Gone is the charm of the Richard Donner films. This ‘Man of Steel’ has a bit of a heart of steel. We are treated to a visual feast of cataclysmic proportions at the expense of an overstuffed story.
After we’ve gotten a good long look at Krypton (which looks spectacular) the action leaps forward to Kal-El’s adult life working various jobs and keeping off the grid, leaving the story of his childhood to a series of flashbacks in which we glimpse the emergence of his powers and his relationship with his adoptive parents.
Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathon and Martha Kent give the best performances of the film here, and for their troubles are gifted very little screen time. It’s a shame that this facet of the origin story is merely glanced over- particularly in the light of the importance of Jonathon Kent’s teachings to his son in the initial story; providing the most emotionally poignant moments in the film- but which are very quickly forgotten when General Zod arrives and stuff starts blowing up.
The rest of the cast perform well. Russell Crowe gets to flex his action muscles in a thrilling opening sequence and remains a formidable force until late into the film providing a perfect foil to Shannon’s malevolence and a fresh take on Jor-El. Laurence Fishburne nails Perry White. Henry Cavill as Kal-El has remarkably little to say- but carries himself well enough even with his jaw set to steel.
I have massive problems with the level of Lois Lane’s involvement in the story. She is an ever present figure for many events which certainly don’t require her journalistic intervention- a military bombing operation for example. This is your ‘modern’ Lois Lane, action heroine to off-set all the masculinity (with the notable exception of a no-nonsense Antje Traue as Faora-Ul) curious then, that she should revert to the role of a classic damsel in distress so often for Kal-El to leap to the rescue of. The relationship between the pair is however, underdeveloped and I couldn’t detect even a hint of romantic spark between Adams and Cavill.
This is not your father’s Superman. Comic-book purists will no doubt be unhappy at the extensive changes made to the mythology. What they can be happy with is the visual world Snyder has conceived, arguably his strongest to date. Krypton and its technology are fantastically imagined- Herocka, Jor-El’s winged mount came as a pleasant surprise.
The action is intense, quickly paced and on an unbelievable scale. And there’s plenty of it; though I began to tire of the novelty of men being punched through buildings towards the end of the film’s hefty run time. The heavy use of CGI in these sequences may put off some viewers but was completely necessary in cementing it in amongst its contemporaries. In particular, the final showdown between Kal-El and Zod showcases the frenetic energy as the fight is not confined to a mere district of Metropolis, reaching atmospheric heights, but unfortunately comes to an abrupt anti-climax.
I have rarely seen such destruction on film, skyscrapers fall like flies. Hundreds of bystanders are (bloodlessly) killed when caught in the midst of the bout and not a thought is spared for them. Yet earlier in another fight special focus was put into Kal-El’s saving of one soldier; there’s an inconsistency in tone that troubles me.
Perhaps the problem is that the film is so joyless. You’ll have noticed I’ve been chiefly referring to the protagonist as Kal-El rather than Superman. In fact the film only openly (and rather begrudgingly) refers to him as Superman once, as if it’s unfashionable, as if such ‘quirky’ names will rob the summer blockbuster of its potency somehow. A little bit of humour may have gone a long way (the few attempts present were misfires).
Nevertheless the sheer visual spectacle saves it. All in all, Snyder has successfully rebranded this enduring character for the new generation. Now the origin’s out of the way, any sequel can hopefully avoid bloating itself with too many threads. And with references to Lexcorp and Wayne Enterprises on plain display, the future certainly has potential for this hero.
If you would like to read Matt gush about how awesome it was, then check out his 10GPP review HERE