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The Most Super of Men 

Man of Steel adds more comic book heroism to the summer blockbuster slate

click to enlarge No briefs on this Superman
  • No briefs on this Superman

Comic books have become the go-to place for cinematic source material, so it should be no surprise that Iron Man 3 is still in theaters as Man of Steel begins its run. All of that metal, and all of those fans who are as divisive as Democrats and Republicans when it comes to being fans of DC or Marvel.

The differences between the two comic giants and the differences between the two movies are palpable. DC’s Superman and Batman stories are serious, with light moments. Marvel’s Iron Man and Spider-Man stories are serious, with goofy moments. DC often features touches of angst in its characters. Marvel usually overflows with it.

Superman, of course, has always been the heartbeat of DC, with Batman running a close second. Man of Steel was co-produced by Batman director Chris Nolan, and his fingerprints are all over it. But it was directed by a different sort of visionary: Zack Snyder, whose résumé includes 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch.

The special effects in Man of Steel are excessive, but that’s not a complaint. When they’re done right — as they are in the final act, in which Metropolis takes a shellacking that would make Godzilla proud — I’ll gobble up as much as Snyder wants to dish out.

You know the story. The distant planet Krypton is about to explode. Leader Jor-El (Russell Crowe, playing it stoic) and his wife can only save their newborn baby by shipping him off to Earth, where atmospheric conditions will give him super powers. After all hell breaks loose, the infant Kal-El is soon zooming through the universe, en route to the farmland of Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane).

From that point on, Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Dark City) go the nonlinear route. There’s a daring sea rescue led by a strong young man named Clark (Henry Cavill), which cuts to a younger Clark at school where he’s labeled a freak, which cuts to a reporter named Lois Lane (Amy Adams) working on a story and proving that she’s tough, feisty and inquisitive.

Yes, the action becomes relentless, pushed forward by Hans Zimmer’s propulsive, percussive score (some of which is credited to his “drum orchestra”). But this is a great film because it smartly and effectively examines some fascinating issues while things are roaring around them.

The film’s central concern, though, is heartfelt father-son relationships — the one between Jor-El and his son Kal-El, and the one between Jonathan Kent and his stepson Clark. 

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