The superhero genre has been nothing short of magnificent for Hollywood in recent years, as franchises including Batman, Spider-man, X-Men and iron man have struck gold.
During this run, however, many of the superheroes introduced to us are those many people were not familiar with or would not have previously considered among their favorites. What about the most apple pie and Midwest persona of them all, the hero who fought for truth and justice?
I am talking about Superman. Director Bryan Singer, who despite some very successful films during his career didn’t have the answer when he re-booted the franchise with “Superman Returns” (2006). I in all honesty figured it was over for the man from Krypton who in another era was the poster boy American hero.
Enter Christopher Nolan. In case you have forgotten, and with Americans’ short attention spans there is a good chance many people have, there was a time Batman was relegated to bad Joel Schumacher movies and fast food tie-ins. That was before Nolan re-energized the franchise with “Batman Begins” and turned it Oscar-caliber with “The Dark Knight.”
If there’s one thing the newest Superman film proves, it’s that Nolan can resurrect anything — whether a reclusive bat or an alien who lives in an ice fortress.
In the latest incarnation — dubbed “Man of Steel” — we get the familiar back story about Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), a loner in a small town who by his very nature performs some heroic tasks. One of these acts draws the attention of Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who is understandably interested in this individual’s help in vastly different scenarios and locations. Lois tracks Kent down, but he can give no further information.
This film, unlike any before it, describes how Clark was raised by both Krypton and human parents. On the Krypton side are Jor-El (Russel Crowe) and Faora-Al ( Antige Traue), who have conceived the only “natural” birth Krypton has ever known. The human parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), know he is special and hope he will use his powers for the greater good at the right time.
Corny? Absolutely, but the film surfs well enough on the backs of the aforementioned cast members. A whole lot of this could have seemed silly, but get a sincere Lane and an aw-shucks “Field of Dreams” Costner and you can’t help but feel the “Star Spangled Banner” pumping intravenously.
The villain is the familiar General Zod ( Michael Shannaon), who was around for the implosion of Krypton, and has plans of taking out his plan on Earth, which would serve as a surrogate for Krypton.
But forget plot bulletins, “Man of Steel” is about proving Superman is still a viable and sellable superhero. Mission accomplished — and then some. There were many questions entering this film. The choice of Zach Snyder (“300”, “The Watchmen”) as director was wrong, but screenplay and producer credits went into the hands of Nolan. Nolan won out on the artistic calls, and hence we have one of the most beautifully performed, scoped and impressively toned action films of the summer.
You can call it what you want — a fluke, a good run, whatever – but you would be mistaken to dismiss that it is Nolan alone who has the ability to make films exceed our expectations. From the perfectly assembled cast that delivers all the right notes, to the screenplay, to the dangerous action sequences, to the incredible climax that is met with a music score that haunts you long after leaving the theater, Nolan delivers.
Sounds like a recipe that has worked before.