Filed under: Movie Reviews | Tags: Amy Adams, General Zod, Henry Cavill, Jonathan Kent, Jor-El, Kal-El, Krypton, Laurence Fishburne, Lois Lane, Man of Steel, Martha Kent, Michael Shannon, Perry White, Russell Crowe, Superman, Zack Snyder
It seems like forever since that first trailer graced the internet and got fans all hyped with the possibilities a new take on everyone’s favourite Krytponian. The disappointment from Superman Returns hidden away in our minds and any worries over where Zack Snyder may take us held at bay by the sheer scale of those early images.
Truth be told, I had my doubts on what this would achieve – I wasn’t blown away by DC’s Green Lantern (not sure anyone was) and it felt like Nolan’s Batman trilogy fizzled out in the third installment, at least to me. Wonder Woman’s TV series disappeared back into the obscurity of Development Hell and this could well have been an all or nothing roll of the dice for DC’s movie future. As Marvel has already paved the way with its Phase One releases, easing into their second Phase and planning even further into the future – this virtually guaranteed that DC would be forced into taking a serious look at their box office pull in cinemas across the world.
The hope was always going to be that Man of Steel would relieve all these concerns, give DC a real chance to challenge for the record-breaking box office sales and set them on their way to releasing a higher quality, long-term set of releases. For me, that’s been achieved and then some as Zack Snyder has brought us one of the strongest Comic Book films in quite some time – not the best that’s been released but a significant addition for the fanboys and movie-goers alike.
The story is one that we know, of how Kal-El is sent to earth by his parents in the final days of a dying Krypton and in this film, we spend much more time amid that Kryptonian world than I’d really been expecting. Politicians and soldiers vying for control of the dying planet’s future, where escape from the doomed world is the only viable option for all involved – with Zod as our main villain it’s easy to see who prevails – although that is via the Phantom Zone. Kal-El arrives on Earth and is adopted by the Kent’s before being brought up in a world where he’s always been aware that he’s different in some way but never really sure how.
We see Kal-El/Clark roaming the world as a drifter who saves lives and then moves on in a Littlest Hobo style. Each move brings with it a new challenge to face, a new test of his patience and a new flashback that helps us fill in the gaps of how he came to be living the life he is now. It follows this format for about the first two thirds of the movie as we see glimpses of him growing up as the Kent’s try to keep his powers a secret and help their son to fit in but his drive to help when needed brings with it the suspicions from the inhabitants of Smallville.
The last third eases out with an over-the-top battle between General Zod and his army of Kryptonians and Kal-El as he fights to keep the people of Earth safe. Although with Zod’s plans to reshape Earth as a New Krypton, the frailties of Kal-El are exploited to the brink as he’s captured but helped escape by a feisty Lois Lane and a Jor-El hologram with some nifty AI. The final face-off sees Kal-El push through his limits and an all-out battle between him and Zod sees the buildings in Metropolis knocked over like a house of cards.
A film of two-halves but some engaging characters make this a consistent and interesting direction to take us in. The plot is fairly basic from Snyder but I’m not entirely surprised by that as it’s obviously aiming for a broad, worldwide audience and a few weeks after its release there’s still talk of the controversy that some of the movies elements have brought to the screen. The almost uncontrollable destruction and high casualty count from the Kryponian vs Kryptonian battle seems relentless with Superman’s final decision on how to deal with the threat Zod poses splitting audiences on its impact to the core values the character represents. Part of me understands the views against the key parts of the character this decision changes but in the context of the movie itself and given that this is the first time Superman has faced a foe that can truly hurt him, is it really any surprise that the battle causes the damage it does? And is it really a surprise that Kal kills Zod? I have to say again, that in the context of the movie this all fits.
A money-spinner was the aim, which has been achieved and for me, the movie itself is one that I will see again while it’s still available in the cinema. The scale and quality of the visuals is part of that as is the phenomenal casting throughout the film – with supporting turns from Costner & Lane as the adoptive parents to Russel Crowe’s Jor-El and not to mention Laurence Fishburne as Perry White. There’s then Amy Adams as Lois Lane who captures a much more modern take to a feisty female reporter making her way in the reporting business. The real focus is the good guy and the bad guy though and Michael Shannon as General Zod oozies the menace and dictator-like conviction of a true villain while Henry Cavill captures the awe and wonder that growing up with real power would surely give. His meandering days in anonymity help combine the search for answers and the realization of the good he can do for the world and build a true depth to a character we think we already know.
An action-packed epic of a movie with some stunning visuals, particularly on those flying scenes……CGI or not I believe that Cavill can float. Strong characters built in a story we all know so well help this movie play out to the success it’s become. Disgruntled fans concerned about the destruction during that main battle and the controversy around Superman’s final decision may have some impact on future film(s) but for me, Man of Steel was an enjoyment from start to finish……the approach of Snyder to taking this on has produced a strong addition to DC’s back-catalogue of comic book movies and this may well kick-start a revival of some of their other characters.
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