Man of Steel is not only one of the most anticipated films of the year, but one of the most anticipated films by superhero fans alike. Superman has been a tricky beast and not since Superman 2 have we gotten a film that’s really done him justice. Does Man of Steel live up to the hype? Yes, it most certainly does.
Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), produced by Christopher Nolan (The Batman Trilogy), and written by David S. Goyer (The Batman Trilogy), Man of Steel had all the big names on its team. But there was still cause for worry, and rightly so. Superman Returns isn’t remembered fondly by fans and Snyder isn’t exactly known for his quality films. But with Nolan at his side and Goyer writing the story, there was some faith to be had.
Man of Steel gives us a different kind of Superman. It’s nothing like the Donner films we’ve come to know and love. Here we have Henry Cavill (Immortals, The Tudors) as Clark Kent, a man searching the world for who he is. When we come up on him he’s a greenhorn on a crab fishing boat. In the next scene he’s working as a bartender in some Alaskan dive bar. Clearly this isn’t the Clark Kent we’re used to.
And after an epic prologue involving General Zod (Michael Shannon) and Jor-El (Russell Crowe) duking it out over the fate of Krypton, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, Man of Steel comes off almost as more of a sci-fi movie than it does a straight up superhero movie. In the case of Superman (a term used sparingly in the film) that works.
Cavill brings an appropriate weight to the questions of Clark Kent. Who he is? Not only as a physical being, but as a person? He has all these abilities, but are they a gift or a curse? How would humanity react if someone like him outed himself to the world? These questions plague Clark for most of the film. Even when he reveals himself to the world, he finds himself wondering if he made the right choice. Not even with the guidance of his parents (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) does he find what he’s looking for.
To answer those questions comes Lois Lane (Amy Adams). She continues to be the tough as nails reporter we’ve always known her to be. But this time around Adams gives her an emotional weight that Lois has been missing for some time. Her and Cavill are great together on screen and some of her scenes with other characters are great to watch as well.
Instead of Lex Luthor, Snyder and co. smartly decided to go with a villain that Superman could face off against physically. Enter General Zod, an imposing figure and easily the most menacing incarnation of the character we’ve seen. In tow is his commander, Faora (Antje Traue).
Shannon is an amazing villain. Gone is any sort of the camp that we saw in Superman 2. This is a man on a mission, one he truly believes is his calling. There’s nothing scarier than a villain who thinks that he’s in the right. He also makes Clark question himself. Could Zod bring about the salvation of Krypton and bring Clark back together with his people? The film does a wonderful job toying with these questions.
The action, always the hardest part of a Superman film, is superb. Finally, now that we have the technology, we can see the true physicality of Superman. When he jumps or flies, nature bends around him. When lands or punches through a wall, craters are made and shock waves are felt. This is especially true when Clark goes against the other Kryptonians. When he battles Faora in Smallville and General Zod in Metropolis, the scale and power with which they fight will leave you in awe.
Now be forewarned, there were changes made to the Superman “lore” for this film. Some of them are minor, but there were definitely some major changes. The climax of the film will no doubt leave fans arguing with each other until the earth implodes. That said, I thought they were great changes. Each of them earned their keep, some of them were even powerful, meaningful in context of the plot.
Overall Snyder, Nolan, and Goyer did the impossible. They brought Superman to the screen in the way he was meant to be seen. He is powerful, flawed, exciting, but most importantly, he is interesting. And despite the fact that the film may feel slow after the first hour, there’s always plenty to keep you going. All of this punctuated by Hans Zimmer’s modern and epic score.
Man of Steel is without a doubt the best Superman movie made yet.