Some minor SPOILERS ahead. Tread carefully!
I’ll start this review off by saying that I am not a fan of Superman in any way, shape or form. I know very little of the Superman lore except for what’s prevalent in popular culture. Despite that, I was a little excited to see what Chris Nolan, David Goyer, and Zach Snyder would bring to the table after the fan-hated Superman Returns by X-Men helmer Bryan Singer and the original Christopher Reeve series.
Man of Steel is a gritty retelling of Kal-El’s origin story and how he learned to cope with being ‘different’. Everything in Man of Steel is bigger, grittier, smarter and cooler than previous installments and is everything that you’ve ever wanted in a Superman movie.
The film takes place on Krypton where tensions are high due to the planet’s core becoming less and less stable. When the core stops functioning properly, the planet and it’s people would be gone forever. The planet hasn’t had a natural birth in years and many of the inhabitants are genetically engineered to fulfill a purpose in life. General Zod and his people are trying to fulfill what they feel is right for the future of Krypton, even if it means violence and murder.
Jor-El’s son, Kal-El, is the first natural birth and sets him off to Earth to fulfill his destiny. Zod learns of this and tries to stop it but is thwarted and sent to the Phantom Zone, a form of imprisonment, with the thought of finding a killing Kal-El. Then the rest of the story is standard Superman fair; he learns about his powers, his people and how he can affect the world around him, yada, yada, yada, until Zod learns of his whereabouts and begins his hunt.
Man of Steel isn’t the Zach Snyder film you’ll come to expect with slow motion sequences and heavy use of green screen. The first 90 minutes of the film is a very minimal, vèretè style that feels foreign in a Snyder flick. It’s a welcome change since his last effort, Sucker Punch, was visually numbing. He handles the emotion with great tenacity even making most people in the theater, including myself, misty eyed.
The acting is top notch with Russell Crowe and Amy Adams bringing their A-game. Henry Cavill may not be a household name yet but he damn sure makes sure you’ll remember his name now or, at least, his face. He’s stoic and dons the red and blue suit with ease and grace and is the epitome of THE perfect superhero. Think Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Christian Bale as Batman, Cavill IS Superman.
What I liked about this iteration of Lois Lane over the Margot Kidder version is that Lane isn’t portrayed as an idiot, which always rubbed me the wrong way. In the original 1979 version, Lane is oblivious to her surroundings and, by far the worst thing, can’t even spell to save her life. Here Lane is written as a smart, independent, tough-as-nails investigative reporter, a very much-welcomed change from the original.
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are perfect as the Kent’s, Kal-El’s adoptive parents; they don’t have much screen time but it was blast to have them interact with Clark (Kal-El) at various ages during his life. Those scenes may be clichéd, with Clark whining like, “you aren’t my real father,” but it’s never cringe inducing.
Michael Shannon was a joy to see on screen as General Zod. He was ruthless and brought a sense of danger to the audience with each scene he was in. However, I felt Antje Traue, who played Faora-Ul, upstaged him. She was my favorite character in the whole movie despite her being a villain. I wanted to see more of her and I hope she returns for a sequel.
When Goyer and Snyder came out and said that Superman’s weakness wouldn’t be Kryptonite but empathy, I scoffed and laughed thinking the film was going to suck. Yet, I was compelled when Clark had to make tough choices that impacted his life. Clark Kent deals with moral dilemma’s that weigh down on his ability to take action or lack thereof. It’s a great additional element without having it become too melodramatic.
The only things I can say that I didn’t like about the movie were the lack of characterization for the minor characters. When you have three characters, led by Laurence Fishburne, that are in peril and are in danger of dying, you need to feel something for them. At no point did I feel anything for those characters. To me, they could’ve died and made no difference on the outcome of the story. Yes, I know Fishburne plays Perry White but who cares?
Another problem I had with the editing. The fight scenes, from what I could make out, were great but were a bit hard to focus on. It may have because I was sitting a few feet from the IMAX screen. The heavy use of CG during the later half of the film comes way from left field, which may bother some.
Man of Steel has everything you ever wanted in a Superman movie and it’s the best film Snyder has done since 300. For a film that runs at two and a half hours, you’ll get your money’s worth and then sum, just be sure to tinkle beforehand. There aren’t any scenes during or after the credits so you can get up and leave once the titles appear.