The combination of Zack Snyder visuals and a Christopher Nolan/David S. Goyer story was the main reason that "Man of Steel" was my most looked forward to film of the year. The teaser trailer that screened before "The Dark Knight Rises" last summer only added to my excitement.
The film's opening act on Krypton kicked the story off to a great start, and while it was longer than I had anticipated, only strengthened my excitement over the direction of the story. The visuals, as expected, were breathtaking and the destruction of Krypton and the launching of Kal-El/Clark Kent into space was handled very well.
It is not hard to notice similarities between "Man of Steel" and "Batman Begins" in terms of how Nolan and Goyer handled the backstory. As they did in "Batman Begins", the writers told the tale of Clark's youth through multiple flashbacks. Casting Clark as an outcast among his peers was also a great move on the part of the writers to make the all-powerful Superman more identifiable to a human audience. There was also a line by Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner) which is almost verbatim from Carmine Falcone's take on fear in "Batman Begins."
While the action setpieces were very entertaining, they were loaded with quick zooms, which after a while got a little tiresome and overloaded. I would have liked Snyder to hold the extreme long shots of some actions longer for them to soak in.
There were multiple moments in the film where the emotional climaxes worked, most notably a scene when a tornado strikes in Kansas and threatens the life of Clark's foster parents Jonathan and Martha (played by Diane Lane). However, the emotional scenes between Clark played by Henry Cavill and Lois Lane played by Amy Adams, were lacking in chemistry.
The villain General Zod, played by Michael Shannon was a legitimate threat to Superman and his morality, and was also a very identifiable character – a man who would do anything for the greater good of his people. However, he lacked the weight of an ideal villain such as Heath Ledger's Joker in "The Dark Knight."
The best performances in the film by far were by former Robin Hoods Costner and Russell Crowe as Clark's Kryptonian father Jor-El. Cavill definitely looked the part in the costume and his performance without lines was far better than his speaking performance. Hans Zimmer's score was brilliant and fit the film perfectly in its epic scale.
The film fell short in humor and dimensionality of supporting characters, which all could have been expanded upon if one or two action setpieces had been cut from the film's 143-minute runtime.
However, the handling of Superman's backstory and his moral dilemma of whether to sacrifice the future of Krypton for humanity strengthened the film. While the emotional climaxes were few and far between and the action was a bit heavy at times, "Man of Steel" was an enjoyable viewing experience and the best Superman film since Christopher Reeve first donned the cape in 1978.
- Man of Steel
- Directed by Zack Snyder
- 143 Minutes
- 4 out of 5 stars
Originally published on June 14, 2013