Movie Review: MAN OF STEEL (2013)

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Movie Reviews

Director: Zack Snyder

Stars: Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

Review by Joshua Starnes


An alien infant is raised on Earth, and grows up with superhuman abilities. He sets out to use these abilities to guard his adopted world.


Superman may be the most difficult of all the iconic superheroes to tell stories about. He is so powerful he defies the ability to fall into peril or crisis; he is so upstanding he defies the likelihood of meeting challenges with the darker sides of human nature. He defies all of the usual milestones storytellers use for creating conflict and drama.

Because of that many writers are unsure of what to do with him — do they play him straight, risking making him humorless and dull, or do they mock how straight he is and risk making him a joke.

In theory some sort of middle ground is the best way to go, but that is easier said than done and director Zack Snyder’s (“Watchmen”) has come down more or less on the straight side for “Man of Steel,” his reboot of the Superman franchise.

Unlike “Spiderman” it’s been long enough since Richard Donner first took the character on in the late 70s that a reboot is not a bad idea. And it’s been said that Superman is so plot-breakingly powerful the only real story he has is his origin, his decision to become Superman in the first place.

The basic story should be familiar even to non-fans. With the destruction of his planet Krypton eminent, scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) hastily builds a ship to send his only son (Henry Cavill) away, where he will eventually land in Kansas, planet Earth. There the unique atmosphere and solar radiation gives him power like no man has had before and with it a question he doesn’t even know how to begin answering; what to do with all that power?

It’s a good way to approach the character, but if Snyder’s film is anything to go by the answer mainly seems to be ‘beating up other superpeople and destroying lots of stuff.’ If that is the end all and be all of what you want from a superhero movie then “Man of Steel” is going to be all that you’re looking for. If you want any more than that, particularly in the character and story department, you might be in for a little disappointment.

Not that it is completely absent in that regard. Screenwriter David Goyer (working from a story with his old “Dark Knight” co-hort Christopher Nolan) does seem to have actually thought long and hard about what growing up with Superman’s powers would be like, how that would affect the individual dealing with them, and how the world would react to discovering such a person living in their midst.

They’ve come up with several different answers to that, from Kal-El’s adopted Earth parents (Kevin Costner & Debra Winger) telling him to hide what he can do, to his own sense of moral questioning about his place in the world and whether or not he can actually refrain from having a simple human reaction to some normal human provocation.

But that sort of intelligent examination of character takes up a lot of time if done right, which would take away from time being devoted to superstrong people trying to bash each other’s brains in. We can’t have that, so character and thematic development have to be squashed to quick flash backs (devoted as much to showing young Kal/Clark using his super gifts as anything else) and short interludes to make certain this two and a half hour movie never suffers from a lack of action.

The result, besides some often abbreviated character work (it’s unclear, for instance, why Perry White is even in the film) is an extremely uneven pace particularly the beginning which must rush through an extremely quick and not entirely clear opening sequence on Krypton through Clark’s early childhood so that by the end of the first hour he has already grown up, traveled to the far north, met the ghost of his father, saved intrepid reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from an alien security robot and decided to become Superman. Complete with red boots.

And, oh yes, alerted his father’s age old enemy (Michael Shannon) to his whereabouts leaving the Earth with far more than just one alien to worry about.

Snyder has an excellent visual sense for action sequences and the unlimited power of Superman and unlimited budget of Warner Bros. create a great outlet for it — he has spent an in ordinate amount of time figuring out what these sort of action scenes would be like — the full scale of superman’s power is frequently on screen. And by frequently I mean more than half of the running time. Fully the entire last half of the film is given over to extended battles between Superman and Zod (or his lieutenants).

Individually each is fantastic in and of itself, particularly the extended battle against Faora (Antje Trau) in Smallville, who actually makes a far better villain than Shannon who seems to bounce continually from being very flat and very over the top and never with the gravitas required.

But barely is there any breathing room from that sequence before the next is getting underway. In their desire to make sure the audience gets what they want out of “Man of Steel” the filmmakers have ignored the most basic rules of story structure, skipping right over rising action in order to have a constant stream of climaxes, forgetting that without one the other doesn’t work. After a while it’s just overwhelming and a little over done.

There honestly is a lot to like about “Man of Steel.” It looks great and is technically resplendent. Snyder has put together an excellent ensemble and when he bothers to use them they shine. It’s just a little too rushed to make room for too many actions scenes which we are ultimately emotionally dislocated from due to the lack of developed story. It’s not a bad start but it could be better. On the optimistic side there is a lot of room to get better and hopefully, with the start out of the way, the next try will be better yet.

ACTORZack Snyder
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORHenry Cavill
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORAmy Adams
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORRussell Crowe
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORMichael Shannon Clark
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORKevin Costner
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORDiane Lane
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORLaurence Fishburne
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORChristopher Meloni
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORJadin Gould
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORAntje Traue
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORRichard Schiff
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORAyelet Zurer
Best of the ARTIS


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Movie Review: SUPERMAN RETURNS, 2006

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Classic Movie Review
Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Parker Posey, James Marsden
Review by Andrew Kosarko



For five years, Superman (Brandon Routh) has been away from Earth, coaxed into space by a belief that Krypton may still exist. Finding nothing, he comes back to a changed world–not only has terrorism become rampant, but Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has married, started a family, and won the Pulitzer for her piece “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” After a stop in Smallville to see his adopted mother (Eva Marie Saint), Superman is back in Metropolis, and Clark Kent has his old job back at the Daily Planet, with everyone still incredibly oblivious to his alter ego. But where there’s Superman, there’s Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), and he is likely to be planning something dastardly–in this case, using a piece of pilfered kryptonite to grow an entirely new continent that he will control.


This is not the Superman movie we all wanted. That’s pretty much a nutshell so you prepped for how the rest of this review is going to go. The ….well…..we’ll get to all of it as we go so I don’t harp over the same things repeatedly…..

The Story:

So Superman is homesick to a home he never knew and apparently, some NASA scientists think they found that his planet didn’t actually blow up and that it’s still there. That’s about as much of this movie that’s going to make sense for you until the ridiculousness butts in and overtakes it. Ignoring everything he’s learned from his dead father’s crystal in the fortress of solitude, Superman somehow fit himself into the tiny space ship he originally came to earth in and got it to fly again, piloted it back to where his home was supposed to be, found out NASA wasn’t on their game (anyone surprised? Anyone?) and now returns to earth after a long long time. Now all this takes place off screen, which in my opinion would have been pretty interesting to see him struggle with the decision of leaving and how the heck he did all the things I listed above.

But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s get to it. Lex got out of prison (because Superman violated his rights when he stopped him = aka a technicality let him loose. I buy it. Good job movie) and then swindled some old lady out of her fortune. So now he’s a clean slate with a boat load of money. Hey….wait a second….are we trying to get him back on track with the comics version of Lex Luthor? Maybe….or maybe not. He’s still after this whole “I want land and to kill tons of people” deal. Psssst….Lex just hates Superman. He’s not a mass murderer or money hungry. Lex Luthor’s hatred for Superman is based on the ideal that Superman restrains society from bettering themselves. A good metaphor is that Lex is the son of an overprotective parent, but he’s ready to move out of the house and be on his own. Make sense? Hopefully it does. But ok, so we need a villain for the movie. Lex wants land, I’ll take it. So in retrospect, this film is supposed to take place after Superman II (aka – Richard Pryor, Jacoby and Myers guy and Nuclear Man never happened), so Lex knows where and how the Fortress of solitude is. So with his new yacht and his criminal cronies, he sets forth on a venture to take some crystals from the Fortress to make his own weapons and…you guessed it, his own island (key part of that last word = land). Superman, however, returns to the world and finds out they don’t care about him anymore. That is, until Lois’ plane launches into space. How she survived that many years without him, I have no idea. But he saves her in the most thrilling movie scene I’ve ever witnessed. This scene was just so….Superman. I loved it. And then the movie dies and spirals downwards. Superstalking of Lois, Lois and Superman had a kid (how the hell the kid didn’t kill her when he was kicking in the womb is beyond me. Maybe because he hadn’t been exposed to sunlight – which is what gives Big Blue his power, but still at least they gave him asthma. A realistic effect of interbreeding two different species.) So after about an hour an a half of boring, the movie picks up with a glimmer of hope. Lex forges his new island, shanks Superman in the back with a jarred piece of kryptonite and throws him off a cliff. Ok, I’m awake again. Then Lois finds him in the water and pulls him out. Problem not so dramatically solved. Meanwhile, Lex and his crew are chilling on the island doing nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. And then there’s this whole forgotten part of the story. Lex outlined his evil plan to Lois on the boat about how the island would displace water and kill millions, err, BILLIONS of people. And yeah…no title wave. Not even high tide. In internet language, this would be called an “Epic Fail.” But we’re not done yet. Superman, now pissed and charged up in the sunlight decides that the same island, which in case you don’t remember is made partially of kryptonite, decides that the same island he was stabbed and beaten on before because he was too weak to walk on it, well he’s just going to go swimming and lift that sucker out of the ocean and throw it into space. Alright, I’ll grant him a little leniency. Willpower and adrenaline can make people do some crazy stuff. Then, after he plays island toss he falls to the ground (passing right by the sun mind you which would have re-powered him instantly) and is in a supercoma. Now the doctors easily rip off a costume that repels bullets, then try and poke him with needles like they think it’s going to work. But the biggest problem is, they know how he ticks. They know sunlight powers him and his skin is tough and all that. And so what do they do? They put him in a hospital room……and SHUT THE BLINDS. Are you freaking kidding me? And then Lois comes in and plants a magic wake up kiss on him and that’s that. He’s back to super stalking her and now his estranged child (who mind you threw a piano and killed a guy earlier. Very Super-man like. NOT.) And Lex is stuck on a desert island to munch on dogs. Do I need to backtrack and miss all the other points I missed? Nah, I think I hit the major ones here. Let’s move on shall we?


Brandon Routh – Clark / Superman: Ok now this was good. He’s not boring. He’s not unbelievable. He’s the second best Superman we’ve got (tied with Tom Welling in this reviewers opinion.) Routh may look like Reeve, but he’s also got something there to back it up. He’s good at playing a double role and makes all the cheesy stuff funny, and not so cringe worthy. And I believe that this character is tortured emotionally when I watch him. Excellent job.

Kate Bosworth – Lois Lane: Not bad. Not great. She’s just ok. She’s better than Margot Kidder was, and not annoying like Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane in Spider-man. But she also isn’t exactly likable. For whatever reason a strong independent woman in a movie has to be somewhat of a bitch. There, I said it. And it bothers me. She doesn’t have to try so hard. Lois is tough skinned, sure. But she’s a little whiney in the film. If you had given me Katie Holmes’ “Rachel” from Batman Begins and put her in as Lois in this film, then it would have been perfect if you ask me. Even the casting I could have liked more. Nothing against Bosworth. But Lane should be likable to some extent.Kevin Spacey – Lex Luthor: Spacey toes the line of an amazing Lex. Which is needed. He’s not perfectly the comic book mythos and he’s not Gene Hackman either. I like to look at this film as a “transition” for Lex. It really is setting him up to be much darker for later on in the franchise. And I can deal with a little camp from him now if that means we’ll get rewarded later. Spacey has fun with the role as anyone would, but he needs to play it more of a “10 steps ahead of everyone but acting like he’s not” a little more. Then he’ll be right on the money.

James Marsden – Lois fiancé: I don’t even remember his name. I know he’s Perry’s nephew or something, but he’s just a throw away character so we can hear Lois’ feelings about Superman, a red herring for the boy’s father and also potential death bate for a later film. All while still being the ex-bf that Superman will have to overcome. Cuz yeah, we have a character with all these powers but we want that O.C. type drama. *Rolls eyes*

Parker Posey – Kitty: Funny, believable. But overall…not really needed. She’s a nice character for Lex to play off of but in the end she’s just another girl pining over the alien boy scout.Frank Langella – Perry White: Grumpy, yet not the kind of grumpy that we got from the Reeves’ movies. It’s just not as much fun. I did like how they’re hinting that Perry figured out Clark’s secret. I mean come on. Clark comes back to work the same day that Superman shows back up. Way to keep the coast clear on that one Clark. Kal Penn – Lex’s head goon: Yeah, all his lines were cut. So I can’t tell you how he did.

Sam Huntington – Jimmy Olsen: Ok as Clark’s confidant, but more like a tag along here. He really should be Lois’ side kick but I only remember one scene with them together. And it was a set up for a joke about the “it’s a bird, it’s a plane” line.


One of the main thing I did love about this film is the crisp clear and beautiful shots. Everything is very nostalgic and romantic. It’s very nice to watch on blu-ray or high def. Especially some of the action scenes. The colors are vibrant and it’s a well done translation of a comic property to a film medium.

Production Design:

Also amazing. Everything is very noir and shiny and clean. The way it should be. Look at it like this: Superman is the opposite of Batman. In every way. Batman’s city should be grimy and gothic and nasty. Superman’s should be super clean and brand new. And it is. +2 points for that.


For the most part, it just seems like the pacing of the movie is too slow. The writing is at the main fault for that with too much lulls in the action but the editing isn’t minimalist enough to make up for it and many people find themselves getting bored.Top of Form

Special Effects:

It’s pretty. But it ain’t no man on strings. Give me that over CGI any day of the week. Please. I beg you. Use strings. And don’t be lazy in the next film with a CGI cape. It’s just….annoying.


John Williams created the theme. So it always gives me goosebumps when I hear it. It encompasses Superman perfectly and is just as recognizable as Reeves, the “S” logo or anything else identifiying with Superman. John Ottman does a good job with what he has. And although I’m glad he gave Lex Luthor a new theme that doesn’t remind me of Ewoks, it’s also not that memorable either. But I give him credit for trying. In closing:

This movie is maddening to me. I have said before that Superman and his co-characters have the potential to making the greatest superhero film ever made….ever. This movie doesn’t even seem like it’s trying to me. Sure, it takes it a little more seriously. But when you’re playing with the possibilities that they are and you don’t take them as far as you can go with them, it’s a let down. It can be so much more than what it was. A note I would give to the film makers – it’s ok if Superman has too many problems. It’s even better if he can’t stop all of them. That’s what makes good drama. So my final consensus is that this movie is worth watching to see the Plane sequence alone. After that, if you need to mow the lawn, do the dishes, straighten out your taxes or sleep, by all means, feel free.


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Movie Review: SUPERMAN (1978)

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Classic Movie Review
Directed by Richard Donner
Starring Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman
Review by Andrew Kosarko


A young boy is sent away from the planet Krypton before it’s destruction. He lands on Earth and is raised by a farm couple named the Kents to be an all American boy. Upon learning the lessons of life, he realizes his special abilities make him different. When his father passes away from a heart attack, Clark has a discovery that he must use his special talents to help pass on the values of his father. He journeys north and dawns the suit that will come to represent Earth’s greatest savior….


So, let me start this review by saying that I’m a Batman fan first and foremost. And I’ve always been a Batman fan, even before the success of “The Dark Knight.” Now that being said, it is my belief, that Superman holds the potential for the having the title of “The Greatest Superhero Movie Ever Made.” Keyword in that sentence? “Potential.”Let me start by addressing…

The Story: The script moves very slow, steadily building towards Clark becoming Superman. It’s quite obvious that some of the roles from the comic book mythology are beefed up to support the actors playing the roles, such as Marlon Brando playing Jor-El, Superman’s biological father. A better part of the first act is based on planet Krypton before it’s destruction. This is, by far, the most interesting part of the movie simply because the “good parts” are not skimped over or rushed. The pacing is on beat and the story moves through character development. Once the film moves to Earth and we fast forward to Clark’s teen years, many important “Superman-necessary” elements are glimpsed over vaguely in exchange for the stereotypical “you’re alone” themes. The most disappointing scene is when Clark finally creates the Fortress of Solitude and dawns the suit for the first time. It has such great potential to be a goose bump raising moment and it passes over it. The script then because very repetitive and falls into a lull of random disasters that Superman must stop, including a half baked scheme to sink ½ of California by Lex Luthor.

Now that’s the plot. As far as characterization goes, Superman, Lois Lane, The Kents, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White are spot on. The relationship between Superman and the other characters hit spot on. Sometimes the film takes liberties with the subject matter to expose some exposition, such as the flying around of Superman and Lois and her “Can you read my mind?” monologue. These sequences are somewhat dated with the style of the 70’s, but can easily be enjoyed today once you look at it in perspective.

The only character that, sadly, is astray from his original comic book mythos, is Lex Luthor. Now many philosophers have said, “A hero is only as good as his villain.” This script demonstrates a maddening effect on the audience as Superman is easily built up to be a great hero, and Lex Luthor comes off like a second rate villain. His schemes and rationality are far fetched and “kiddy.” Never once during the film do you feel as though he is a threat against Superman, even when he busts out the kryptonite. It’s because of this that the film fails to hit it’s potential of the greatest Superhero film ever. And once Lex is introduced, the film falls into a campy mess that it can’t escape from, even if you spun the world backwards….

Acting: My God the great acting that takes place in this film. Christopher Reeve may not have top billing, but he steals the show. His performance as Clark Kent/Superman has become the pinnacle of standards that every super hero has to live up to – in film, comics or any other form. Margot Kidder is feisty as Lois Lane and believable as a hard nosed reporter who won’t go away. Marc McClure is great fun as Jimmy Olsen is great at being a bigger nerd than Reeve’s Clark Kent. Gene Hackman is a great actor, and while I don’t particularly agree with his characterization of Lex Luthor, he upholds the acting level to the height it needs to be and still makes for some enjoyable moments. The supporting cast, while smaller roles, contribute greatly to the film. Everyone from the Kents, to the reporters in the office, or the two-bit thugs that Superman has to overcome, everybody is colorful and memorable.Superman Reeve

Directing:Richard Donner has done the best job with Superman so far. As director, he finds himself responsible for the whole film and it’s said to know that it was taken out of his hands by the film studio and reworked in a different way. I prefer to believe that the first half of the movie was directed Donner and the studio took over as it starts to fall apart.

Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth does a fantastic job capturing Superman and the world around him. The camera work never bothers the viewer and some great affects are created with it. The film, at that point in technology’s time, lived up to it’s tagline: You will believe a man can fly.

Production Design: John Barry is a great production designer and comic book films must be a dream to work on. The creative freedom one can have to create new worlds or to shape the ones we live in to reflect what we imagine in our head. Everything from planet Krypton to the all-American Kent farm, everything is imaginative and well designed.

Editing: The film is pieced together well, if a bit slow at times.

Score: Ok. Now while the film doesn’t grab that title of Best Superhero Movie Ever, John Williams is a man you do not mess with. Rivaled only by Danny Elfman’s Batman theme, John Williams creates the greatest Superhero theme of all time. The music is so uplifting and by the first couple of notes, if the hair on the back of your neck isn’t standing up and there’s not a smile on your face, then check your pulse. You might be dead if you’re not excited.

Special Effects: As mentioned in the cinematography section, at the time these effects were top of the line. The team did a great job in making the audience believe a man could fly. To some extent, the effects still hold up today, implying old school techniques such as stop-motion, flying harnesses and special lenses that, in this reviewers opinion, blow CGI out of the water any day.

In closing: Superman: The movie is one of the greatest Superhero movies of our time. While it doesn’t live up to it’s vast potential, it gets 90% of it’s characters right and when dealing with a subject matter like this, that’s what’s important. That’s why comics have so many issues and so many characters become franchises. The characters keep people coming back for more. When the film allows itself to be the great characters that it’s trying to adapt, the story comes through and shines brightly. Even with all it’s character flaws and spotty 1970’s crazy science theories, the film still stands out as a great step forward in bringing some of the world’s most imaginative characters to life and wanting us to come back for more. I’ll hold my breath for the day Superman gets the villain he deserves. When the day comes where that finally happens, movies like The Dark Knight, Spider-man 2 and Iron man will pale in comparison. For now, I’ll enjoy having my favorite character on top, having my dirty little secret being that I can’t wait for the day he loses it to Superman.

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