Superman is widely known to be one of the most toughest comic book heroes to translate to the big screen, especially with the hugely popular series of movies starring the late Christopher Reeves. Bryan Singer attempted to re-vitalise the franchise in 2006 with Superman Returns and although this was a commercial success, it was a critical flop. So the pressure was on to make Man of Steel a success.
Thankfully, at least for me, the crackerjack team of Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer have created a Superman for this generation. They have deconstructed the image of the Boy Scout we all know and created a Superman who is a much more plausible character. They have exerted their creative license and made some changes, but in many ways this is for the best. And I am also pleased to report that Zack Snyder has pulled off the directors duties wonderfully. I was one of the people who did not like his films Watchmen or Sucker Punch, so when they announced that Snyder was to direct the film I had my reservations. True, it still has some of Snyder’s flashier trademarks, such as slowing down the action in the middle of a fight scene, but overall he has succeeded in making his mark as director for me.
This is an origin story for Superman and is all about telling us how Clark Kent took up the mantle of Superman. You may say this has already been covered in the TV Series Smallville, but this film manages to cram in a heck of a lot in its allocated time, without you feeling that you have missed something.
The film opens with the last days of Clark, or Kal-El as his parents called him, home planet, Krypton. Not only does this explain why his parents sent him on this perilous journey across the galaxies, it all sets up the motivation for Clark’s future nemesis, General Zod. We all know what ends up happening to Krypton, but that doesn’t diminish the heartbreak as you watch the destruction of this whole civilisation.
In a rather clever and unique twist for the franchise, the movie doesn’t switch to the Kent’s discovering Clark in a field. No, instead it cuts to a grown up Clark working on a fishing boat. He is desperate to blend in and live a normal life, but no matter what, fate seems to throw him into situations where he uses his powers to help his fellow man. This is a theme that runs throughout the movie and makes Clark much more “human”. He has this power but every time he uses it, he risks being discovered. His adoptive father has installed this fear of discovery into him. Clark is convinced that if they find out that he is not human, they may wish to destroy him, yet if he does nothing, many innocents are hurt or even die. It is only when his hand is forced with the arrival of Zod and his forces does Clark decide to reveal himself. He believes that in order to save earth, he must sacrifice himself.
At this point, I must confess to having never read any Superman comics. My limited knowledge is from other material and the Smallville TV Show. I do know from other reviews and forums, that many fans have expressed their anger at the departing from the source material. Though I sympathise, I get why the film makers have taken these steps. (There is one part later in the movie that has the fans of Superman really angry). Like any Superhero movie, the movie makers have decided to take the parts they see as important and shape them to create their own version of Superman. Just like when the comic book publishers get new writers to come up with comic book storylines, the filmmakers have done the exact same. For me, this version of Superman works. This is a version of Superman that He is only at the beginning of his journey and by the time the credits role, I want to see more of this character. Heck, this movie makes me want to see a tie up movie with Batman and Superman, or even a Justice League Movie (The DC worlds version of The Avengers). That in itself is no mean feat.
However, one of the most pivotal moments in Clarks personal journey in becoming Superman did fall flat for me. I will not spoil it, but all I will say is I along with many members of the audience couldn’t help but snort at the over sentimentality of this scene. Had it played out in a slightly different way or was for different means, it would have been different. The way it was in the finished film came off rather cheap. This knocked a half star off an almost perfect move
So what about the actors, or more importantly Henry Cavill as the main man himself? He. Was. Bloody. Fantastic. Ok, so it didn’t hurt that he got his shirt off and showed us that body he worked so hard to get. *Does a little sigh* No, Cavill has pulled off the impossible and made me believe he is Clark Kent and Superman. I’ve loved this actor since The Tudors and to see him on the big screen, playing this iconic character is amazing. He breaths life into Clark Kent/Superman and makes you want to root for him. There is one part in the film that made me smile and that is when Superman flies for the first time. There is one shot where you can see the joy in Cavill’s face, that this is all his childhood dreams come true. If you see this film, I ask you look out for it.
Adams version of Lois Lane, is for all intents and purposes an ideal partner to Superman/Clark Kent. I like Adams as an actress and she definitely puts her stamp on the character. However, I never felt we dug underneath the surface of Lois. Yes, she is the no nonsense report who will do anything to get that story, but that is really all she is. She is given a slightly pivotal role towards the end, but it could have been anyone. Hopefully the other side of Lois will be explored in the future films.
Michael Shannon is one of my favourite actors on the TV show Boardwalk Empire, so I was dying to see what he brought to the character of Zod. Shannon doesn’t disappoint in his portrayal of this formidable foe. Watching him on screen is hypnotic and his anguish at witnessing Kryptons destruction is amazing. You begin to see the beginning of a man whose sole purpose is to make sure his people survive really begin to bloom. Yes, the ways he plans to do this are at the cost of humans, but this is his driving force.
Overall, this is another excellent movie in what is turning into the Summer of the Sci-Fi Films. Man of Steel is proving to be the film that resurrects the franchise of Superman. If you were a fan of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, then you will love this film just as much. It seems that DC and Warner Brothers may yet convert me from a Marvel Girl.