The long anticipated Superman reboot, Man of Steel, is here and it’s amazing. Directed by Zack Snyder, produced by Christopher Nolan, and scripted by David Goyer, Man of Steel is a brilliant revival of a classic and beloved character. Superman has always been portrayed as a truly good hero almost to the point where directors have ignored his internal struggles. I love the old Donner films but it was time for Superman to lose the red underwear and stop saving cats from trees. Even the recent Brian Singer film, Superman Returns, stayed to close to the older films never bothering to re-imagine Superman for modern audiences, which was one of the main reasons it failed to connect with many people.
What Snyder, Goyer and Nolan have done is approach Man of Steel as a science fiction film first and a super hero movie second. Similar to Goyer and Nolan’s approach to Batman being a really good crime drama. There is a huge emphasis of Superman being an alien and trying to belong in our world. He wonders whether humanity will accept him for who he is or will they deem him an enemy. Man of Steel constantly reminds us that Superman is not human.
Man of Steel draws from, Mark Waid and Leinil Yu’s brilliant comic Superman: Birthright, with flashbacks informing us of Clark’s youth. Showing us the continuos struggle he faces of whether humanity would accept him. If anyone were to see his true powers how would they react? Would they accept him or would he be seen as the enemy? Especially when humanity would witness what others in his species can do. More than any of the past films, Man of Steel reminds us that Superman isn’t from our world. Instead, showing us a Superman who has to choose between his home planet – Krypton or his adopted planet – Earth. It is a decision, that weighs heavy on Clark throughout the film.
Since Nolan did say that he would never direct another superhero film after The Dark Knight trilogy, the film fell upon the shoulders of director Zack Snyder. He has that eye for detail and a flare for filming action. His eye for detail is evident in almost every shot. From something as simple as Superman’s cape blowing in the wind or that opening shot of civil war breaking out on Krypton. In my opinion, this is probably Snyder’s best film to date.
With such great talent off screen, you also need some great talent on screen and Man of Steel totes an incredible cast. Henry Cavill was born to be Superman. He has the look, the voice, and the physique. Snyder has been quoted saying that when they saw Cavill in the suit, they knew they had found the right person, I would definitely agree with him there. My only gripe, was that Cavill’s Superman can be a little dull at times. A sense of humor would liven him up, instead of making him feel so stiff. It also, would allow audiences to have a much more stronger connection to Superman.
Playing Superman’s two fathers are Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. These two men give standout performances in the film. They form Clark’s moral character and their impact on Clark’s life is felt even when they’re not onscreen. This is probably Costner’s best performance in a long time, giving us a real emotional connection to Superman. Crowe’s Jor-El is not just a cameo, like Brando did in the older films, his Jor-El is in the film more often than you’d think.
If you have Clark Kent, you definitely need a Lois Lane. Played by a solid performance from Amy Adams, this is a Lois Lane unlike the past films. She comes across as an incredibly smart, bold, and a cunning journalist. The film has a fresh take on how Lois and Clark first meet; I loved the change. We have seen and read their story so many times before that this change was a really clever take on the characters. It also solved a problem people always had with Lois. This time around, it isn’t so much of a Lois and Clark story, which might disappoint some people but there is so much potential for them in future movies. After all the lack of a Lois and Clark dynamic isn’t surprising, since, this is Superman’s origin story.
To make the lives of our heroes hell, we have General Zod, played by Michael Shannon. Shannon, who is absolutely menacing as Zod. You understand that he is a zealot and a born warrior (literally programmed in his blood). The real surprise however is Faora, played mercilessly by Antje Traue, she is Zod’s unquestioning disciple. Together they pose a very serious threat to the existence of humanity.
The rest of the supporting cast, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Ayelet Zuruer, Christopher Meloni are all great in their roles. Playing the part that is asked of them. They all make respectable appearances in their roles.
The film’s take on Krypton is incredibly satisfying. The amount of backstory and detail they put into this race of people, has not been done in past films. You spend a lot of time on Krypton and I loved it so much, I much wanted more. You finally get the feeling that the Kryptonians were these powerful people with all the technology, the culture, and the politics.
The first half of the movie is absolute perfection. Krypton, the flashbacks, Crowe and Costner, and finding out about Superman’s inner demons. The second half of the movie devolves into complete action and chaos. The action is great but with all of this majestic destruction, some of the film’s heart gets lost. The action at the end is even more epic than The Avengers but I wish some of the emotional scenes would have been drawn out more but it really is a minor quibble.
When Man of Steel ended, I had the biggest smile on my face. As a DC fanboy, this film made me very happy. I see Man of Steel as the start of something great for WB and DC. This could be the beginning of a shared universe for all of its DC heroes. It certainly seemed like WB is saying to Marvel: game on.
Man of Steel isn’t perfect but it treats Superman with a lot more respect than anything that has come before it. In the past films, when Superman appeared, people loved him, they cheered for him but they never thought to portray him as someone who is truly dangerous. Someone who is godlike but more than anything wants to be one of us. Man of Steel gets the character of Superman right and not only Superman but all the characters in the film. Superman feels like a hero in the real world, not a world molded to fit him. DC is off to a good start, let’s hope their next slate of films are even better.
Score: 8 out 10