Man of Steel? Come on!

Jessica Allen on the awesomeness of Superman and the revival of Kevin Costner’s career

Well, that was pretty much a perfect way to spend three minutes.

The folks over at the Atlantic agree, too.

Earlier today they wrote, “We’ve been a little cold on Zack Snyder’s heavenly, heavily therapeutic Superman adaptation, Man of Steel,” referring to the already released wistful, Terrence Malick-like trailers, “but we’re starting to change our minds with the fabulous new trailer that debuted last night—hell, everyone is.”

As luck would have it, I recently re-watched the 1978 Superman, directed by Richard Donner, written by Mario Puzo and starring a then relatively unknown Christopher Reeve. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this film as a kid. It had everything: action, suspense, romance–and it was hilarious to boot! The music alone, by John Williams (obviously), was enough to send me and my brother into hysterics. I get goosebumps just thinking of it. And while it’s true that some of the special effects and set design haven’t lived up in the same way those from other films of the era have (when Krypton begins to fall apart, for example, you get the feeling the set is made of spray-painted light-weight styrofoam), they weren’t as distracting as I assumed they might be. (OK, the iridescent Krypton jumpsuits were slightly distracting. But Lex Luthor’s subterranean lair? Come on!)

Speaking of Lex Luthor: Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor? Come On! And Ned Beatty as Otis? Jackie Cooper as Perry White? Terrance Stamp as General Zod? (Actually, I only realized Zod was played by Terrence Stamp–the actor who for some strange reason I will always associate as John Tunstall from Young Guns–during this most recent viewing. Coincidentally, Stamp lent his voice for the character of  Jor-El, Superman’s father, in the TV series, Smallville.)

And, of course,  there was Marlon Brando as Jor-El. It was a small role, for which the actor received what must have been a record-breaking $3.7 million, plus 11.75 per cent of the gross profits, for just two weeks of work. (That’s about $14 million in today’s funds.)

But the casting in Man of Steel is almost as exhilarating. Perhaps taking a cue from Donner and his team, director Zack Snyder and producer (one of, like, nine) Christopher Nolan chose an unknown–at least by Hollywood standards–for the lead: Henry Cavill, who you might remember  from The Tudors or as Theseus in The Immortals. And Russell Crowe will play Jor-El, a role that both Sean Pean and Clive Owen were apparently considered for. (I suspect Crowe won out because he promised to use his Maximus voice from Gladiator to play Superman’s dad, which will go nicely with Hans Zimmer’s Man of Steel score, just like it did for Zimmer’s Gladiator music.) And Michael Shannon, who knocked off everybody’s socks with his performance in Revolutionary Road, will play General Zod.

But the casting I’m most excited about is Superman’s earth dad, Kevin Costner. Scrolling through his IMDb page, it’s hard to remember what the last memorable or successful film the two-time Oscar winner was in. The Bodyguard, maybe? But that was 16 years ago! (And that’s if you don’t count the 1999 Message in a Bottle as a success.)

Kevin Costner’s good-looking banality, so perfectly suited to the frumpy clothing and big suits of the late ’80s and early ’90s, might just be perfect for a post-2008 America looking for a truly resurgent Everyman.

I predict, or rather, hope, that his turn in Man of Steel will help to remove the built-up patina on Costner’s acting record and return it to its rightful shine. (Did you tear up when he tells Clark that he’s the answer to the question of whether we’re alone in the universe? And when he says, ‘You are my son.’ OMG, so did I!)

Anyway, time will tell. June 14, 2013, people.

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