Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue and Russell Crowe
Plot: Clark Kent (Cavill) hides on planet Earth, aware that he is has superhuman abilities and taught by his foster father to hide them from the rest of the world. However, when General Zod (Shannon) launches an assault on Earth, the time for hiding is over.
Despite the hype surrounding Man of Steel, I couldn’t help but enter the cinema a little sceptical. Superman is the fore-runner of the superhero universe. He is strong, near-invincible and a symbol of purity. However, sadly, this does make his personality rather two-dimensional, making him a hard character to pull off on the big screen. Bryan Singer tried with ‘Superman Returns’ and his blockbuster crashed and burned. Everyone was sure that this film was going to be the next ‘Dark Knight’, but could it really shake off the failures of the past?
In short, yes. This is Superman as you have never seen him before. Snyder portrays Clark as a tortured individual, left unconfident and a freak, thanks to being unaware where he has come from. His foster parents (played flawlessly by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), are the only people that know of his superhuman abilities, but they tell him to keep it from the world. Snyder really works on creating this idea of how we would react to a real-life Superman. In short, Clark is our first contact with an alien race and this movie is made all the more realistic by keeping to this theme.
I was worried that this would become a slow-paced origin story, focusing on the tormented childhood of Clark Kent. I was both right and wrong at the same time. Snyder is clever and fast-forwards through the teenage years of Superman. That side of the Superman mythology has been done to death (and very well, I might add), by the TV series, Smallville. Rather than taking on a hit show, Snyder focuses his origin story on the other parts of Superman’s life. Saying that, it still does feel a little heavy-handed with the exposition, which really slows the film down. It is one of the few flaws I have with this movie.
However, when it does get to the action sequences, it is worth the wait. They are quite frankly mind-blowing, where Snyder does what he does best. He takes the city of Metropolis and uses it as his playground. Buildings topple, roads are reduced to rubble… there is no limit to the collateral damage. You could be justified in saying that sometimes it is a little too much. The Kryptonians move so fast, we struggle to keep up with the fighting. However, you are always getting the sense that something amazing is happening. One of the best scenes is where Zod’s second-in-command, Faora, is ripping her way through the American military, unstoppable and deadly. It is amazing to see and really gives us a sense of how tiny the human race is. It also makes Superman all the more appreciated.
Snyder also gives us some Sci-Fi universes to come to grips with. The opening sequence shows us the world of the Time-Lor… sorry, Kryptonians. I have never known too much about the characters, so I like Snyder’s decision to take some time, summarising the world of this great alien race. I like the idea of them being flawed gods. It makes them feel a bit more relatable and makes Zod’s character make so much more sense. Rather than being nothing more than a tyrannical monster of a villain, we are given the impression that he has been born with the sole purpose of preserving and defending Krypton, which just so happens to mean killing Superman.
However, Snyder’s keen direction wouldn’t have worked so well, without an incredible cast holding the piece together. Henry Cavill may not give the toughest performance of his career here, but god, does he look the part. The moment we see him in the suit secures any doubts that Cavill is the right person to fill Christopher Reeve’s shoes. Amy Adams has been fighting for most of her career to get the role of Lois Lane, so now she finally has it, she owns the part. The two actors who steal the show though are Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe, as the Kryptonians. Crowe doesn’t even try too hard, but like Cavill, his presence does the work for him. He plays it straight-faced and sometimes even encourages a few laughs from his character. Then we have Shannon, who I haven’t actually seen in anything yet. My first time watching him was a delight though and he was the perfect nemesis to match Superman.
My main problem with this film is that, other than Cavill, Shannon and Crowe, no one really seems to get much time to really show us what they can do with their character. Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne are good with what little they are given, but we never really get any sense of who their characters are, unlike the Dark Knight trilogy, when Gary Oldman got to fully come to grips with the character of James Gordon. Adams gets a fair amount of screen time, but it always seems to be her character reacting to Superman, rather than showing us who Lois is. I get that this movie had a lot to get through, but I was a little disappointed. Therefore hats off to Kevin Costner, who had the shortest amount of screen-time, but still totally dominated Jonathon Kent with a truly emotional performance.
Final verdict: A strong start to the Man of Steel franchise. I look forward to seeing where the series will go next.