It’s been a long wait since Superman Returns in 2006. Following that catastrophe of a film, fans of the franchise were confident that the next Superman reboot had to be better, even if by the sole virtue that it wouldn’t be Superman Returns. Thankfully, the trio of Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David Goyer (director, producer, and screenwriter, respectively) delivered a final product that met the mark in many areas.
Did the film live up to months, if not years, of hype? Read on to find out.
The epic failure of the last attempt at a modern Superman, paired with great marketing and trailers for Man of Steel, definitely had me optimistic that this was going to be a good one. Though there were certainly some things that could have been done better, I left the theater satisfied, and immediately contemplating the sequels.
Here’s the most recent trailer of you haven’t seen it.
The film begins on Krypton, where Kal-El is the first child to be born naturally in centuries. Krypton’s leaders have exhausted all the natural resources, to the point where the planet’s final days are approaching. As chief scientist, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) knows the planet is doomed, and along with his wife Lara, makes the painful decision to save his infant son by sending him alone on a rocket to Earth.
We’re also introduced to the primary villain, General Zod (Michael Shannon), a megalomaniacal zealot who will stop at nothing to save the Kryptonian species. A failed military coup earns him a sentence of desolate interstellar imprisonment, which ends up saving him from the implosion of Krypton.
The story then jumps forward to an adult Clark Kent on Earth, who has become a globe-trotting loner. Desperate to find his place in a world where his abilities are unequaled, Clark is burdened with his desire to use his powers to help people, while trying to remain unnoticed. His exploits inevitably leave a string of clues, which are pieced together by the relentless journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams).
At this time General Zod reaches Earth, dead-set on retrieving the last remnants of Kryptonian civilization that Jor-El sent off with his son. Zod then launches a genocidal attack to rid Earth of humans and use the planet’s resources to create a new Krypton. Clark sides with the people of Earth, takes on the persona of Superman, and defeats Zod after an epic (though unnecessarily drawn out) final battle which leaves Metropolis in ruins.
The film ends with Clark establishing his alter identity as a stringer for the Daily Planet newspaper alongside Lois Lane (e.g. bring on the sequels).
The biggest strength of Man of Steel is definitely the cast. I’ve only seen Henry Cavill once before in his first film, The Count of Monte Cristo, which I liked. The visualization of Cavill as Superman worked very well… from the jaw line, to the hair, to the build – he just fit the part. Some critics have said that his portrayal lacked emotion, but I’m okay with that… I don’t think it weakens the character.
The supporting cast was even better. Crowe played a great Jor-El, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were strong as Jonathan & Martha Kent, Laurence Fishburne is a good Perry White, and Amy Adams did justice to Lois Lane. The highlight of the cast however, was clearly Michael Shannon as General Zod (which I called way back when the first look was released). All in all, I really have no complaints about the cast… everything worked. And a shoutout is owed to Hans Zimmer for the music score, which served the movie well without relying on songs from previous films.
As for the negatives, I wasn’t a huge fan of the interspersed flashback format used to show the Clark’s early years (though I liked the storyline). I bought the chemistry between Lois and Clark, but I felt like the love story was very hurried and could have been developed better if they saved it for the sequels. At 2 hours and 23 minutes it was a bit long, but not boring. If they had just cut down the fight sequences and excessive citywide destruction (think Michael Bay) down a little bit, that would have done the trick.
My qualms are minor, and I will certainly be watching this one more than once. I was leaning towards 3.5 stars, but then I remembered Superman Returns again… Verdict = 4 stars!