Man of Steel.
I’m a big Zack Snyder fan (300, Watchmen, and even Sucker Punch) so I was intrigued when he was chosen to helm the newest reboot of Superman. Relative newcomer to mainstream Hollywood Henry Cavill was chosen to don the cape, alongside Amy Adams, Lawrence Fishburne, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, and Diane Lane. All-star cast.
People are expecting a spiritual successor to the Batman franchise, especially since Christopher Nolan was involved as a producer, but is that setting this film up for failure?
Henry Cavill stars as Clark Kent, a nomadic man who travels and stays under the radar because he has extraordinary powers and is afraid someone will find out. Turns out, he is an alien from the planet Krypton, sent to Earth by his father Jor-El (Crowe). Well, 33 years later, Kryptonian war general Zod arrives on Earth to bring Kal-El/Clark Kent into custody (and do some other malicious things).
This movie isn’t like Nolan’s Batman franchise. And that might be a good thing. Batman’s story is about tragedy and stealth and politics and intrigue. Superman’s story is about heroics. It’s about sacrifice and making the moral decision. This movie is much darker than Superman Returns but in a different way than Nolan’s films. We spend a huge portion of the movie in flashbacks with Clark as he’s growing up and he’s truly a tortured little kid, not sure why he’s able to shoot lasers from his eyes and not sure why he can’t beat up the school bully, when he’s capable of it. Snyder is able to humanize Superman in a way we haven’t seen in a long time and actually recaptures part of what made the series Smallville so great. Kal-El is conflicted and angry and confused, not just a stoic and indestructible man.
Snyder’s style is very evident here, bringing the same flourishes that we’ve seen in his other works, most similar to his other superhero flick The Watchmen. It works, though the trailers would lead you to believe that the entire movie is a tragic and somber character piece with slow-motion flags waving.
This is not the case.
Most of this movie is pure and unadulterated action. The major complaint about Superman Returns was that Superman never really fought anyone (and that’s the problem when using Lex Luthor as a villain). Here however, Superman gets some tough foes to battle and it is glorious. The action scenes are incredible and visually stunning.
I also applaud that Snyder and his team took the chance with this reboot to break some old traditions. Kent’s relationship with Lois Lane is very atypical of what we usually see between those two, and while it may upset DC purists, it was a refreshing and new story (I might be a hypocrite after how I reacted to the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, but whatever).
What doesn’t work?
While the action is incredible, it’s also almost overused. The fight scenes throughout the film are incredible but the final fight with Zod is almost drawn too far out. There was a certain point where I literally thought, “Is there anything left in Metropolis to destroy still?” Snyder leveled every building in the city it seemed like. And with two heavy-hitters fighting, the creativity of their fight scene also seemed to draw on too long. They’re fighting in a building. Now they’re fighting on a building. Now they’re fighting on a satellite. Now they’re fighting using satellites. I would’ve appreciated some more editing to make this fight quicker and cleaner, while keeping the highlights.
There’s also nothing after the credits. You might be disappointed that DC wasn’t planning following the Marvel model, but that’s life.
Man of Steel succeeds on most fronts. It’s an enjoyable action thrillride and a refreshing take on the Superman lore, even for those of you that know very little. I saw it in IMAX and 3D and it was cool, but not worth the extra money. Stick to a normal 2D showing. But should you see it in theaters? Yes. Definitely yes.