Freakin' New York gets terrorized again! I suppose since Superman is the ubermensch of the American people, New York is traditionally the mecca. It is also the common setting used to represent Metropolis as the adult home of Superman. It's the perfect backdrop for the final battle; amidst the ashes of a crumbled cityscape and in front of an exploding tank truck. A truly epic battle that was built up to very well by spurts of action being injected throughout the film up to that point. I couldn't help but compare this film to Star Trek: Into Darkness; as both films seem to follow a similar climax with Star Trek's epic battle at the end set within a futuristic London, England. I'm not sure how Starfleet ended up having the UK as their epicenter, but for Superman; the United States has always been the representative setting for Superman. He was raised in a small country farm community as a normal American boy, and then moved to the city to represent the voice of the American people via the Daily Planet.
(Another parallel between Star Trek and Man of Steel being their nemeses; While in Star Trek Kirk and Spock battle an intelligent psychopath who carries an indistinguishable passion to re-awaken his people, in Man of Steel there is an equally passionate nemesis seeking to re-instate his people on Earth.)
This film does well in stirring the American spirits; via enlisting the American Military as front-man representative of the people (who needs the President in all this anyways?), as well as a brief scene involving Superman seeking the guidance of a Christian Man of God (a very American allusion). There are also two scenes that stand out as evoking the American's empathies; The landscape of New York in the final battle evokes memories of 911, while the tornado that takes away Clark's father tugs close to the American conscience right now given the recent battering of tornado devastation in Oklahoma. Tornadoes are a very common tragedy of the Southern States though, with their yearly total of confirmed tornados currently at 436 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornadoes_of_2013).
I think this film suffered for some critics due to it's 'over-Americanization' in some respects; It comes across as slightly cliché. I also think it suffered from a slightly cheesey dialogue upon entrance of the film and an overly futuristic focus. The Superman we all know and love is steeped in an average American upbringing; growing up in a small idyllic town with sweeping American countryside, that becomes too small for Clark because he is special enough to outgrow it and move onto bigger and better things. This is probably what we hoped to see; a more chronological story of Clark, so that we could connect with him more. Instead, the film was a bit jumbled, jumping back and forth between the past and the present and painting a picture in a more elaborate way. It perhaps did not achieve the depth that some more chronological tales may. Despite this, the scenes they chose to portray as flashbacks of Clark's upbringing did stand out to me, as did some of the truly fantastic Superhero moments (though when he stands below the 'World Maker' and intercepts its charge, I was gripping my seat wondering “How are you going to do this Superman!!!???” and after he did it, I still wondered how he did it.... BUT HEY, he's Superman! Of course he saved Earth!... He just had to be in the right place at the right time I guess,... and embody the cellular makeup of an entire culture of superhumans).
I can't avoid mentioning the brief scene where Clark, in his moment of desperation, seeks the guidance of a priest. I am sure many people were either inspired or deterred in their opinion of the film due to this scene. It was a small scene and yet it's created a host of controversy only proving it's effectiveness. While we can debate whether the film was supporting Christianity via the “American Way” which attempts to instill the significance of seeking a 'faith perspective' in all important decisions, OR that the film was replacing the Jesus figure with Superman himself, we have to understand that it suits the setting of the story of Superman. If he grew up in the American south, odds are, he would have gone to church and adopted a sensitivity to its form of guidance (though in this film it is assumed and not displayed as part of his upbringing via a flashback). This was a highly anticipated film for me as both a fan of Superman and of the producer Christopher Nolan, and I personally don't think this mild allusion ruined my vision of Superman enough to side-step the accomplishments of this film.
As for casting; How awesome is it that Laurence Fishburne is Perry White! When I recognized this, I knew there must already be a sequel in the workings to have such a strong black actor in this role. It already tributes a scene to him where he stands by his employee “Jenny” as the aliens are death-charging New York. I am eager to see how he guides Lois and Clark as he did Neo with the red pill/blue pill of The Matrix (though Perry White was typically a completely different sort of leader, lol! This will be a revamped Perry White for sure). Michael Shannon was a formidable foe; after defeating such an equal match, what can't Superman do? I also appreciated Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Clark's parents and unlike Superman Returns (2006), I am excited to see Henry Cavill and Amy Adams return in their more classic roles as Lois and Clark of the Daily Planet. Henry Cavill portrays the classic Clark Kent/Superman well, with the face and presence he strongly brings to the screen. This film begs for a sequel!
As an artist I have to comment briefly on the visuals of this film. Especially because so much of it was representing a futuristic technology. I wasn't sure at first about the decisions they chose in representing alien technology as they did, but in the end I appreciated the imaginative undertaking that was displayed in some scenes. The spaceships were a blend of organic shapes (seen before in the carcass-like alien space ships in Aliens (1986), yet this time built with an alien metal. Instead of using a liquid metal, such as the nemesis T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), a fluid mass of pellet-like metal pieces took on an Artificial Intelligence as the spaceship's make-up. The epi-center of the central database is portrayed as an under-water network; almost like seaweed or alveoli, as opposed to the usual 'electrical neural or brain' imagery that may normally be expected.
I think the scene that won me over on this visual ideation though, was where Clark's alien father describes the history of Krypton and the room erupts into a moving mural of storytelling. This imagery takes a black and white film quality and is even Art Deco-esque, alluding to the era when Superman was originally born in North America (1938).
While I was surprised in some ways to discover this film was not quite what I was expecting; I am confident the sequel to this Man of Steel will quickly overshadow the oft spoken about Fifty Shades of Grey release in a couple years.