WARNING: Although I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, if you do not want to know any details of the plot, please skip the second paragraph. Everything else should be considered spoiler-free.
Arguably the biggest movie of the summer, Man of Steel is the highly anticipated reboot of the Superman film franchise. Due to the disappointing sequel, Superman Returns, and the great success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, it only made sense that the famed hero would reappear on the big screen once again, but this time, in much different form. Christopher Nolan produced Man of Steel, while sharing story credits with the film’s screenwriter, David S. Goyer, who is also known for his work on Nolan’s Batman films. Zack Snyder was chosen to be the director of Man of Steel, in hope to mix his action style (as seen in 300 and Watchmen) with Nolan’s sensibility. This wasn’t exactly what the fans had pictured in their minds at first, but once the cast was chosen and the Comic-Con footage surfaced, the film was hyped up to be the Superman movie audiences have been waiting for. Although I am not familiar with the Superman universe as much as I am with other comic book franchises, the trailers of Man of Steel looked pretty fantastic to me, with its epic scale and moving cinematography. You can imagine how excited I was to see this at the screening I attended, waiting in a long line full of fan-boys for almost three hours. Well, now that I have seen the final product, I have to say that although it is not the poetic superhero movie I wanted it to be, Man of Steel is still a great summer blockbuster and a solid origin story that sets up a promising future for the franchise.
The beginning of Man of Steel takes place on Krypton, a crumbling extraterrestrial planet that has been forcefully taken over by General Zod (Michael Shannon), who wants to restart the planet’s government under his rule. As their world falls apart, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his newly born son, Kal-El, to Earth. Zod needs Kal-El to restore Krypton as his own planet, but before he can go out to find him, he becomes imprisoned for many years. In that time, Kal-El is raised on Earth in a small farm with his two adoptive parents under the name, Clark Kent. Clark grows up as a kid who never fit in with the rest of his peers at school, and struggled to keep his powers a secret. Though his father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), told him that he firmly believes he was sent down to Earth for a reason, and it is up to Clark himself to find that reason. Forward to present day, Clark is now an adult (Henry Cavill), living his life as a shadow, taking and leaving jobs under various aliases. Though one job takes him closer towards discovering his origins, and accepting the person who he really is in this world. Unfortunately from here, Zod manages to find Kal-El’s location and decides to take over Earth, in order to capture him. Kal-El now has the responsibility of saving Earth, defeating Zod, and becoming the man he was meant to be.
In all honesty, you’re not going to find anything too different in a superhero origin story, so what really matters is the execution, and for the most part, it’s pretty satisfying, while having its share of flaws. Although this might not say much, this is easily Zack Snyder’s best work, with only the extremely intense action sequences having a resemblance to his other films. Snyder does a great job in creating the human aspect of Superman, whether it is through the gorgeous and somewhat nostalgic camera shots on Earth to setting the tone for the heartfelt conversations between Clark and Pa Kent. If this movie had more of this, like what the trailers promised, I would have been able to say that I completely loved Man of Steel. Nonetheless, there is still plenty to appreciate in this film, such as the use of the cast. Henry Cavill is spot-on as Clark Kent and Superman, bringing a lot of charm and emotion to the lead role. He definitely has a likable presence on-screen, and this film should make him a star. Michael Shannon is also quite awesome as Zod, who is just as powerful and despicable as you would expect him to be. The rest of the supporting cast really makes the movie, too, such as Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark’s parents, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Fans should be really happy with what they add to their beloved characters.
Now I must move on to the not-as-super parts of Man of Steel. Believe it or not, I do think the weakest factor of this film is actually the screenplay. Yes, the one that Christopher Nolan is credited for in the story development. Before you get upset, you should know that as much as the trailers and commercials advertise Nolan’s involvement in the film, this is not a Nolan film. Nolan and Goyer have formed a story that works really well, but Goyer’s writing is another case. The screenplay falls into some of the typical problems that most superhero movies do. There is a lot of mythology and context to cover in a story like this, so the screenwriter’s job is to make the story as visually distinct as possible to the audience. Though instead of visualizing, Goyer often depends on some really clunky dialogue to move a scene forward. It doesn’t ruin the film, but there must be more creative ways of doing it. The screenplay probably could have used some revisions by Nolan himself, to tighten up the main elements of the story and really bring home the messages the movie wants to send out.
Though if you put aside its flaws, Man of Steel is still one of the most entertaining theater experiences this year, and you really owe to yourself to watch it this summer. Even with my issues with the screenplay, the movie as a whole can be looked at as one of the better superhero movies out there. To put it in more perspective, I think it’s better than Iron Man 3, if that means anything to you. Not all of my expectations were met here, but by seeing how the movie wraps up everything at the end, I am very optimistic that the next film will be this franchise’s Dark Knight, and this is just its Batman Begins. Whether or not you find the same problems in this movie as I did, you’ll have a great time at the movies, no matter what.
Oh, but don’t see it in 3D. IMAX, if you have to, but…yeah, don’t do the 3D…