time, he became too super - and writers had to go to ridiculous lengths to cut him back down to size.

One of best things about "Man of Steel" is how it discards two of the hoariest tropes associated with Kal-El: his acute susceptibility to kyptonite and the nonsense about no one being able to figure out that Clark Kent is Superman. Done and done. This opens up the "Man of Steel" to a more "realistic" telling of his story. As realistic as a story about a man catupulted from his dying planet in rocket ship who crash lands on another habitable planet can be.

There is real pain in Kal-El's hero journey. The death of his surrogate father, Jonathan Kent, is as tragic a circumstance as you can imagine. It is many times worse than Spiderman being unable to save Captain Stacy or Uncle Ben - because there was really nothing he could do. Kal-El is able to save Jonathan Kent's life and it takes every fiber of his being not to - he is forever his father's son (both of them) - and then he must bear the burden of knowing he could have saved his father's life and he is forever conflicted by the fact that he not only did not but by the should not his earthly father imposed on him. This is powerful stuff. And, it is powerful stuff delivered by great actors.

The entire enterprise is imbued with a certain gravitas by employing actors such as Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Kal-El's fathers, the reliable Diane Lane, drabbed down and vertially make-up free and, just barely, old enough to be the 30 year-old Henry Cavill's mother. These actors are complimented by the venerable Laurence Fishburne giving Perry White a presence not approached by Jackie Cooper (does anyone remember the estimable Frank Langella in the lamentable Superman Returns?) and Henry Lennix and Christopher Meloni as General Swanwick and Colonel Nathan Hardy, respectively.

Of course we must mention intrepid girl reporter Lois Lane who finds perfect incarnation in Amy Adams, apparently in direct lineage from "Girl Friday" Rosilind Russell to her inimitable predecessor, Margot Kidder.

The fact that "Man of Steel" is marred by obligatory fight scenes (with brooding Michael Shannon) - that make the movie overlong - does little to dilute it as a great telling of this original hero's journey.