Expectation is high for Man of Steel, after Superman Returns didn’t do anyone any favours it falls to Zach Snyder and Christopher Nolan to deliver the Superman film that the world wants to see. But does it soar above the clouds or sink without a trace.
So what of Zach Snyder’s direction, well his frenetic visual style and flair for action are certainly well used here (thankfully he has stopped over using slow motion as well). The set pieces are epic, characters smash through towns, tankers and satellites with ease. This sense of scale is more than befitting of alien super beings fighting it out and is probably the best representation of the Kryptonian’s actual strength yet committed to screen. The large scale sci-fi elements also give the film a more original feel and for the most part the effects work is top notch, occasionally the action moves a little too quickly and the transition between Cavill and CGI is evident but that’s a minor niggle in an otherwise great looking film.
As for the story itself, it’s fairly decent, even if it does occasionally drift into the tired origins clichés. However the prologue on Krypton is fantastic and keeps things feeling fresher than your average genesis film. It also gives General Zod some context, meaning that Man of Steel eschews the problem so often associated with origin films and he doesn’t feel thrown in for the sake of it at the half way point. And, without giving anything away, the final act is great and delivers a genuinely powerful and shocking scene that sets the tone nicely for the sequels.
It’s been highly publicised that Chris Nolan produced Man of Steel and his touches are obvious for all to see. The film is largely a humourless affair and shares a darker tone reminiscent of his Batman films. Whether you like this approach or not it gives the films something in common and helps build a believable DC universe in which all of these characters co-exist.
Performances are excellent throughout, whilst Henry Cavill remains untested in the socially awkward Clark Kent persona, his Superman is fantastic. He wears the suit well and captures the emotion of a man coming to terms with his great power. Perhaps it would have been nice to see a little more of the adult Clark but the inevitable sequel will probably cover that. Micheal Shannon as the villainous General Zod, as one might expect, is excellent, even if his best moments have already been spoiled in the trailer. Amy Adams delivers a more grounded and tougher Lois Lane that previously seen and once again shows that she is maturing into a very versatile actress. The other supporting roles are delivered well, Crowe and Costner deliver the required gravitas as the father figures.
Hans Zimmer’s score is nothing short of excellent, it was a gamble dropping John Williams’s iconic theme but ultimately one that pays off. Much like his work on The Dark Knight Trilogy it helps to give this rebooted Superman an identity all of its own. Whilst reminiscent of Gladiator in places it certainly fits the epic tone of the film as a whole.
Overall it’s a thoroughly entertaining film that looks fantastic and finally does the iconic character justice once again on the big screen. Not everyone will like the darker tone but it gives the DC films their own identity and that can’t be a bad thing… roll on Justice League!