Photo: Warner Bros.


General Zod’s mission is to kill Superman who’s grown up on our earth and even learned to love we humans. He now prefers earthlings to Kryptonians much to the wrath of Gen. Zod and the troops he commands when he pursues the man of Steel years later.

Superman’s allies in the battles are earth soldiers commanded by Col. Nathan Hardy, played by Christopher Meloni, although it’s not clear, with all the debris flying and buildings falling during the running battles if the earth soldiers actually kill any significant number of Kryptonian invaders.

Never fear; Superman is here. Played by Brit Henry Cavill, Superman’s superb in the fight scenes. And there are plenty of fight scenes. And then some.

A female viewer during a screening I attended who sat not-too-far from me complained that some of the fight scenes lasted too long and interrupted many good storylines that could have been fleshed out. I must say I agree with her.

“Kill him already,” she snapped at one point, when Superman and Gen. Zod went at it, again and again, towards the end of the film. Yet she too joined other viewers in cheering when Superman finally snapped Gen. Zod’s neck when he was about to kill a few more earthlings just out of spite. Gen. Zod had realized his plan to conquer the earth for resettlement by Kryptonians was about to go up in smoke; literally.

It’s also a measure of Michael Shannon’s great acting that he became so detested as the character Gen. Zod that the audience cheered loudly when Superman snapped his neck. His minion and fellow feared killer, Faora-UI, is played by Antje Traue, almost as hated by viewers during the screening.

It was clear that Cavill, or Superman, had won over many of the women in the audience, judging by the one’s who were close enough for me to gauge reactions from. “The man is fine,” the woman in the audience who provided running commentary noted. “Every woman wants a boyfriend who’s a superman,” she added at one point after Superman finally kissed investigative reporter Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams.

With fewer debris flying “Man of Steel” could’ve explored some of the salient storylines as the female viewer commented. There were already enough scenes where Superman beats up the bad guys. Those of us who caught the missed opportunities realized it could have been an even smarter movie; but maybe that’s not what the director, Zack Snyder, wanted. Maybe many viewers prefer more fights.

What do we mean by smarter? We meet Superman the infant on planet Krypton, which is burning and will soon explode. The planet has consumed its energy recklessly and irresponsibly. It’s literally destroyed itself. Sounds familiar? Might it not have been good for Superman to also observe, years later once he’s on earth, how reckless and irresponsible earthlings are as well by the way they mistreat earth? These are the missed opportunities; or perhaps, avoided opportunities?

Back to Krypton for a minute.

As Krypton burns, Gen. Zod attempts a coup de tat to seize the power. Played by Russell Crowe, Jor-El, is a scientist, a brave soldier, and Superman’s biological father. He fights off some of Gen. Zod’s troops. He and his wife, Lara Lor-Van, played by Ayelet Zurer, quickly prepare to ship off their infant son, Kal-El, who later becomes Superman, and Clark Kent, to another planet; anywhere but burning Krypton so he can continue the lineage.

Jor-El pays with his life. Gen. Zod believes that Jor-El is shipping off the infant with the “key” with the “S” symbol which be believes can save Kryptonian life. They fight it out. Although Jor-El wins, when he decides to ignore Zod so he can see the vessel speed off with his son, the general sucker stabs him and kills him. The coup is reversed and Gen. Zod is captured, tried and convicted. But no one can save Krypton, which erupts in a series of explosions, taking Superman’s mother with it and other Kryptonians.

On Earth when we first meet Superman he’s already a young adult. He’s rescuing co-workers from a raging fire on an oil rig. Hmm. I was thinking, was this incident also meant to remind us of the BP oil rig fire-and-spill and the destruction of earth through our insatiable appetite for fossil fuel? Wonder how many in the audience saw it that way? Another avoided opportunity?

Then there is a back-and-forth showing Superman now as a young adult, and, then, as a boy in grade school. His toughest challenge as a boy is to heed his adoptive father’s advice and repress his supernatural skills so his peers don’t imagine he’s a freak or alien. When he’s bullied he’s not expected to fight back. This is reasonable.

Other incidents are unreasonable.

During a bus ride, a burst tire sends the vehicle plunging to the bottom of a river. As the other kids are about to drown, including one who’d constantly bullied him, Superman (or “Superboy” since he’s still in grade school) punches his way out of the bus and lifts it out of the water, rescuing the other kids.

Later, his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner, admonishes him for revealing his powers. It would have been better to have let the other kids drown. No! That was preposterous. Otherwise, Costner played the role of adoptive dad very well. Diane Lane also did a good job as Martha Kent, the adoptive mom, who became the sole earth parent after her husband’s death. (Superman could have prevented the death but decided to listen to his adoptive father’s order not to reveal his secret powers. Hmmm. What type of person watches his father die if he can prevent it?)

Eventually, investigative reporter Lois Lane of The Daily Planet accidentally witnesses Superman’s powers and writes an exclusive story. Her editor Perry White, played by Laurence Fishburne, won’t sprint the story. She publishes the story elsewhere. Yet, she quickly repudiates her own story when she meets Kal-El again and he convinces her that earthlings aren’t ready for his super powers. Hmm. Later, I wonder whether she simply fell in love with him and decided to suppress her own story.

By then there’s a bigger problem. Gen. Zod survived his sentence and has arrived on earth with his battalion, determined to fulfill his own vow that he would follow Kal-El, wherever he’d been sent, to finish him off.

He gives the earthlings 24-hours to tell him where Superman is. Earthlings congregate to watch the ultimatum on CNN. Hmmm. At this point I’m thinking no one tweeted? Nothing on Facebook?

Superman agrees to surrender provided the FBI releases Lois Lane. She’d been arrested because she was the only one believed to know Superman’s whereabouts.

Superman surrenders to Gen. Zod. He demands that Lois Lane also surrender. Although Superman’s biological father’s dead, he makes recurring appearances –as a very visible spirit– to offer advice. He even helps him and Lois Lane escape from Gen. Zod’s spaceship.

Then the fights begin. And again. And again.

Gen. Zod wants to take over earth, annihilate all human beings and restart Kryptonian life here on our planet. He wants Superman dead so he can extract the Kryptonian life forms injected into Superman before he was shipped off to earth.

Superman’s biological father also shipped him off for another critical reason. He was intellectually rebellious and didn’t want the son to be conformist like Kryptonians, where every life form “embryo” has a pre-destined role. Some are meant to be laborers, while others leaders, soldiers, or commanders.

What about free choice? That’s what Jor-El wanted for his infant son.

Towards the very end, after Gen. Zod is defeated, the earthling commander, Col. Hardy is driving with a military aide when suddenly a multi-million dollar surveillance drone burst into pieces, having been destroyed by Superman, who objects to being monitored.

Superman tells the general that he’s not an enemy and he will work with us earthlings but only on his own terms; he doesn’t want to be monitored.

I thought to myself. Wow! Just last week the headlines burst with the story about our own government monitoring our phone and internet communications.

Fiction? Life?

There are many good messages in “Man Of Steel.” There’s a danger that some of the messages are drowned by the noise of the flying debris.

Then again, it’s Superman. Comes with smash-em-up and flying debris.

The Film Opens Friday June 14.

In 2D and 3D in select theaters and IMAX.

[**** Four Of Five Stars]

Film: Warner Bros.

Director: Zack Snyder

Producer: Charles Roven; Christopher Nolan; Emma Thomas; Deborah Snyder

Executive Producer: Thomas Tull; Lloyd Phillips; Jon Peters

Screenwriter: David S. Goyer




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