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Man of Steel

Despite Christ-like parallells and overwrought action scenes, this Superman is a fun action romp

Henry Cavil is the latest to don the red cape and boots of Superman, portrayed as a Christ-like savior of both Earth and the legacy of Krypton in Man of Steel. <<© Warner Bros.>>

Krypton’s advanced society is about to go extinct, doomed by bad environmental choices. As the planet falls apart, Jor-El (Russell Crowe: Broken City) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer: Touch) conclude the only hope for the people of Krypton is sending their son Kal to a new world with the genetic information of every one of the planet’s citizens. They settle on Earth, hoping their son will lead this new world to greatness and avoid the mistakes that killed Krypton.
    Kal’s ship crashed in Kansas, where the Kent family (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) adopt the alien baby and raise it as their own. Though the Kents devote themselves to their little boy, now renamed Clark, the child has a lot to overcome. He’s super strong, overly sensitive and hard to control. He’s also an alien being from another planet. Afraid that the government or an angry mob will take Clark from them if his otherworldly secret is discovered, Ma and Pa Kent encourage Clark to hide his abilities and pass for normal.
    A grown Clark (Henry Cavill: The Cold Light of Day) hides in plain sight, taking menial jobs and looking for the truth about his origin. He can’t help but save people when disaster strikes, which makes his secret hard to keep.
    Clark’s hand is forced when Kryptonian military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon: Mud) breaks free from space jail, wanting to rebuild Krypton from the genetic key sent with Kal to Earth. If Clark surrenders himself and the genetic material, Zod promises to spare humanity.
    Seems like a trustworthy deal, right?
    Will Clark kneel before Zod? Is humanity worth the sacrifice?
    Let’s be honest: Superman was never the most dynamic of heroes. Cavill is handsome, earnest and fit, which is all the part of Superman requires. He makes an excellent paragon of virtue, though his performance won’t be shown in any acting classes.
    In Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder (Suckerpunch) does nothing to change the hero’s goody-two-shoes persona. A smarter director might have drawn parallels between Clark and illegal immigrants, but Snyder had a loftier parallel in mind. Barely a scene goes by without some sort of Jesus imagery: in the background of emotional scenes, woven into Clark’s dialog about self-sacrifice or repeated in images of Clark’s arms spread wide like Christ on the cross.
    Though Snyder’s obvious direction and overwrought action sequences drag his film down, he made two brilliant choices: He allowed humanity to play a part in its own salvation. Instead of standing gape-mouthed while Superman does the heavy lifting, non-super-powered heroes shine. As does Michael Shannon. With wide eyes and snarling conviction, he is the perfect foil to menace Cavill’s Jesus-like hero.
    Man of Steel isn’t bulletproof, but it’s a fun action romp.

Good Action Movie • PG-13 • 143 mins.