After the abject failure of Superman Returns, Man of Steel manages to surprise those with low expectations (myself included) with its solid casting and crazy action, but for those expecting the greatest comic book movie of all time, you might need a cold shower. The good news is it’s not a complete disappointment – it’s entertaining — but at the same time isn’t about to erase all memory of the Richard Donner Superman out of your head. There are some problems with the overall story that make the film drag on a little too long, but the movie brings you back in for its climatic conclusion.
- Director: Zack Snyder
- Writer: David S. Goyer
- Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue
- Cinematography: Amir Mokri
- Original Music By: Hans Zimmer
Jor-El (Crowe) and his wife try to save the last remnants of their dying planet Krypton through their newborn son, but not everybody is happy about that. A blood hungry General Zod (Shannon) vows to track down and kill their baby boy whenever he’s let out of his imprisonment. Decades pass and Kal-El, now known as Clark Kent (Cavill), has found a new life on the planet Earth. Unfortunately the alien being has not gone completely unnoticed. He tries to blend in as ace reporter Lois Lane (Adams) is on the case trying to find his whereabouts, while all he wants to do is discover who he really is on top of trying to avoid General Zod, who’s finally tracked down the Kryptonian.
- The New Cast: Probably the biggest worry fans of the Superman movie franchise have had to deal with is who would be Clark Kent, Lois Lane, our new villains, etc. If you’ve grown up watching the Richard Donner Superman films, it’s hard to shake the image of Christopher Reeve in the red and blue spandex outfit as your definition of Supes. When it comes to Man of Steel, Zack Snyder and company decided to start anew with their cast. Henry Cavill does a fine job portraying the last son of Krypton and physically is very much the crazy buff superheroes you’d expect to see in the pages of a comic book. In some ways Superman is one of the less exciting superheroes that have sprung from the pages of DC comics to movie theaters, but he is the most honest and good superhero to ever try and protect Metropolis. While this isn’t an Oscar-worthy performance, Cavill certainly fits the bill as the Kryptonian for a new generation who needs to see more Superman on the big screen.
- Zimmer’s Score: There’s a reason why Hans Zimmer has been working successfully in the movie music business for so long, and his score for Man of Steel is a fine example of one. Instead of taking pieces from the original John Williams score, Hans Zimmer musically takes this movie and treats the score as if it’s the first time someone has ever put the Kryptonian to music. It’s bold, heartfelt and leaves an impression in your eardrums by the time you walk out of the theater. [Stream the entire score here]
- The Rest Of The Cast: It would have been nice if I could have just titled this section “Michael Shannon and Everybody Else” but that would have been a lie. Michael Shannon convinces us that he can, and will, trample over everything we love dear as he plays a very ticked off and slightly misunderstood General Zod. All he’s trying to do is his job, even if it comes off as a little looney. Then we have the talented Amy Adams who, from the first moment she spits out a line on screen, easily convinces you that she’s the kind of tough-as-nails Lois Lane that we’ve all loved for years. Honestly, there isn’t one bad casting decision in this picture. Russell Crowe does a fine job as the straight-faced Jor-El, who’s able to show his power within the first fifteen minutes of the movie. Then there’s the kind but strong Martha Kent (Lane) who rounds out the tough women in Kal-El’s life.
- The Action: It’s debatable as to whether or not the action in Man of Steel is good or decent. The main problem lies with how they show it to us, the audience who’s eyes apparently can’t follow the speed of these mighty Kryptonians. They’re hurling punches, throwing each other into buildings and for a good third of it and all we see is smoke or a flash of two bodies in the middle of the rubble fighting. We never get adjusted to seeing all of the action that’s going on because we’re too busy seeing the aftermath of a what happens when you throw into a super-powered man into a building or try to obliterate his hometown. For action sequences that are rather long, they do feel slightly rushed just because you can never really keep your eyes on those in battle the whole time. At the same time it’s really great to see these kinds of action sequences because we are looking through the view of a human’s eyes. If we were to see super-powered beings like this in a heated battle, it would appear to be just like that. And might I say that the effects in this movie are really top notch. Not at any point are you sitting back thinking wow, that looks like it was just shot behind green screen. Nope. Then again, I saw it in 3D and it may play better in two dimensions.
- Where The Story Goes: When the movie starts, we’re welcomed to the sight of a Krypton in shambles. The planet is quickly beginning to fall apart and we’re thrust into action as Jor-El and his wife quickly try to save their baby boy’s life for a couple of reasons I won’t spoil for you. After that, boom, we’re thrown into the present day where Clark Kent goes about leading a vagrant life, hopping from one place to another and saving quite a few people along the way. Yes, it does take on some of the story beats from the comic Superman for All Seasons, particularly when Lois Lane is going around trying to find out where to find this stranger who’s been performing these acts of heroism. It works great for awhile, but then loses it’s balance when it starts jumping back and forth with Clark’s youth in Smallville with his mother and father. By the time we get into the heavy action sequences it takes awhile to get back into the film, only because you were fed with so much information, most of which the average movie-goer knows about Superman’s origin at this point.
- Not Enough Time To Shine: For a film that clocks in for over two hours, they sure don’t give you the proper amount of time to really get to know all of their characters. Lois Lane does get her couple of moments, and so does Martha Kent, but everyone is pretty much pushed to the wayside once General Zod and company comes ripping into Metropolis. It may sound contradictory to be complaining about character moments on a movie I’ve already deemed too long, but that’s my general thought.
- Snyder: There are certain scenes where you look and you think “hey, am I watching a Christopher Nolan movie?” We love Christopher Nolan as much as the next person, but in some small ways Zack Snyder lost his own personal touch and mixed it together with Nolan’s own style. Sometimes it works, but other times it doesn’t. Snyder is a fun and entertaining director. Not all of his work may be incredibly thought-provoking like Nolan’s but he still knows how to put together a good movie. We see a lot of Snyder’s fingerprints on the picture, but I do wish that there is less of Nolan and more of him in the next movie.
- Bloat: As mentioned earlier, there is no need to go ahead and bring up all of Superman’s past. Put it out there in snippets, but don’t keep us engrossed in the world for too long. While it’s understandable that they go ahead and touch upon some of his past, at the same time we as an audience know it by now. Superman is one of the most popular stories out there and the film feels incredibly bloated by the time we get to see General Zod again. They need to shave a little bit of the fat off this movie.
- 3D: Wait, was this in 3D? Apologies, but when the movie began the 3D was unrecognizable. Save a couple of bucks and watch it in 2D. The movie is relatively dark, especially in the first half hour, so the gimmicky effect quickly disappears. There’s no need to spend money on 3D for this movie.
Even though Man of Steel has its problems, it still very much is an exciting new reboot for the franchise.
Man of Steel is out in theaters everywhere this Friday, presented in 2D and 3D.