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July 23, 2013

Jim Bailey: This edition of the Man of Steel isn’t your father’s Superman

Hollywood seems to be understandably enamored with re-creations of so many of the superheroes that have graced the pages of comic books for all those years.

Comes now a new production detailing the life and times of the granddaddy of them all, Superman. But the baby from the planet Krypton who arrives on Earth and grows to supermanhood in the latest rendering, “Man of Steel,” isn’t your father’s Superman.

Even the artistic “S” on his chest turns out not to be an “S” at all, but rather a Kryptonian symbol sort of emblematic of all he will become. And in my childhood memories, Smallville, where he is found and reared by the Kents, was believed to be located in Florida; in “Man of Steel” it’s in Iowa.

Previous superhero movies traditionally have been done in a lighter vein. But “Man of Steel” is serious business. So serious it makes the events of 9/11 seem almost cosmetic by comparison as young Kal-El’s Kryptonian nemesis General Zod, in his pursuit of the Man of Steel, lays waste to the mighty metropolis of Metropolis.

Even stranger is the irony of the two biggest names in the cast sharing paternal responsibilities for young Kal-El, who rockets from Russell Crowe to Kevin Costner. And both fathers, Jor-El (Crowe) and Jonathan Kent (Costner) outlast the grave in the inevitable triumph of good over evil. Yet through all the coming of age trappings and battles with inner demons, the audience is left wondering if even Superman is enough to save Earth from a fate similar to Krypton.

“Man of Steel” gets into background traditionally glossed over in previous Superman productions. We are several minutes into the movie before baby Kal-El is launched toward Earth from the dying planet whose sustenance would give him superpowers at his final destination.

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