Superman is supposed to unite people. But his latest screen effort, Man of Steel, proved divisive.
Oh, the movie was a commercial success, taking in more than $660 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo and currently ranking third among all U.S. releases in 2013. (That may change with the arrival of Thor: The Dark World; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; and the second Hobbit movie in the weeks ahead.)
A sequel is in the works for 2015 — with a much anticipated faceoff between Superman (again played by Henry Cavill) and Batman (now Ben Affleck). And Warner Bros. certainly expects to rake in the bucks from the home-viewing versions of the first Man of Steel on Tuesday, including a two-disc DVD set ($28.98), Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo ($35.99), 3-D Blu-ray/standard Blu-ray/DVD/digital set ($44.99) and a couple of special packages for about $60 each.
But for all that, Man of Steel was perplexing to some viewers, even those predisposed to enjoy it — like me. Reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes were almost evenly divided — 56 percent positive, 44 percent negative. The movie itself was somewhat split, often impressive in the early going but collapsing into an overlong, building-smashing, men-punching sequence at the end. And while Amy Adams made a fine Lois Lane, film critic Matt Zoller Seitz pointed out on Rogerebert.com that for the most part the movie “minimizes and even shuts out women.”
Still, Seitz gave the movie three stars. And I am ready to see it again at home — and not just to linger over the visual references to Batman and other parts of the DC Comics universe that better eyes than mine spotted on first viewing. Rather, there is a somber and powerful movie here, at least in the first two-thirds or so, which makes this one rank among the best of the Superman films.
As I said when the movie was in theaters, it blends elements from the classic origin story, the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films and its own solemn meditation on heroism.
There is a constant sense of sacrifice in what characters do and do not do, not only the heroes but also the main villain.
As the film begins, the planet Krypton is on the verge of destruction. While its leaders ignore the warnings, both Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) see a need for desperate measures to save their people; Zod’s violent approach leads to his imprisonment, while Jor-El’s is simply to send his infant son Kal-El to a safer world, Earth.
Kal-El, as you all know, becomes Clark Kent, the son of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane). His powers are soon evident, but he is taught to hide them so as not to be seen as a freak; even so, he cannot contain an urge to help others, and by the time he is an adult he is a wanderer, forced to move on after every jaw-dropping good deed. But two things change his plans: his discovery by Lois Lane, and Zod’s arrival on Earth.
Casting is uniformly good, and the story has resonance that I hope will carry the saga past that long, long Superman-Zod fight into the next movie.
Extras include making-of segments and an animated short.
Also of note: More box sets. I’ll have an overview of the array of items available for holiday shopping next week. But for now, consider the likes of Dexter: The Complete Series Collection in an elaborate, red-and-white box (Paramount, $359 standard DVD, $459 Blu-ray). If you have been collecting the series season-by-season, the final one is also available separately ($55.98 DVD, $63.98 Blu-ray). You may also want to look for Family Ties: The Complete Series (Paramount, $220.98, DVD only), which encases all seven seasons of discs in a photo-album-style package.
As we move closer to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, note the arrival of things like the Blu-ray version of Cuban Missile Crisis drama Thirteen Days (New Line, $19.98) and a big box showcasing Oliver Stone’s JFK (Warner, $49.99). That includes not only the director’s cut of Stone’s film but also photographs and other material, and DVDs of two documentaries and the drama PT 109, which starred Cliff Robertson as Kennedy in World War II.
Down video road: The fifth season of police drama NYPD Blue will be on DVD on Jan. 21. It has been more than seven years since the fourth season was released on DVD, although the complete series has been available as streaming video on Amazon.com.
The Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection (Cohen, $49.98 DVD, $59.98 Blu-ray) arrives Nov. 19 with remastered versions of four films starring the actress best known for Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, who would have been 100 this year. In the set are 1936-37 films Fire Over England, Dark Journey, Storm in a Teacup and St. Martin’s Lane.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.