Movie Review: Superman: Man Of Steel

Image Source: Wikipedia
Image Source: Wikipedia

Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Companies: DC Entertainment, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy and Cruel and Unusual Films
Director: Zack Snyder
Producers: Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Deborah Snyder
Scriptwriters: David S. Goyer
Main Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni and Russell Crowe
Released: June 14 2013
Running Time: 143 Minutes
Certificate: 12A

Back in 2006, we were introduced to an update of the Richard Donner classic Superman from 1979. This seemed the easy route to take the Superman franchise after the success of Christopher Nolan’s re-imagining of Batman (starting with Batman Begins, 2005). However, the film bombed in the box office and the story was bland and flat. Since 2008, Marvel and Disney have taken over the superhero world with their multi-movie collaboration with the Avengers that has left DC and Warner Bros. very jealous and lagging behind. So, they turned to Christopher Nolan and David Goyer (Blade Trinity, 2003) to revamp Superman and the Justice League. They both wrote the story for Superman: Man Of Steel, while Goyer carried on to write the script. Nolan left to become head producer and employed Zac Snyder (300, 2006) to direct his re-imagination of Superman.

To begin with, this is a major improvement from Superman Returns. However, it is not without its faults. I am personally not a big fan of Snyder; he is a good action director, but when it comes to character development and storytelling, he falls flat on his face. His bigger concern was making the film look good: Snyder said very early into production that this was going to be his most realistic-looking motion picture, as he shot it on film and in native 2D, which in post-production was then converted over to 3D.

Anyway, onto the movie itself. This is not actually the complete re-imagination that some people wanted, as it follows the same story as the comics and the original movie. What differentiates this from its predecessors is the telling of the main story. We get flashbacks to Clark Kent’s (Superman) past, which for me was the most interesting part of the film. The first two acts brilliantly set up the finale, which in turn will ultimately let you down.

You can really feel Nolan’s influence in this story with character development: the story arc with Kevin Costner, who plays Clark’s earth father, is brilliant. Clark is torn between wanting to show off his powers to help people, while his father wants him to rein it in as the world just isn’t ready for a superhero yet. This does tie in with certain parts later on in the film which brought about a satisfying conclusion.

So, why does the ending disappoint? Well, the one thing I look for going into a Superman film is the moment when you want to stand up and cheer, which the first two Superman movies both had. Unfortunately, this lacked such a moment. Don’t get me wrong: the action still had some special moments, one example being when he is defending his mother (Diane Lane), but overall the action was one big bang for special effects and noise. Which while watching this on an IMAX screen is undobtedly special, it gets a bit dull upon second viewing.

On the whole, the casting is very good. Henry Cavil (Immortals, 2011) is a good Superman: he mixes the balance of superhero and human very well, and you do care and feel for his character. Amy Adams (American Hustle, 2014) is a step up from the last Lois Lane we were given; however, she isn’t anything special and the chemistry isn’t really there between the two lead characters. Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) is very good: he has a creepy, dark tone, which is the complete opposite to Superman, and he uses his facial expressions really well.

However, Kevin Costner steals the show as Clark’s father. It’s unfortunate that he only really sees an hour of screen time, but when he is on-screen, you are drawn to his presence. The conflict he has with a young Clark Kent is fascinating, and something we had yet to see on the big screen, which is part of the reason why it was the highlight of the film. To see the emotion of not just Superman or Lois Lane but of the two most important people in his life was really refreshing and a nice touch.

The intention with this movie was for Superman to come back with a bang. He has done that, but not in the way many would have hoped. Yes, this is a good film; no, it didn’t re-define Superman or the superhero genre. It did give us a solid base for many more films to come, beginning with Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice in March 2016. If you are a fan of Superman, this will appeal to you, but the franchise has yet to reach the levels of Marvel and their introductory movie Iron Man.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good