Having heard some opinions and read some of the reviews of Zack Snyder’s new take on DC Comics’ Superman, it is clearly something of a ‘Marmite’ movie with some really liking it and some, well… not so much.
I think I fall more into the liking it camp, than not, but that’s not to say it isn’t flawed in some fairly major ways.
Retelling the origin of “The Last Son of Krypton”, this movie’s promotion seemed to suggest that this would be to Superman what Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was to Batman – Nolan’s name being attached as producer and being credited for the story only served to back this up. However, I think this is hugely misleading as this feels somehow like a very different version of the DC Universe.
The story though, in general terms, was certainly one of the movies high points as it tells of both the end of Krypton and the development of ‘Superman’ from misfit Kansas youngster to the titular Man Of Steel through trials and tribulations both earthbound and beyond.
It’s the “beyond” element that particularly impressed me with Man of Steel as, other than possibly Green Lantern and Thor (one more successfully than the other), this is the first comic book movie of the current generation that is really more sci-fi space opera than any other and gave the movie, on one level, a very different feel than any other.
Unfortunately, while Man Of Steel is packed with good story ideas and some interesting notions of taking this sort of movie into a more sci-fi universe, it is hampered by the most crucial element of movie making, its script.
While I will say it does have something of the cheesy, stereotypical comic book dialogue that still appears on the printed page from time to time, which is in a way fitting, when that appears in a film context, it feels even more out-of-place and seriously hampers any aspects of character development or buying into the world of the movie. This meant that when it came to any scenes where we were meant to feel anything for any of the characters, or any of the sense of jeopardy, this was often quickly lost by an ill-fitting piece of dialogue.
It wasn’t only the script that caused issues but also the fact that Snyder and co seemed to be trying to cram too much of the Superman universe, in terms of characters and references, into the 2 hour 25 minute run time which left many characters and angles underdeveloped – so while it was clear Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Kal-El were meant to have a romantic relationship building, to me it never felt more than a friendship and when we saw more minor characters in peril, I honestly cared no more for them than any of the other anonymous faces who appeared in the Metropolis scenes (and were most likely caught in the crossfire).
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Superman/Clark Kent did what needed to be done and made a convincing Superman and Kal, though Clark really didn’t get much time and, provided there is a sequel, it will be interesting to see if he can pull of the alter-ego as well as he fits into the blue tights.
Russell Crowe puts in a great showing as Jor-El and, despite being dead for much of the film, seems to steal a lot of screen time helping give the story what heart it has, alongside ‘Clark’s dad’, Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner who provides the opposite side of the same coin.
The movie’s other main character is its antagonist, General Zod, as played by Michael Shannon. With a reputation for intense performances, Shannon hits all the necessary marks in his portrayal of the leader of Krypton’s fighting forces but, for me, never really hit the level of being the classic villain Zod has been known for in the past.
While feeling very different from the world of Nolan’s Dark Knight, Snyder and co firmly place this film in a DC universe with references to both other Superman characters such as Lex Luthor, but also hints at the wider world with Wayne Enterprises popping up as well. Whether this implies DC are planning on doing a Marvel and developing their movie universe still remains to be seen, but it appears the seeds are being planted.
So, in the end, Man of Steel is a flawed movie with some interesting things crammed into an over busy film with, what I can only describe as, a very ropey script and an overlong series of action sequences that don’t always hold together in terms of the universe’s internal logic, but, for fans of comic book movies (and I’d say other movies in general) it is worth a watch as, despite all of the above, I still enjoyed it and it looks great.