Superman returns (again)…
Starring: Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams
Directed by: Zack Snyder / Written by: David S. Goyer / 143 minutes
What’s it about?
With the planet Krypton on the verge of destruction, scientist Jor-El places his infant son aboard a spacecraft and sends him to safety on a planet called Earth.
Raised by a kind farmer and his wife, Clark Kent grows to discover he has incredible abilities and when Krypton’s former military leader and traitor General Zod emerges from imprisonment in the ‘Phantom Zone’ he finds that he must confront his true heritage and rise to become Earth’s greatest protector…
Man of Steel comes seven years (yes, it’s been that long!) after the titular superhero’s last cinematic outing, Superman Returns – X-Men director Bryan Singer’s enjoyable yet over nostalgic love letter to Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978). It failed to capture the hearts and minds of audiences being viewed as too reverential without breaking new ground for the character and making him relatable in the 21st Century.
Singer’s contract for a sequel expiring, Warner Brothers and DC Comics- with their fingers poised over the ‘reset’ button – actively pursued a fresh approach under the aegis of the Dark Knight trilogy’s director Christopher Nolan (serving as Producer and sharing a ‘Story By’ credit with screenwriter David S. Goyer) with Watchmen and 300 director Zack Snyder at the directorial reins.
So, then was Man of Steel worth the wait? Most definitely! It does all that Superman Returns didn’t and more, presenting the most iconic superhero in a modern and relatable manner and placing him firmly at the centre of the DC Comics cinematic universe.
Henry Cavill evokes every facet of Krypton’s Last Son giving us a conflicted and uncertain Clark Kent who grows as he uncovers his true heritage and destiny. Once he dons that suit and cape (sans trunks thankfully) there is no doubt that he IS Superman, equally adept at sharing romantic chemistry with the feisty Amy Adams (Lois Lane) as he is at grappling physically and verbally with Michael Shannon’s maniacal General Zod (more than capable of going toe-to-toe with Terence Stamp). Cavill totally inhabits the part.
Russell Crowe has stature and strength as Jor-El and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (Jonathan and Martha Kent respectively) instil the morals and humanity that form Clark Kent’s character as he tries to find his place in the world.
Man of Steel is by far Zack Snyder’s best film, able to handle fast pace and epic CGI filled action set-pieces (including some exhilarating flight AND fight scenes) just as well as he does the more intimate, dramatic moments. With some striking cinematography, the look and tone of the film is grounded with a sense of heightened reality (well, as real as you can make a Superman film) in a similar vein to Nolan’s Batman films, dark and gritty without betraying the optimism of the man in red and blue.
But amongst all the action and excitement (and there is a lot of visual excitement and destruction on a scale that puts even the mighty Marvel’s Avengers Assemble to shame) there is a rich and layered story with heart and emotional resonance that holds it all together. Screenwriter David S. Goyer (co-writer of the Dark Knight trilogy) clearly understands the characters and their universe and how to place the fantastic elements of a super being into the real world. With Clark Kent’s back-story neatly peppered throughout as a series of flashbacks we are given an insight into the ‘human’ aspects of the character.
The film is generally well-paced although it does struggle a little at first, the opening scenes on Krypton feeling a little rushed. Hanz Zimmer’s wonderful score (at times reminiscent of The Dark Knight Rises – by no means a negative point) rounds out the package nicely adding that extra layer of mystery, excitement and emotion.
In terms of viewing preference Man of Steel needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. The 3D post conversion doesn’t add all that much to the film but it is certainly worthy of the extra cost of an IMAX ticket.
The bottom line: Man of Steel ticks all the boxes. It is a breathtaking, well-conceived and well executed superhero blockbuster with a heart and holds much promise for sequels whilst setting audiences on the right path for the inevitable Justice League film. Once again you WILL believe a man can fly…
See it if you like… Superman, Batman Begins
Man of Steel is in cinemas now.
What do you think of Man of Steel? Leave your spoiler-free comments below!