Did we need another Superman origin story to grace our theaters just seven years after Bryan Singer’s ‘Superman Returns’? While that particular film wasn’t so much a reboot as a sequel to the older Richard Donner movies, and it was a failure in both characters and story, maybe it was time to forget that ‘Superman Returns’ existed and start from scratch after all. With ‘Man of Steel’, Zack Snyder has made the best film of his career.
This reboot of one of the most beloved superheroes does an amazing job of retelling the fall of Krypton and Superman’s struggle with his identity and origin. The film has some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in the last few years. With a lot of help from Christopher Nolan as a producer and writer, along with a great cast, this will score big at the box office for weeks to come and might be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.
The first twenty minutes take place solely on Krypton. We see an incredible visual landscape of this far-off world with new animals, futuristic buildings and spaceships hovering in the sky. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) realizes that his species and planet are about to meet an impending doom and informs the governing council of this unfortunate business. He and his wife have found a new planet to send their only son to survive and keep their race alive. However, the treacherous and murderous General Zod (Michael Shannon) has an evil plan of his own. Fortunately, it’s stopped short, and he’s sentenced to spend eternity frozen in deep space with his cohorts.
From here, we see an older Kal-El (Henry Cavill) wandering from state to state on Earth, performing a variety of odd jobs such as working on a fishing boat and an oil rig, to even cleaning tables at a local dive bar. As he walks from place to place, we get flashbacks of him growing up in Kansas with his adoptive father (Kevin Costner) and mother (Diane Lane), who try to provide a normal life for the boy that crash landed on their rural farm. Kal-El starts to show signs of who he is as a young boy, from using X-Ray vision at school, to lifting a school bus full of kids from sinking to the bottom of a lake. From that particular incident, Pa Kent has an emotional talk with his son and shows him the capsule he arrived in. He tells him, “You’re the answer to whether we’re alone in the universe,” but warns that the people of Earth might not be ready for him.
In the meantime, respected reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) investigates a big story about a large object that has been buried underground for thousands of years, and travels with the military to do a piece on this phenomenon. Kal-El disguises himself as a crew worker on the site and finds himself in this object, where the image of his father Jor-El appears and teaches his son about the history of Krypton and their family, and reveals the red and blue suit. After he’s gotten a few lessons in flying, General Zod and his minions rear their ugly heads on Earth and call out Kal-El. They demand that he be turned over to them or else they’ll destroy the world.
In the early scenes, we get an amazing character piece on the son of Krypton and his family, complete with epic action beats around every corner. From this point on, Snyder cranks the action up to eleven as gives us an explosive brawl between Kal-El and Zod on the streets of Smallville, which escalates to something even bigger in Metropolis. To say this movie is action-packed is an understatement. Yet between its fights in the air, on the ground and in between buildings, Snyder and Nolan still manage to pack in enough character development and some witty rapport between Lois and Kal-El.
Surprisingly, Snyder doesn’t use any of his famous slow motion in ‘Man of Steel’. The fight scenes are fast and brutal. It seems like he took his cues from Nolan’s Batman trilogy on this one. Also, Snyder uses a lot of hand-held camera shots to put us right in the thick of things. The movie has a few over-the-top moments scattered throughout, but oddly, they all work on a satisfying level.
If you had any doubts about Henry Cavill filling Christopher Reeve’s shoes, you can lay those to rest. Cavill is perfect for Superman. After viewing the movie, I knew for a fact that there could be nobody else but Cavill to play this role. I even saw glimpses of Reeve’s charm and power in Cavill constantly. The actor is going places after this.
Kevin Costner plays an emotional role as Kal-El’s adoptive father. I’m glad that he left Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ for this movie. Diane Lane does a phenomenal job too, showing an unconditional love for her son, no matter what danger comes her way.
Then we have Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Finally, someone has made Lois a real character who can handle her own. Not once does she really need the help of Superman. She can use a gun and stand up for herself. She’s bold, funny and very likable. I like where her character is going. Michael Shannon is amazing as Zod, almost to a frightening degree. His anger and facial expressions could scare small children for weeks. Harry Lennix, Christopher Meloni and Laurence Fishburne turn in solid cameos as well.
Hans Zimmer provides the score, and while I sorely miss John Williams’ epic music, this one is strong and packs enough punch to further the suspense and emotions in each scene. It would’ve been nice to hear a small portion of Williams’ theme at some point during the film, though. Also, I was surprised that the movie doesn’t have a teaser after the credits for a sequel or a Justice League crossover. I was hoping that DC would follow in the footsteps of Marvel with this, but not this time around.
‘Man of Steel’ is everything we’ve wanted in Superman reboot. From the action to the dialogue to the characters, everything works on all levels. This is a great start to something bigger in the future and I highly recommend everyone see this the first chance you get.
Can not wait. Seeing this in IMax 2D tomorrow!
Loved it! Cannot wait to see it again. The 3D was completely underutilized, so I don’t think I’ll be seeing it in 3D again.
Christopher E Zellman
He never worked on that oil rig. The fishing boat answered a distress call.
Superman Returns a failure in both character and story? While Man of Steel has cardboard cliches basically re-enacting Superman II. Michael Shannon may have been great but do you realize how easy it would have been to completely excise Lois Lane from the narrative?
This movie may well be even worse (I haven’t seen it yet), but that won’t change the fact that Superman Returns was indeed a failure in both character and story.
I strongly disagree. But in any case I find Man of Steel to be far inferior in both aspects. I await your opinion of the film. Since I rarely agree with you even when we agree, this should be interesting.
I doubt that I will get out to see it this weekend.
I saw ‘Man of Steel’ yesterday and I haven’t quite made up my mind. I have never seen any of the older Superman movies from yesteryear (70’s/80’s/2006), so I can’t really compare.
– Russell Crowe was very into his character. Glad to see he cared.
– Loved the ‘This is madness!’ line. Clearly a nod to Zack’s ‘300’. Was hoping for a ‘This! Is! Krypton!’ respons though
– How and where did Superman learn to fly? That was never in his range of powers up to that point in the movie. Once he gets the cape, he flies away. Odd.
– Lois Lane was a tad too old for me. Great performance (although I kept thiking of The Muppets)
– If Jor-El can return as a “shadow”, why can’t Kal’s mother? Would have been nice for him to be able say “hi!” to his real mother, too.
– Final 30 minutes spends too much time with destruction. After the fifth collapsed building, I had seen ’em all.
– Classy cinematography (I’m sure it was a digital production, but I could swear I saw mild grain?! Great stuff. Or did Nolan have enough influence to insist this was filmed on, well, film?)
– Henry C. is the man. Great! The shirtless scene was just for fans, though. Unnecessary. But hey, if I had his physique, I would flaunt it too.
Man of Steel was shot on 35mm. Zack Snyder is a film hold-out just like Nolan.
Hurrah! Unexpected, for he’s quite the “Let’s experiment with new, cool stuff!”-chap (see: green screens abound in 300, the ‘In-Movie Experience’ pioneer on HD DVD and Blu-ray etcetera)
The speed-ramping effect that he’s so fond of (where a shot will switch from normal speed to slo-mo and back in one take) is harder to achieve digitally. It looks much smoother on film.
Fascinating. Thanks. This site always teaches me new stuff 🙂