Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane
Running time: 143 minutes
As Clark Kent (Cavill) struggles to find a place in the world while searching for answers regarding his true roots, Earth falls under risk from devious General Zod (Shannon), a Kryptonian bent on finding Clark, know to him as Kal-El, in a genocidal effort to preserve his species.
Zack Snyder made his debut with the surprisingly enjoyable remake of Dawn Of The Dead, but he really made his name with the lavishly stylish, meme-spawning 300 and the equally stylish noir Watchmen. But then it all went horrible wrong when Sucker Punch came around, a plotless, senseless, indulgent piece of snore that confirmed Synder should never be allowed near a script again (sure he co-wrote 300, but let’s face it, it’s not the plot and dialogue that people talk about). Now that brings us to Man Of Steel, the latest Superman flick laced with Batman talent in the shape of producer Christopher Nolan and writer David S. Goyer, which has, thankfully, proved to be just the tonic Snyder needed.
The similarities in tone to Nolan’s Batman are palpable throughout. It’s not as dark as The Dark Knight, but it’s often very solemn, taking a much more grounded, studied approach than previous Superman flicks, telling the story through character rather than action. Following Clark’s life as an adult as he wanders the world, playing both guardian angel and mysterious drifter, we’re given glimpses of his life through a series of flashbacks to his childhood where he heeds the inspirational words of his father (Kevin Costner, who we don’t see enough of these days), who urges him to keep his special side a secret until the time is right. It was these bits I was most interested in; his struggle to find himself, control himself, and discover his true roots. As a character study, it’s brilliant. When it moves into the loud flying, punching, eye laser territory, despite having looked forward to it, I actually became less involved.
Of course, this isn’t a Terrence Malick picture, it’s Superman, and we want to see some action. The second half of the movie moves into more traditional territory, focusing on General Zod’s (above) battle with Supes and his attempts to mess with the human race – it’s funny how one fight between these two guys causes more destruction than The Avengers and an entire alien race did to New York. Yet strangely the action sequences don’t have the same flare that we’ve come to expect from Snyder. He’s an extremely visual director (the only redeeming quality of Sucker Punch was that it looked pretty awesome), and if there’s one thing we can expect from him it’s slick and stylish action, but here, for the most part, it just feels very generic. It’s all punch, throw, crush, smack, fly, smash, which at first is a lot of fun but soon gets tiresome and begins to feel like just another superhero movie. Having said that, the film has a visual beauty of a different kind; the calm, almost poetic cinematography of the flashback sequences that really does feel a bit like a Terrence Malick film.
We’re in pretty safe hands with the cast, which as well as aforementioned Shannon and Costner, features Russell Crowe as Clark’s real daddy – equally as inspirational as pa Kent – Amy Adams as Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill well-suited as Supes. Pun intended. I found him a believable Superman and a likable Clark Kent. And it wouldn’t be right to not mention Hans Zimmer’s incredible soundtrack. It gets the feel just right, finding a perfect balance between uplifting and sad, heroic and solemn, driving and reflective. I’m listening to it as I write this, as you should be listening to it as you read this…
Man Of Steel isn’t everything should be, but it is a well-crafted and often exciting superhero flick with touches of The Dark Knight‘s tone and dashes of Marvel fun. The characters are a lot more interesting when they’re talking than fighting, so if the sequel can maintain that same level of focus while applying some control and subtlety to the action sequences, we’ll be onto something special.